Late-night recruiting tidbit on a UNT target

Our ace Guyer reporter Adam Boedeker reported this little tidbit tonight that is of some interest to UNT fans.

DeMarcus Owens, a Guyer cornerback UNT offered a scholarship a while back, has left the program and moved to Oklahoma with his mother.

UNT has commitments from Ashton Preston of Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe, Nate Brooks of Whitehouse and Taylor Robinson of Keller Central, not to mention JC corner Zavian Bingham.

UNT hanging on to Preston is far from a sure bet, but even with that being the case, I wonder if UNT has another spot for a corner at this point.

It is an interesting twist and a tough break for Owens, a starter for a defending state champion that will be a title contender again this year.

It’s tough for any player to move right before the start of his senior year.

Friday thoughts, tidbits and a records picks update

North Texas wide receiver Carlos Harris will take on a larger roll on the Mean Green's special teams that were a strength last season. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

I’m about to head down to Austin for UNT’s season-opener, but before I do, it’s time for some Friday notes and thoughts.

One point we haven’t brought up this week is the fact that UNT was terrific last year when it came to special teams and turnovers.

UNT finished plus-11 in turnover margin and blocked seven kicks.

The players who helped cause those big plays will largely have to be replaced this season. Marcus Trice intercepted five passes, blocked three kicks and forced two fumbles last season. Zach Orr recovered four fumbles. Both are now trying to make the final cut with the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens, respectively.

UNT’s main return man Brelan Chancellor is also gone after averaging 27.6 yards a kickoff return. He took one back 99 yards against Georgia.

Fortunately for UNT, no one plucked special teams coordinator Tommy Perry off the staff, which was a bit of a surprise to me.

Perry will have to replace some key guys, but he’s still around to put the plan in place.

We could begin to see tomorrow who the players will be to step in and fill the voids left by so many key contributors on defense and special teams.

In other news …

The UNT women’s soccer team’s game at Houston was cancelled today due to lightning in the area. The Mean Green will take on Lamar on Sunday.

And finally, late picks for our contest to pick UNT’s record this season continue to roll in. Send your’s to bvito@dentonrc.com

GYROTR update
14-0 — Adam Martinez
11-3 — John Lowe (Eagle83), Darren Foyt (EagleD)
10-4 — Casual fan (P. S.immons)
10-3 — Travis Scott, Katy Mayer
9-5 — Derrick Murray, Andrew Hinojosa (UNT Satchmo)
9-4 — James Stinson, Grant Hawley (Pastor Grant), BobFam (Bob Famigletti), Brandon Daniels, John Douthitte, Richard Steenson, Brian Martin
8-4 — MeanGreenTexan (Jonathan Davidson), Scott Davis (Cook County Kid)
8-5 — Ryan Munthe, Michael Tull, Chris VanCleave (UNTrocket09), Thor, Matthew Taylor (RealMeanGreenMatt), Jeremy Roden (JRock), Aldo Avina (Devin Axtman), Lee Hughes(3XUNTGrad), H-Town Green (Drew Curtis), Joe Eckstein (NC Mean Green), Keith Mazy (OXofUNT), Joe Letsche, Greg Wagner, John Curry, Adman
7-5 — Kevin Sardina
7-6 — Brett Vito, Kellen Jemeyson, Lee Moses, Bryan Graves (UNTGuy5), Greg Bognich, Travis Miller
6-6 — Rick Ashwander (Scratch1976), Adam Rosenfield, Philip Watson (PhilipCPA74), Jim Hull (LongJim)
5-7 — Thomas Van Dinter (Eppie96)
4-8 — Andrew Morris

Nice Trice highlight, Get Your Rear on the Record update

The final games of the NFL preseason are taking place and final cuts loom. I mention it because there are a few players from UNT still trying to make NFL rosters, including safety Marcus Trice. The Vine above is of a great hit he made while playing for the Bears.

Wide receiver Brelan Chancellor has already been cut by the Chargers, but Trice and linebacker Zach Orr are still hanging on. Orr is with the Ravens.

And while we are at it, we haven’t updated our picks contest in a few days. We were focused in on finishing our preview magazine. Here is the latest tally. Send your picks to bvito@dentonrc.com.

