Wednesday recruiting status report — Could UNT turn to JC ranks to fill LB hole?

One of the biggest questions for North Texas heading into national signing day and then spring practice is where the Mean Green will turn at linebacker.

UNT lost both of its starters in Fred Scott and Cortney Finney to graduation after last season.

There are two good young players returning who backed them up in Brandon Garner and E.J. Ejiya, but it appears as if the Mean Green are in the market for additional help.

UNT offered Navarro JC linebacker Tavares Thomas II yesterday.

That move is the subject of today’s recruiting status report as we count down the remaining days until national signing day.

Thomas finished with 82 tackles and 11 sacks last season, when he was named to the All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference team. Here are his Hudl highlights.

There isn’t much out there on Thomas as far as the recruiting websites go, but he appears to be a solid prospect who would address a position of need.

UNT brought in only one high school linebacker in its last two recruiting classes. Darrien McNair signed with the Mean Green in its 2015 class, but didn’t stick around. William Johnson signed with UNT out of Arizona Western before last season, but didn’t qualify.

UNT has one linebacker committed to sign in its 2017 class, but Kody Fulp is a high school product who could need some time to develop.

The Mean Green definately need some help after losing a pair of players who combined for 133 tackles last season in Scott and Finney, especially when one considers the misses UNT has experienced the last couple of years at linebacker.

Thomas appears to be on UNT’s radar as far as a player who could help fill that void.

Tuesday football notes — UNT among most improved teams in scoring offense, defense

Littrell

Littrell

There were a couple of interesting tidbits to come down on the North Texas football front today that I wanted to get to here on the blog.

First off, Coach Search, a website that follows the comings and goings in the coaching realm, crunched the numbers and came up with a list of the teams in college football that improved the most this season as far as scoring offense and scoring defense.

UNT tied for 12th nationally on the defensive side with an improvement of 8.7 points per game. SMU and Tulsa, two other teams in the region, finished just in front of UNT on the list.

The Mean Green came in at 11th on the offensive side with an improvement of 9.6 points per game. Old Dominion came in three spots ahead of UNT.

That’s a significant jump on both sides of the ball for UNT in its first season under Seth Littrell.

And in other news, TexasHighSchoolFootball.com caught up with Nick Gerber, a quarterback from Levelland who recently picked up an offer from UNT.

The Mean Green are the only team to offer Gerber thus far. Here is his 247 Sports profile.

UNT has one quarterback in its class already in Cade Pearson, a two-star prospect who passed on an offer from Wyoming to commit to UNT.

JUCO prospect Devlin Isadore has told me he will be with the Mean Green in time for spring practice, He expects to receive a scholarship in the fall.

And finally, Will Kuehne, a quarterback from Liberty Christian that UNT has offered, checked in at No. 27 on Lone Star Prospects list of the top 50 pro-style quarterbacks in the Class of 2019.

Augie DeBiase to Miami

North Texas recruited Augie DeBiase, a quarterback from Florida, for quite some time.

There was a school of thought that he would end up at UNT as a preferred walk-on.

He is headed to Miami instead. DeBiase announced his decision today.

I must confess that we rode that story pretty hard over the last year or so. He’s a great guy with a nice family and he was willing to share his journey through the recruiting process. Here is one story we wrote on DeBiase.

Monday recruiting status report — Yes, recruiting matters

We are getting closer and closer to national signing day on Feb. 1. Classes are falling into place across the country, and since football and football recruiting rank first and second as far as interest among our readers goes, I thought I would take this opportunity to offer up the first of what will hopefully be a couple of status reports heading into national signing day.

UNT picked up a commitment over the weekend from Jacob Brammer, an offensive lineman from Richmond Foster.

He’s a good prospect who had offers from Rice and New Mexico.

The addition of Brammer adds to a solid sore of players UNT has commitments from and leaves the Mean Green sitting 10th out of 14 teams in 247Sports rankings of the classes in Conference USA.

