Coaches Top 25 out, et cetera

McCarney

McCarney

One of the key points of the preseason in college football arrived today with the release of the Amway Coaches Top 25 Poll.

There are a few interesting points when it comes to a UNT perspective when it comes to the poll — and yes, Dan McCarney is a voter.

First off, one of UNT’s 2015 opponents is ranked. Tennessee checks in at No. 25. The Mean Green don’t travel to take on the Vols until Nov. 14. A lot can happen before then, but Tennessee being ranked to start the season does speak to the challenge that game will present.

And while neither team is ranked, Louisiana Tech and Marshall both received votes. Louisiana Tech picked up five points, while Marshall had four.

UNT will face both Conference USA teams on the road. I thought it was interesting that Western Kentucky didn’t receive a vote. There are a lot of people out there that think the Hilltoppers are the team to beat in C-USA.

Dillard

Dillard

And speaking of C-USA, UNT senior outside hitter Carnae Dillard was named the league’s Preseason Player of the Year today. UNT was picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll.

It will be an interesting year for UNT. Dillard has rolled up a ton of individual honors and statistics along the way, but the Mean Green have never been able to get over the hump and get to the NCAA tournament in her career.

UNT came closest during Dillard’s freshman season, but was whacked 3-0 in the Sun Belt tournament final by Western Kentucky.

 

Well, there you go. UNT’s new uniforms

UNT unveiled its new football uniforms this afternoon.

The helmets are black with a green eagle logo.

The challenge is coming up with a look players and recruits like. Uniforms have become more of a selling point in college football over the years.

To UNT’s credit, the program has jumped on the bandwagon and produced some alternate looks and gone with different designs and combinations.

It looks like UNT came up with a look that will be a selling point for the program.

UNT specialists breakdown — Kickers will be a strength

North Texas kicker Trevor Moore strokes a field goal during spring practice. Moore will be one of several key specialists returning for UNT this fall. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas kicker Trevor Moore strokes a field goal during spring practice. Moore will be one of several key specialists returning for UNT this fall. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

As the 2015 football season approaches, we will look at each position on the Mean Greens roster. UNT’s specialists are up today.

A look at UNT’s pecking order:

Kicker 
Trevor Moore

Punter
Eric Keena -or-
Blake Macek

Kick/punt returners
Darvin Kidsy -or-
Carlos Harris

Outlook for the 2015 season:

UNT had one of the more productive special teams units in Conference USA last season behind coordinator Tommy Perry.

Kicker Trevor Moore is one of the best at his craft in C-USA, and the country for that matter. He hit 15 of his 17 field goal attempts and tied a school record for accuracy at 88.2 percent. He also hit all 37 of his extra point attempts and tied a program record for most makes in a season without a miss.

The Mean Green should also be solid in the punting game behind Keena and Macek, who combined to average 43.2 yards an attempt last season.

Kidsy returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns last season while averaging 24.9 yards a kick return and 10.1 yards a punt return. Harris averaged 23.6 yards a kick return.

UNT’s coverage units were also solid. The Mean Green led C-USA in kickoff coverage with an average of 43.9 net yards per attempt.

Future at the position:

UNT is in terrific position when it comes to its special teams. Harris is the only key player in the whole operation who will be a senior this fall.

The Mean Green should be solid for the next two years and likely a whole lot better than that with Moore, Kidsy and its punters all having at least two years left to play at UNT.

UNT position preview series:

Quarterbacks – McNulty in position to hang on to starting job

Running backs – Wilson, Jimmerson lead talented group

Wide receivers – UNT has talented players ready to power passing game in 2015, beyond.

Offensive line – UNT rebuilding around Kaydon Kirby

Defensive line – UNT has a good mix of veterans, newcomers

Linebackers – UNT looks to move on without leader

Secondary — UNT will rebuild around Buyers

Report: SMU’s Brown facing ‘lack of coach control’ charge

There was a time not too long ago, before Johnny Jones left for LSU, that one could make a pretty good case that North Texas was the best college basketball program in the Dallas area.

SMU has since surpassed the Mean Green.

A report tonight from Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde could impact the Mustangs, their future and their ability to hold on to that title.

Forde is reporting that SMU coach Larry Brown will face a “lack of coach control” charge. 

Brown has face similar issues twice in the past, at both UCLA and Kansas. Both programs were hit with major sanctions.

UNT and SMU don’t play, or even compete for the same recruits at this point. The proximity of the schools and the fact that UNT fans like to keep tabs on their neighbors to the south makes this pretty interesting — not to mention worth mentioning.

UNT’s annual Helmets Heels event tomorrow

The UNT football team’s coaching staff will host its annual Helmets and Heels clinic for women from 5 to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow at Apogee Stadium.

Dan McCarney and his staff will host the event that gives women a chance to learn more about the fundamentals and strategy of the game.

The clinic will take place at Apogee’s Hub Club and will include a guided tour of the stadium, including the locker rooms and field. Those who attend will be able to try on equipment, including shoulder pads and helmets.