GYROTR update
11-3 — John Lowe (Eagle83), Darren Foyt (EagleD)
10-3 — Travis Scott, Katy Mayer
9-5 — Derrick Murray
9-4 — James Stinson, Grant Hawley (Pastor Grant), BobFam (Bob Famigletti), Brandon Daniels, John Douthitte, Richard Steenson
8-4 — MeanGreenTexan (Jonathan Davidson), Scott Davis (Cook County Kid)
8-5 — Ryan Munthe, Michael Tull, Chris VanCleave (UNTrocket09), Thor, Matthew Taylor (RealMeanGreenMatt), Jeremy Roden (JRock), Aldo Avina (Devin Axtman), Lee Hughes(3XUNTGrad), H-Town Green (Drew Curtis), Joe Eckstein (NC Mean Green), Keith Mazy (OXofUNT), Joe Letsche
7-5 — Kevin Sardina
7-6 — Brett Vito, Kellen Jemeyson, Lee Moses, Bryan Graves (UNTGuy5), Greg Bognich
6-6 — Rick Ashwander (Scratch1976), Adam Rosenfield, Philip Watson (PhilipCPA74), Jim Hull (LongJim)
5-7 — Thomas Van Dinter (Eppie96)
4-8 — Andrew Morris

Q&A with Ryan Autullo from the American Statesman

It’s just a few hours now before North Texas kicks off its season against Texas.

One of the features we will bring back this year is a Q&A with a writer who covers the opposing team. First up this year is Ryan Autullo, who covers Texas for the Austin American-Statesman. One can find the latest from Ryan on the Statesman’s website and on Twitter

Here’ what he had to say about Saturday night’s UNT-Texas game:

1. How will Texas approach this game with it being Charlie Strong’s debut? There is talk of Texas wanting to make a statement. What have you heard?

I think it’s important for Texas to not only win, but to look good doing it. With harder challenges coming the following two weeks against BYU and UCLA, Strong’s team needs to be feeling good about itself. A cliffhanger with a 24-point underdog could be reason for concern.

2. How is Texas holding up amid all the suspensions and dismissals of key players?

We’ll see. Suspension and dismissals shrunk the depth and overall talent at running back, wide receiver, and safety. Veteran running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray are Big 12-caliber, so I’m not concerned about Texas moving the ball on the ground as long as its horses stay healthy. Wide receiver and safety, on the other hand, are the two weakest position groups on the team. Expect to see true freshmen and/or walk ons get significant playing time.

3. Will Denton natives see local hero Jerrod Heard on Saturday?

Doubt it. Heard is running third at quarterback behind David Ash and Tyrone Swoopes. In a perfect world, I think he redshirts and competes in the spring to unseat Swoopes as the back up. By all accounts, Heard’s been just OK in the preseason.

4. Texas has a huge offensive line and two terrific running backs in Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. Do you expect Texas to line up and try to run the ball down UNT’s throats?

Yes, absolutely. In an era of uptempo, pass-happy offenses, Texas is a throwback. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson employs a pro-style system predicated on controlling the clock and dictating pace of the game. That works out well year one, as the players he inherited are suited best to run the ball. The line replaces four starters, but the talent is there. Brown and Gray could have big seasons.

5. How do you see the game playing out?

A close game at halftime turns into a comfortable Texas win, something like 30-10. The Longhorns win the battle up front on both sides of the ball and North Texas withers in the second half.

Prediction: UNT will hang with Texas before the Longhorns pull away

North Texas running back Reggie Pegram will be a key part of the Mean Green's plan to establish its running game Saturday in its game against Texas in Austin.

TV: Longhorn Network; Kevin Dunn (play-by-play), Ahmad Brooks (analyst), Sean Adams (sideline)

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1, KGAF-AM 1580; Sirius 117

On the line: North Texas will have a chance to shock the world when it heads down to Austin to take on the Longhorns in the season-opener for both teams. UNT has faced Texas nine times in the series and never won a game. A win over the Longhorns would rank as the most important victory in school history and give the Mean Green even more momentum following last season’s 9-4 finish that included a win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Texas is looking to get off to a good start under new head coach Charlie Strong. The former Louisville coach is working to establish a new culture within the program and has already dismissed more than a half dozen players. A win would give Texas something new to focus on and will be looked at as an early sign Strong has the Longhorns headed in the right direction. A loss would be a disastrous blow for Texas.