And that brings us back to the topic we always end up discussing at this time of year when it comes to UNT football.

UNT’s program has struggled for years to move up the recruiting rankings as measured by the recruiting industry. Whether that matters is always up for debate.

My position is well known on this, but just to reiterate — Yes. Recruiting as measured by the traditional ranking services matters.

Seth Littrell and his staff have done a terrific job since they showed up before last season and led UNT to a bowl. No one saw that coming. The staff as also done a solid job bringing in some recruits that contributed significantly who were clearly under rated.

Mason Fine was terrific for UNT in his freshman season, despite being lightly recruited. Tyler Wilson looks like a future star at wide receiver.

UNT is doing a good job of evaluating talent.

What I have always contended is that the overall measure of recruiting classes is a good indication of how well a team will perform down the line. History supports that theory.

UNT won four straight Sun Belt titles from 2001-04, largely because The Great Darrell Dickey (check his record with four bowl appearances, it’s true) landed a series of highly rated players right after taking over the program. Linebacker Taylor Casey, defensive tackle Brandon Kennedy, safety Jonas Buckles and tight end Randy Gardener were all state top 100 recruits. Offensive lineman Nick Zuniga and running back Michael Hickman were both area top 100 recruits. That’s a fact. It’s listed in UNT’s old media guides.

And that doesn’t even take into account Scott Hall and linebacker Cody Spencer, were also highly recruited. I believe both were top 100 state recruits and both are now UNT Hall of Famers. I just can’t find a listing to back that up that they were state top 100 players.

Jamario Thomas, who played a key role in UNT’s Sun Belt run, was also a state top 100 player.

UNT’s 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl team was loaded with highly recruited players, most of whom followed Todd Dodge to Denton. Zach Orr was a highly regarded three-star player. Marcus Trice was a four-star player when he signed with Oklahoma before transferring to UNT. Cyril Lemon was also highly recruited.

Granted, UNT struck gold with Brelan Chancellor, who was lightly recruited. You just can’t expect to hit on a host of lightly recruited players.

Even this season’s Heart of Dallas Bowl team lends credence to the fact that recruiting rankings matter. James Gray, Ashton Preston, Joshua Wheeler, Eric Jenkins, Terian Goree, Brandon Garner and Willy Ivery were all three-star players.

You know what those guys all have in common other than being three-star prospects back in the day? They were all key players this year.

The list at the top of this post of of 247 Sports’ composite talent rankings. The site takes every team’s roster and takes into account their recruiting rankings to come up with a talent composite.

The list backs up the point of the overall rankings being a generally accurate measure of how a team will fare.

Take the league and split it in half. Five of the top seven teams in the rankings played in a bowl, while four of seven finished over .500. Marshall fell of the face of the earth and Florida Atlantic didn’t live up to expectations. Both finished 3-9. Texas-San Antonio lost its bowl game and finished 6-7.

Only two teams in the bottom six made a bowl and only one finished with a winning record. Old Dominion went 10-3 and beat Eastern Michigan in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, while UNT finished 5-8 after falling to Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

And don’t forget, UNT only reached at bowl because of its score on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate report.

People are fond of saying that outside of the top few hundred players in the country, the rankings are not all that accurate. They point to how many offers a player has or say that there is no way for every player to be evaluated.

In certain instances that is true.

What can’t be denied is that talent wins. And there is no better measure of talent than the rankings for an overall view.

It’s proven over and over again every year.

It’s also why it is really important to watch the way UNT closes this year and where its class ends up ranking.

The Sunday leftovers — A big weekend in football recruiting, hoops thoughts

The North Texas men's basketball team has lost six straight games and is 0-5 in Conference USA play. Jeremy Combs, center, and the Mean Green are in danger of missing the conference tournament. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

The North Texas men’s basketball team has lost six straight games and is 0-5 in Conference USA play. Jeremy Combs, center, and the Mean Green are in danger of missing the conference tournament. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

It’s Sunday night and time for the leftovers, the point when we pick back through the events of the weekend, reheat the good stuff — and some of the bad — while hopefully putting it all in perspective.