A players panel, referee presentation and raffle also will take place. The cost of the event is $50 at the door.

UNT does a really good job with the event.

Former UNT softball player lands at Houston

Sarah Barker, one of the eight players with eligibility remaining who left the UNT softball program in the offseason, announced today that she has found a new home on her Twitter and Instrgram account …

Former North Texas softball player Sarah Barker will continue her career at Houston.

Former North Texas softball player Sarah Barker will continue her career at Houston.

Barker is headed to Houston.

Here’s the interesting aspect of what Barker had to say …

“Incredibly blessed to say that I will be continuing my softball career at the University of Houston. Every journey has a few bumps along the road, and one of mine will be sitting out this season due to not getting my release to play; but I am extremely grateful to have such a wonderful opportunity to finish my career so close to home and with a great program! Go Coogs!⚾️”

Softball players can transfer once from one Division I school to another if they receive a release from the school they are leaving. Kelli Schkade and her sister Jami Schkade were released by Missouri and Illinois, respectively, and played last season for the Mean Green. Kelli Schkade was UNT’s shortstop, while Jami sat out most of the season due to injury.

UNT officials declined to say whether they would release the players who left the Mean Green’s program following last season.

Barker indicated today that UNT did not release her.

Five things that could make matters worse for UNT in 2015

Texas  defensive end Bryce Cottrell (91) and  tackle Hassan Ridgeway (98) sack North Texas quarterback Josh Greer last season at Darrell K. Royal- Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. UNT fell 38-7 and will face Tennessee and Iowa in a pair of tough nonconference games this season. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)

Texas defensive end Bryce Cottrell (91) and tackle Hassan Ridgeway (98) sack North Texas quarterback Josh Greer last season at Darrell K. Royal- Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. UNT fell 38-7 and will face Tennessee and Iowa in a pair of tough nonconference games this season. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)

Earlier this week, we took a look at five items on the to-do list for UNT to improve this fall after a 4-8 finish in 2014.

Unless a team goes 0-12, there is also always a chance for a decline. That’s where we turn today as we look at five ways UNT could end up slipping a little farther in 2015.

1. Falling victim to the schedule

UNT fans are already tiring of reading about the schedule, but any honest assessment of the Mean Green’s challenges has that slate as the team’s big stumbling block.

The Mean Green play not one, but two opportunity/body bag games in 2015 at Tennessee and Iowa. Both the Vols and Hawkeyes are coming off bowl seasons. Ironically, Tennessee beat the Iowa 45-28 in the 2014 Tax Slayer Bowl.

UNT generally fares about as well in guarantee games as blondes in slayer flicks.

The Mean Green are 3-34 all-time against Southeastern Conference opponents and 13-100 against teams in the Power 5 leagues.

And that’s just for starters.

UNT also has a horribly-timed Week 1 bye that sets up a run of 12 games in 12 weeks with just just five home games among them. In addition, UNT also has Conference USA crossover games against Western Kentucky, Marshall and Middle Tennessee, the teams picked to finish first through third in the league’s East Division.

If one asked a few months ago to dream up a realistic worst-case scenario for UNT’s schedule, I’m not sure anyone could have come up with something as bad as what the Mean Green face.

2. Failing to find a solution at quarterback.

UNT head coach Dan McCarney said this spring that he feels a whole lot better about his quarterback situation this fall than he did a year ago. The Mean Green have two quarterbacks returning who started games last season.

That’s good.

Josh Greer was benched after three games and Andrew McNulty was UNT’s third option.

That’s bad.

UNT could be a lot better at quarterback this year, thanks to the experience McNulty gained while starting the last six games of the 2014 season. There is also a chance that JUCO transfer DaMarcus Smith rides in on a white horse and saves the say, despite missing all of spring practice while he worked to become eligible.

There is also a chance UNT will be mediocre at quarterback again this season, especially when compared to C-USA rivals like Western Kentucky, which has the Preseason C-USA Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Brandon Doughty.

If UNT struggles at quarterback again, it could spell trouble.

3. Struggling to replace four starting offensive linemen

Anyone close to UNT’s program is fully aware that offensive line coach Mike Simmonds is great at what he does. It’s also true that UNT has a good player in center Kaydon Kirby, its lone returning starter.

It’s also well within the realm of possibility that losing four starters, including two who are now with the New Orleans Saints in Antonio Johnson and Cyril Lemon is going to be harder to overcome that anticipated.

4. Failing to adjust on defense

UNT is going to use a lot of the same concepts on defense under new coordinator Chris Cosh as it did under John Skladany, who retired after last season.

There is always a chance that UNT will struggle to adjust without Skladany, though. UNT’s players had a special connection with a coach who seemed like the Gandalf of the Mean Green’s operation. He was the wise guide who had been through the wars who everyone would follow into the fire.