When North Texas has the ball: There is no secret when it comes to what UNT will do offensively. The Mean Green’s identity is based largely on its ability to run the ball and be physical on offense. UNT has four starters back on its offensive line, including preseason All-Conference USA guards Cyril Lemon and Mason Y’Barbo. UNT will line up and try to run it right at Texas with Reggie Pegram and Antoinne Jimmerson, especially with JUCO transfer Josh Greer making his debut at quarterback. If UNT can be effective running the ball, it will open up opportunities for Greer in the passing game.

When Texas has the ball: Quarterback David Ash will return after missing all but three games last season with a concussion. The Longhorns will look to take pressure off Ash and ease him back into the lineup by leaning on a pair of standout running backs in Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. UNT head coach Dan McCarney spoke about both in glowing terms in his Monday press conference. The Mean Green are undersized up front and lost six of their seven starters in their defensive front seven to graduation after last season. New Texas coach Charlie Strong wants to run the ball and be physical. Expect the Longhorns to try to pound UNT into submission.

Prediction: UNT seemed to turn a corner last season under Dan McCarney and hung with Georgia into the third quarter in its last game against a major conference team. Texas doesn’t have a squad to match the 2013 Bulldogs, but UNT doesn’t have the team it did a year ago either after a host of key players graduated. While Mean Green doesn’t have the talent it did a year ago, they believe the impact a breakout season had on the program remains. That change will help UNT hang with Texas early on, but the Longhorns overall talent will eventually be too much for the Mean Green to overcome

Texas 31, North Texas 17

Five things UNT fans need to know about Texas

New Texas head coach Charlie Strong gives a hook 'em horns hand gesture during Big 12 media days. North Texas will open the season at Texas on Saturday. (Associated Press)

North Texas opens its football season at 7 p.m. Saturday at Texas. Here’s a quick scouting report of the Longhorns:

2013 record: 8-5

Key number: 0 — The number of times North Texas has beaten Texas in nine meetings.

1. A new era: Texas will have a new coach on the sideline for the first time since in 1998 in Charlie Strong. The former Louisville coach takes over for Mack Brown, who led the Longhorns to some lopsided wins over the Mean Green later in his career at Texas. The Longhorns beat UNT 65-0 in 2004 and 56-7 in 2006. Strong and his defensive coordinator Vance Bedford worked with McCarney at Florida.

2. A tough duo: One of Texas biggest strengths is the running back tandem of Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. The Longhorns’ star backs combined to rush for 1,684 yards in 2013 and will pose a big challenge for UNT’s defensive front that loses six of its seven starters from a year ago. Texas has yet to release its depth chart, but returns center Dominic Espinosa, who has played in 39 games at center and checks in at 308 pounds. UNT’s defensive line starters will average 252 pounds a man.

3. Ash back to guide the way: David Ash is back as Texas starting quarterback after missing most of last season with a concussion. Texas won’t ask Ash to win games, but rather manage them and let the playmakers around him take care of the rest. Ash threw for 760 and seven touchdowns in three games last season.

4. Longhorns long on experience on defense: Texas returns seven starters on defense, including Cedric Reed. The senior finished with 10 sacks a year ago and will present an interesting matchup for UNT’s stout offensive line. UNT has four of its five starters returning, but lost tackle LaChris Anyiam. Standout guard Cyril Lemon will slide to right tackle opposite Antonio Johnson. Shawn McKinney, who was in the rotation a year ago, will move into the lineup at guard. UNT has allowed a nation-low 17 sacks the last two seasons combined. Texas will test UNT to see how its new lineup holds up.

5. Shipley ready to deliver: Texas wide receiver Jaxon Shipley was cleared to play late on Tuesday. He led Texas with 589 receiving yards last season and will give the Longhorns’ offense a boost. UNT returns three of its four starters in its secondary from last season, including cornerbacks Kenny Buyers and James Jones. That group will be tested by Shipley.

Football mag comes out tomorrow, et cetera

Tomorrow is a big day for us here at the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Our annual football magazine will be in the paper and on the newsstands.

It’s a project that takes months to put together and pretty much puts life on hold for our staff for the final two-week push to get the 120-page monster done. In our humble opinion, it’s the best publication we put out all year and one of the best of its kind in the nation. We have evidence to support that claim. The Record-Chronicle has earned six straight top 10 honors in the Associated Press Sports Editors special section category for newspapers of our size.

Here’s the best part for UNT/local high school football fans and what pains me to a certain extent. We sell the thing for 50 cents. And you still get the rest of the paper.