The UNT basketball programs had a rough weekend. We’ll get to that, but first UNT had an eventful weekend in football recruiting.

Jacob Brammer, an offensive tackle from Richmond Foster, committed to the Mean Green this morning after a weekend visit to the school. We covered the news on the blog earlier today.

Brammer is a good prospect who had offers from Rice and New Mexico in addition to UNT. I reached out to Brammer, who didn’t call me back.

The Mean Green had a host of prospects in over the weekend and are playing their cards close to the vest. UNT is no doubt trying to flip a few prospects who are committed to other schools while hanging on to the guys it does have.

I happened to drive by Apogee Stadium on Saturday night. The lights and video board were on.

While Brammer is the only player we know of who committed to UNT this weekend, there were a few other moves worth noting.

SMU, UNT’s bitter rival, landed San Antonio offensive lineman Matthew Huhn. Huhn was committed to Houston and has 30 offers, including one from the Mean Green. He backed out of his commitment to Houston before landing at SMU.

Eleasah Anderson, another offensive lineman UNT was recruiting, committed to Baylor.

And back to basketball.

Interest is dwindling rapidly in the UNT men’s team (at least in terms of what is occurring on the court) after the Mean Green lost their sixth straight. UNT’s latest loss was a 101-79 pasting at Rice.

UNT (6-11) is 0-5 in Conference USA play and is looking at the distinct possibility of being one of two teams in the league to miss the conference tournament.

The UNT women are in much better shape, even after dropping a heartbreaker to Rice. The Owls made all the key plays late in a 51-49 win.

UNT is just 5-11 overall, but is 2-3 in conference play.

UNT picks up offensive lineman Jacob Brammer

North Texas picked up a commitment from Jacob Brammer, an offensive tackle from Richmond Foster, this morning.

Foster was among the players who visited UNT over the weekend.

Brammer (6-5, 275) also had offers from New Mexico and Rice. Here are his Hudl highlights and his profile on 247 Sports.

Brammer was a first-team all-district selection last season.

Check back. I am trying to get a hold of Brammer this afternoon.

Late night hoops rewind: Rice 101, North Texas 79

Final: Rice 101, North Texas 79

Where UNT stands: UNT fell to 6-11 after dropping its fifth straight game to open Conference USA play. The Mean Green have now lost six straight games

Now what?: UNT’s season, which is starting to resemble the Bataan Death March, will continue on Thursday with a game at Southern Miss.

Temara

Temara

Star of the day: Shane Temara came out of nowhere to score a career-high 17 points and pull down six rebounds in UNT’s loss to Rice. Temara hit all three of his 3-point attempts. His previous career high was 16 points in a loss at Rutgers. J-Mychal Reese led UNT with 18 points and handed out four assists to go along with four rebounds. A.J. Lawson scored 12 points to give the Mean Green three players who finished in double figures.

Say what?:

“We did a good job most of the game of guarding and making it hard for [North Texas].”

–  Rice coach Mike Rhoades after the Owls pulled away from UNT in the second half

Our take: UNT just can’t seem to break through in Conference USA play and at 0-5 is starting to look like a prime candidate to miss the conference tournament. Only 12 of the 14 teams in the league will advance and UNT is sitting in a tie for last place in the standings with Florida International, which is also 0-5.

UNT did manage to score 79 points in its loss to Rice, but had other problems across the board. The Mean Green shot a dismal 17-of-36 from the free-throw line and were out-rebounded 45-31.

The real zinger was that UNT gave up 100 points for the second time this year. UNT coach Tony Benford has said since he took over the program that he wants his team to establish its identity on the defensive end.

UNT isn’t coming close to reaching that goal. Add in the problems the Mean Green are having on the offensive end and one can see why UNT is 0-6.