Cosh is perfectly qualified and a good coach, but he’s stepping into a situation where UNT is replacing its top two defensive players in linebacker Derek Akunne and cornerback James Jones.

UNT could take a step back this season, no matter how qualified Cosh is just due to the situation.

5. UNT might lack difference-makers

UNT has good players across the board like running backs Jeffrey Wilson and Antoinne Jimmerson, wide receiver Carlos Harris and cornerback Kenny Buyers, but does it have enough difference-makers?

UNT had three preseason All-C-USA selections, but just one was a skill position player in Harris. The other two were Kirby and kicker Trevor Moore.

Great teams have top-end talent at key spots. UNT’s 2013 bowl team had a first-team all-conference safety in Marcus Trice, a first-team all-conference linebacker in Zach Orr, a 1,000-yard rusher in Brandin Byrd and a quarterback in Derek Thompson who threw for 2,896 yards, the second-highest single-season total in program history.

UNT is going to need players to emerge as elite performers in C-USA at key positions to compete for a bowl berth. If that doesn’t happen, it will be tough for UNT to post a winning season.

Happy birthday to Dan McCarney

Dan McCarney’s birthday was today.

Best wishes for one of the good guys in college athletics.

Tuesday afternoon tidbits (C-USA title betting odds, et cetera)

North Texas tight end Marcus Smith (18)  and the rest of the Mean Green will open the season as a a decided underdog in Conference USA, according to Sportsbook.

North Texas tight end Marcus Smith (18) and the rest of the Mean Green will open the season as a a decided underdog in Conference USA, according to Sportsbook. (DRC file photo)

There were a couple of items of interest to come down today and a few other tidbits I have been meaning to get to. With that said, here’s a quick lap around the bases in UNT athletics.

A few people have asked when the figure for UNT’s full-cost-of-attendance scholarships will be available. I asked today and didn’t get a definitive timeline. UNT officials still expect it to be available in the next few days.

Considering the date this all goes into affect is Aug. 1, I would assume UNT will release the information pretty quickly. I would be shocked if the number already isn’t set in stone.

I also haven’t gotten around to mentioning that UNT has a new assistant volleyball coach. Vinh Nguyen has volunteered with UNT’s program in the past and will now be a full-time assistant. He takes over for Susan Halverson, who is headed back to Ohio State, where she played and was a volunteer assistant.

I happened to run into Nguyen and UNT head coach Andrew Palileo this afternoon over at the Mean Green Village.

Sportsbook also came out with its odds on which team will win Conference USA this season. It surprised me a bit that the site has Marshall as the favorite over Western Kentucky.

UNT is sitting at 11th out of 13 teams in terms of the odds. Only UTSA and Charlotte have longer odds.

If you sense a theme emerging here, you would be right. UNT will open the season as a consensus underdog in the C-USA race this year.

UNT has a brutal schedule this year with two games on the road against Power 5 opponents Tennessee and Iowa, not to mention games against C-USA East Division powers Marshall and Western Kentucky.

UNT softball team roster now updated, where team stands

North Texas coach Tracey Kee will have 11 newcomers on her roster this season and five returning players. Eight members of the 2015 team that had eligibility remaining are not on UNT's updated roster heading into the fall season. (DRC file photo)

North Texas coach Tracey Kee will have 11 newcomers on her roster this season and five returning players. Eight members of the 2015 team that had eligibility remaining are not on UNT’s updated roster heading into the fall season. (DRC file photo)

We reported earlier this summer that UNT had a series of key players leave its softball program, including record-setting outfielder Taylor Schoblocher and former all-conference selection Spencer Ferrell.

UNT declined at the time to provide an updated roster or acknowledge which members of the 2015 team would return for head coach Tracey Kee’s third season with the Mean Green.

The school updated its online roster in the last few days.

UNT will have just five players from its 2015 team returning for the fall season after eight with eligibility remaining left the program and four seniors graduated.

Schoblocher and Ferrell both said they left the team because they felt uncomfortable playing for UNT’s coaching staff. Kenzie Grimes and Shelby Smith both said that they left the team to live in closer proximity to their families.

The families of Sarah Barker and Madison Tierney both acknowledged that their daughters left the team, but declined further comment.

UNT’s updated roster shows that Monique Garcia and Mallory Land have also left the program.

UNT will have 11 new players on its roster heading into the fall season, when the Mean Green will look to bounce back from a 19-31 campaign. UNT lost 16 of 18 late in the season before recovering to sweep UTEP in its final regular season series.

That series win gave UNT a bid to the Conference USA tournament, where the Mean Green were shut out 5-0 in their opening-round game against Florida Atlantic.

UNT enjoyed a breakout season in Kee’s debut campaign in 2014, winning a school record 31 games.

The Mean Green will look to return to that level in 2016 after just the third losing season in Kee’s 17 years as a head coach. UNT’s 19 wins in 2015 were the lowest single-season total of her career.

UNT finished fourth out of six teams in Conference USA’s West Division last season with an 11-12 record in league play.