Newsstands sell out in a flash in Denton every year.

Be sure to grab one early.

And since I know this question will come up. Yes, I do believe there will be an on-line version people will be able to read for free.

But isn’t it so much better to buy the paper and keep it?

I would think so.

And in other news …

The UNT soccer team is ranked No. 7 in this week’s NSCAA Central Region poll.

The poll came out earlier this week while we were finishing the magazine.

Confession — It would have taken a retirement, firing or natural catastrophe at UNT for us to notice the last few days.

Actually, the Super Pit could have fallen into a huge sink hole and we still likely wouldn’t have noticed.

We don’t want to let the Mean Green being ranked slide by without mentioning it, though. UNT is really good again, which is really no surprise. We here on the blog have complete faith in the remaining John — that would be UNT soccer coach John Hedlund — now that Johnny Jones is down at LSU, breaking up our “Trust in the Johns” mantra.

Oh, and go buy the paper tomorrow.

Looking at UNT’s depth chart

North Texas offensive lineman Cyril Lemon, far right, will start at right tackle when the Mean Green opens the season at Texas on Saturday. Lemon helped guide UNT last UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl last season. (The Dallas Morning News/Sarah Hoffman)

UNT released its depth chart this week in advance of its season-opener at Texas. The big news of the day was that Josh Greer won the starting quarterback job, which we posted some thoughts about yesterday.

There was a whole lot more of interest to get to as far as the depth chart goes, so let’s get to it with a few moves that stand out …

– Shawn McKinney ended up winning the fifth starting spot on the offensive line.

We hinted at this late in fall practice, but Shawn “Snacks” McKinney (love that nickname) edged out Ryan Rentfo for the fifth starting line spot. That means that Cyril Lemon will move to right tackle. Dan McCarney and Mike Simmonds are all about getting their five best guys on the field.

There are two ways to look at the move.

A. UNT is putting five huge guys out there and McKinney showed last year that he can play. McKinney is 358 pounds and that makes UNT even bigger up front than it would have been otherwise — 1,601 pounds to be exact. That’s 320 pounds a man. UNT might not be able to wear down a team like Texas, but it will do a lot of damage most of the year. Rentfro is also a big guy at 313 pounds. UNT didn’t exactly gain a huge amount of size with McKinney, but it did become add a little mustard on the sandwich.

B. Lemon can play anywhere on the line, but his best position is guard. UNT not only moves Lemon out of his best spot, it also breaks up the interior line combination of center Kaydon Kirby, Lemon and Mason Y’Barbo that was so effective last year. Granted McKinney was always in the rotation, but it is something to consider.

– Sid Moore and Chad Polk will start on the defensive line.

One of the more baffling issues UNT has faced in its time under Dan McCarney, who is entering his fourth season is that
the Mean Green remains undersized up front on defense. McCarney called UNT one of the smallest and slowest Division I teams he has ever seen when he arrived. Spending his entire career at places like Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa State and Iowa no doubt made coming to UNT and the world of mid-major recruiting a bit of a shock. All these years later, UNT is still on the small side and will now start Sid Moore (257 pounds) and Alexander Lincoln (275 pounds) at defensive tackle and Chad Polk (231 pounds) Daryl Mason (247 pounds) at defensive end. Dutton Watson (283 pounds) and Austin Orr (277 pounds) are a little bigger and will come off the bench.

McCarney has emphasized that his rotation and playing eight to 10 guys will help. I just don’t think there is any question that being that small on the defensive line is going to be an issue at some point. And let’s not forget. Mr. Fix It Zach Orr is not going to be back there to fill those gaps like he once was.

– Reggie Pegam will start over Antoinne Jimmerson.

McCarney hinted at this in the fall, saying that Pegram looks really good in practice. Both guys will play, but the fact that Pegram will start is a testament to the work he put in since tearing his ACL late last season.

– Fred Scott gets the nod over Anthony Wallace.

Scott, a sophomore, will move into Orr’s spot after beating out Wallace, a highly regarded Oregon transfer. Both guys will play, but it just goes to show that it’s never safe to assume that every transfer is going to come in, win a starting job and become an impact player like Marcus Trice did.

– Sheldon Wade, Kishawn McClain and John Schilleci make the depth chart at safety.