UNT is averaging a C-USA-worst 62.5 points per game, and that is after scoring 79 points against Rice.

The Mean Green were hoping that reinforcements who arrived at the semester break would help. Ryan Woolridge has helped UNT, but went 1-for-8 from the line today.

SMU transfer Keith Frazier didn’t play. Neither did Deckie Johnson. Both are out due to injury.

UNT fell to 1-18 on the road since the beginning of last season.

UNT needs wins, and it needs them in a hurry. It’s just hard to see where the end of its skid could come. The Mean Green play their next two games against Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech on the road, where they almost never win.

Once UNT returns home, it faces Charlotte and Old Dominion, two teams it has already lost to this season.

UNT-Rice women’s running blog

The North Texas women’s basketball team will take on Rice this afternoon at the Super Pit and once again, we are along for the ride.

UNT has played pretty well early in Conference USA play and is 2-2 heading into today’s game, which is the opener of a three-game homestand for the Mean Green.

UNT is 5-10 overall and has a chance to make a bit of a run here in the next week or so.

The Mean Green also have the revenge factor their side. UNT lost two overtime games to the Owls last season.

Rice is 0-4 in C-USA play and really needs a win.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all day.

4:38 — Rice is up 8-6 on UNT iin the early going here at the Super Pit. No one has more than two points for UNT. Lexie Ducat has four points for Rice.

End of the first quarter — UNT is down 15-12 at the end of the first quarter of its game against Rice. Terra Ellison has four points for UNT. RIce has the only 3 of the game thus far.

4:32 — UNT has opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run and is up 24-17 at the media timeout. Terra Ellison has six points for UNT, which has found it a bit here in the last few minutes. The Mean Green are 4-for-6 from the field in the second quarter.

41.8 — RIce just took a timeout. The Mean Green are up 26-20 late in the first half.

11.2 — UNT forced a shot clock violation and has the ball back.

Halftime — UNT is up 26-20 at halftime here at the Super Pit. The Mean Green took control of this game with a 10-0 run to open the second quarter. Tyara Warren has seven points and Terra Ellison has six for UNT. The Mean Green shot 50 percent (5-for-10) from the floor in the second quarter. The Mean Green hit two 3s in the second quarter. Today is Alumni Appreciation Day. UNT’s all-time leading rebounder Amber Jackson is on hand. So is former UNT coach Judy Nelson. Jo Hall, Kim Blanton and several others.

4:43 — UNT has pushed its lead to 10 points at 30-20 in the third quarter here at the Super Pit. . The Mean Green have played really well defensively today. Terra Ellison has eight points for UNT.

2:16 — Rice is on a 5-0 run and has pulled to within 33-25 in the third quarter here at the Super Pit. Terra Ellison has eight points for UNT. Tyara Warren has seven.

End of the third quarter — Rice went on a 14-0 run highlighted by three 3s in the third quarter and took a brief one-point lead before Terriell Bradley hit a runner at the buzzer. UNT is up 35-34 heading into the fourth quarter. We suddenly have a game on our hands.

4:54 — Rice has come back to take a 41-40 lead on UNT in the fourth quarter and has the ball coming out of a timeout. The Owls are on a 5-0 run behind Maya Hawkins, who has all five points in the run. UNT has struggled to get anything to fall.

2:21 — UNT is down 46-45 and just took a timeout after going to the floor to save a possession. Rice has a 3 go halfway down and come out on its last possession.

29.3 — UNT is down 50-46 after Rice scored on a put-back under the basket. Madi Townley got tangled up with a Rice player. Officials called a technical after the play and are talking about it now.

29.3 — Terriell Bradley hit both free throws. UNT is now down 50-48 and can call a play here to try and tie the game up. That was a huge call. There are a lot of Rice fans on hand who were livid.

6.5 — UNT missed two shots on its last possession before Madi Townley grabbed the rebound and hit one of two free throws. UNT is down 50-49.