UNT knew Lairamie Lee would start at one safety spot, but the rest of the way that spot shapes up is at least a little bit of a surprise. We knew all along that Sheldon Wade would have a chance to start, but after injuries forced Zed Evans to give up football, UNT went all the way to California to sign JUCO transfer Matthew Dash. Not only did Wade, an Austin Peay transfer win the job, McClain, a freshman, slid into the backup spot. Schilleci is now the backup behind Lee. Dash will play somewhere. It’s just surprising to see him left off the depth chart. We talked to him about potentially starting not to long ago.

Follow-up thoughts on Greer

North Texas head coach Dan McCarney introduced quarterback Josh Greer (third from left) as one of the newest members of the team during the Mean Green's signing day press conference in February. On Monday, McCarney named Greer his starting quarterback. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

UNT released its depth chart for its season-opener at Texas yesterday and also announced that Josh Greer will start at quarterback. We will get to some thoughts on a few interesting moves (Cyril Lemon to tackle, Chad Polk as a starter at defensive end) later as far as the depth chart goes.

Before we do, the big news of yesterday was that Josh Greer will start at quarterback.

We have it covered in today’s paper.

As far as our thoughts go, the fact UNT picked Greer isn’t a huge shocker. We predicted that would be what would happen a few days ago. Greer was recruited by UNT offensive coordinator Mike Canales twice — once out of Arlington High and once out of Navarro. He’s a bigger pocket passer who can also run a bit.

Canales compared Greer, who signed with UAB, transferred to Navarro College and then landed at UNT, to Derek Thompson. And despite what the number-crunchers and people living in a fantasy world where UNT has a quarterback history to rival Texas or USC say, running Thompson out there last year worked out pretty well for UNT.

If Greer can go out there and throw for 222 yards and a touchdown a game in a conservative offense, that would be far from the worst outcome.

Greer seems capable of getting the job done.

What was perhaps even more interesting is how much changed the span of a couple of months.

The assumption late last season was that UNT would turn to Dajon Williams, who played in the Mean Green’s season-opener and appeared poised to start this fall. The first sign that UNT’s plans had changed came in the middle of December when Greer committed to UNT.

It was a bit of a head-scratcher at the time considering UNT had Williams and backup Andrew McNulty returning, not to mention a high school senior on the way in Connor Means.

The move makes a whole lot more sense now. Williams has continued to fade and UNT wanted an option other than McNulty.

Greer showed up and made what in the world of college football has to be considered a meteoric rise through the ranks to earn the starting job heading into his sophomore year.

Baring injury, it looks like Greer will be UNT’s guy for this year and a player the Mean Green will build with going forward.

And that means we may have seen the last of McNulty when it comes to the chase for the starting job. We wrote in the spring about how this year’s competition for the starting job could be McNulty’s last chance at UNT.

That chance has now come and gone for a junior entering his fourth year in the program. That’s the problem with being a quarterback. Teams play just one.

McNulty seems like a good guy and has taken far more criticism than he deserves over the years. As of now, it looks like he will end up having backed up one UNT Hall of Famer (this is your cue, stat crunchers) in Thompson and will now back up Greer.

We don’t know what Greer is yet. Is he a quicker version of Thompson? Is he something more? Something less?

We’ve barely gotten to know Greer. It seems like he just showed up yesterday.

We are about to find out a whole more, beginning on Saturday at Texas.

Greer named UNT’s starting quarterback

Greer

Josh Greer, a Navarro College transfer who joined UNT at the semester break, was named the Mean Green’s starting quarterback on Monday, just days before UNT opens its season at Texas.

Greer competed with veteran backup Andrew McNulty throughout spring practice and into fall workouts.

UNT lost Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP and three-year starter Derek Thompson to graduation.

Greer was recruited by UNT out of Arlington, but ended up signing with UAB. He left the program and enrolled at Navarro, where he threw for 1,205 yards and eight touchdowns in six games last season. He transferred to UNT in December and quickly worked his way up the Mean Green’s depth chart.

“It has been a tremendous battle, no doubt about it,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. “As you go out and evaluate quarterbacks, there are so many intangibles you are looking for, character, leadership, physical toughness, mental toughness, being coachable, all those things. Both of those guys have all kinds of those attributes. In the end, Josh Greer made more plays, made more throws for big plays, and made more throws for touchdowns. He was just a little more consistent than McNulty was starting back in March all the way through camp, but it has been very, very close.”