Final — Rice 51, UNT 49. Bradley misses a corner 3 at the buzzer.

Recruiting weekend primer

Tonight was the official beginning of a big recruiting weekend for North Texas.

UNT has a handful of prospects in town.

Several of those prospects have already committed to the Mean Green, but there is at least one player in town who is still on the market. Jacob Brammer, an offensive lineman from Richmond, is on a visit to Denton.

Brammer mentioned on his Twitter account that he is visiting UNT. Brammer has offers from New Mexico and Rice in addition to UNT.

Here are his Hudl highlights.

We should know more by the end of the weekend if UNT picks up any additional commitments.

The UNT commit list on 247 Sports is missing a couple of players, but is generally pretty accurate.

Chalk talk: UNT at Rice

North Texas guard Ja'Michael Brown drives to the basket as Xavier Habersham (4) and Tyrik Dixon defend for Middle Tennessee. UNT will try to snap a five-game losing streak today when they travel to Rice. (DRC file photo)

North Texas guard Ja’Michael Brown drives to the basket as Xavier Habersham (4) and Tyrik Dixon defend for Middle Tennessee. UNT will try to snap a five-game losing streak today when they travel to Rice. (DRC file photo)

North Texas at Rice

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Tudor Fieldhouse, Houston

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1

Records: UNT 6-10, 0-4 Conference USA; Rice 11-6, 1-3 Conference USA

Last game: Middle Tennessee 79, UNT 68; UAB 88, Rice 81 (OT)

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: J-Mychal Reese, 6-2, Sr. — Reese scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in UNT’s loss to MTSU. The senior struggled from the line, where he is usually consistent, hitting just three of his eight attempts. Reese is averaging 8.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. He has 55 assists on the season.

G: Ja’Michael Brown, 6-5, So. — Brown is coming off one of his best performances in his time at UNT. The sophomore scored 21 points and went 5-for-8 from the 3-point range in the Mean Green’s loss to MTSU. He had gone scoreless in two of UNT’s previous three games before breaking out. He is averaging 6.0 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

G: Ryan Wooridge, 6-3, Fr. — Woolridge scored five points and grabbed three rebounds in UNT’s loss to MTSU. The freshman is averaging 8.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, but has not scored in double figures in three games after hitting double digits in three of his first four games since becoming eligible.

F: Jeremy Combs, 6-7, Jr. — Combs has scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds in each of UNT’s last two games. He is averaging 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He has not shot a free throw in two of UNT’s last four games and is 5-for-12 from the line in that span.

C: Rickey Brice Jr, 7-1, So.. — Brice scored five points and grabbed three rebounds in UNT’s loss to MTSU. Brice has been in and out of the Mean Green’s starting lineup and is averaging 5.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Scouting Rice: The Owls are just 1-3 in Conference USA play, but have faced a tough schedule early in C-USA play. Rice has lost to MTSU by three, fell in overtime to UAB and also lost by six on the road at Old Dominion. The Owls won at Charlotte and rank second in C-USA in scoring with an average of 82.8 points per game. Rice features the high scoring duo of guards Egor Koulechov and Marcus Evans, who are averaging 19.6 points and 18.6 points per game, respectively.

What you need to know: UNT is quickly seeing its season get away after losing its last five games, including its first four in C-USA play.

UNT coach Tony Benford has cited the absence of guards Deckie Johnson and Keith Frazier as a key reason the Mean Green have not performed up to expectations. Johnson is battling a hip injury, while Frazier has a sore knee. Both could be back in UNT’s lineup today.

The Mean Green will need all the firepower they can muster today when they look to change its fortunes on the road. UNT is just 1-17 away from the Super Pit since the beginning of last season and is 0-5 on the road this year.

Rice ranks second in C-USA with an average of 82.8 points per game. UNT plays at a slower pace and ranks 12th out of 14 teams in the league with an average of 64.7 points per game.