UNT recruiting target series — Clayton Woods

Highland Park center Clayton Woods, left, is from a football family that includes (from left), his father and Scotts assistant coach Don Woods, brother and former Oklahoma lineman Austin Woods and mother Liz Woods. UNT is recruiting Clayton Woods as a center. (The Dallas Morning News)

Highland Park offensive lineman Clayton Woods and his family have a unique perspective when it comes to the recruiting process.

After all, this is far from their first go-around.

Clayton Woods’ older brother is Austin Woods, a standout at Rockwall-Heath who battled cancer and recently finished his college career with the Oklahoma Sooners. His father, Don Woods, is a longtime high school coach who is currently the defensive line coach at Highland Park.

That background gives Woods an idea of what he is looking for in a college program.

The 6-foot-3, 280-pound center likes what he has seen at UNT, where he watched the Mean Green practice twice this spring.

“I came to the second padded practice and went to a Saturday scrimmage before the spring game,” Woods said. “I liked what I saw. They got after it. The offensive line really gets into it with the defense line during drills. I like the circle drill. North Texas is definitely a program on the rise.”

UNT defensive line coach Kevin Patrick is recruiting Woods, who started at center throughout his junior season and caught the attention of multiple programs in the state. Both UNT and UTSA have offered Woods a scholarship.

UNT is recruiting Woods as a center. Kaydon Kirby, the Mean Green’s starting center, will be a sophomore this fall and a junior by the time Woods would be in his first season — and a potential redshirt year — in college.

While Woods is being recruited by Patrick, he has also talked with Mike Simmonds. UNT’s offensive line coach has emphasized to Woods that he tries to get his five best players on the field, no matter where they normally line up.

Woods has gotten to know Patrick and formed a bond with the assistant in charge of recruiting him.

“I spent quite a bit of time with coach Patrick,” Woods said. “I like him and the staff in general. They get after it.”

Woods was a first-team All-District 10-4A selection as a junior last season. He has no set plan in terms of when he will decide where he will continue his career. After watching his brother go through the process, he is content to let his recruitment play out and see what his options are.

“I watched my brother go through it,” Woods said. “I will know when the time comes.”

Thursday afternoon notes (UNT trio works out out at Dallas Day, Joeckel to TCU)

Former North Texas linebacker Zach Orr will participate in the Cowboys' annual Dallas Day today, when former local high school standouts who went on to play college football will work out for team officials. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

It was a big day for former UNT standouts Zach Orr, Derek Thompson and Aaron Bellazin, who participated in the Cowboys annual Dallas Day.

The concept is a pretty smart one for the local NFL team. There are a ton of great high school players in the Dallas area who go on to play at colleges across the country. Several develop into NFL-caliber players every year.

The Cowboys invite dozens of the best back to work out.

The team’s scouting department knows who the best players in the draft are going to be. The Dallas Day event gives the Cowboys a chance to see the guys who might be a little under the radar.

Former UNT standout Lance Dunbar was a standout at Dallas Day, went on to make the team as an undrafted free agent and appears to be on his way to a productive NFL career as long as he can recover from a knee injury that cut his season short a year ago.

Thompson, a three-year starter at quarterback and the MVP of the Heart of Dallas Bowl; Orr, one of the best linebackers in recent Mean Green history, and Bellazin, a productive defensive end, all worked out.

Bellazin posted on his Twitter account that he was thankful for the opportunity.

We also posted yesterday that there were a few people speculating that former Texas A&M quarterback Matt Joeckel could end up at SMU, which is on UNT’s schedule next year. Multiple outlets are now reporting that he will end up at TCU.

Signing day thoughts, schedule notes

The first day of the signing period is in the books and UNT has announced its has two LOIs in.

Gillette (Wyo.) JC forward Muhammed Ahmed and Tyler JC point guard Todd Eaglin are in the fold.

I talked to Tony Benford for a couple of minutes about both additions.

I will go through all of what he had to say in tomorrow’s paper, but here are the basics.

UNT is really high on Ahmed, who is 6-foot-7 with what Benford described as a well-rounded offensive game. UNT’s staff took a look around Conference USA and saw a lot of players around that size who can really play and believes Ahmed fits that mold.

UNT needed a second point guard to pair with Chris Jones following the departure of Alzee Williams and likes what Eaglin brings to the table as a distributor who can also shoot the 3.

UNT isn’t done recruiting and could continue adding to its roster during the rest of the late signing period.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see UNT add a post player late.

Ahmed seems like a really good get and Eaglin fills an immediate need. UNT has to rebound better and is going to be decidedly smaller than last season, pending some late additions. Benford believes the players he is bringing in with be good on the glass. They will need to be if UNT is to improve.

As far as UNT’s schedule goes, UNT will travel to Texas Tech next season, face Creighton and travel to Stephen F. Austin.

UNT is also working on a couple of deals that could land the Mean Green series against Oklahoma State or New Mexico.

The UNT women haven’t officially announced their signees yet. I would expect UNT to announce them tomorrow to spread the news out a little and maximize the publicity.

Wednesday afternoon notes (Hoops recruiting running updates, could UNT face Joeckel?)

Update 4:42 — Todd Eaglin posted a photo of him signing his letter of intent on his Instagram account. It just cleared UNT’s compliance office. UNT now has both of its signees in. Eaglin is expected to give UNT a pass-first point guard to go along with Chris Jones. And in a side note, UNT assistant Jeff Luster’s son has signed as well. Taylor Luster is headed to Missouri Southern, a Division II. That is coach Luster on the left. Taylor played at Hill College.

Update 1:35 — Muhammed Ahmed’s letter of intent has arrived. The forward was a third-team NJCAA All-American this season, when he averaged 17.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, a performance that earned him first-team All-Region IX honors. Ahmed was highly recruited and a key get for UNT, which needed to restock its front line after the departures of Keith Coleman and Kelvin Gaines. Ahmed is 6-foot-7 and can play inside and out. He should be a good fit for the up-tempo system UNT wants to move to next season.

The late signing period in basketball starts today.

UNT should receive official word on highly regarded JUCO forward Muhammed Ahmed and Tyler JC point guard Todd Eaglin at some point this afternoon.

Both have been committed to UNT for a few weeks. UNT is expecting their paper work to come through without any problems.

UNT is still out there recruiting and trying to add a few late pieces.

I exchanged messages with Paris JC center Nouhoum Bocoum, who visited UNT this spring. Bocoum was planning to visit Eastern Michigan and Houston after UNT, which we covered a few days ago.

Bocoum indicated that he has yet to decide where he will continue his college career. Blinn JC shooting guard Macari Brooks is still out there. I have not been able to get in touch with Brooks or Blinn coach Scott Schumacher to see where things stand. Brooks posted on Twitter that he planned to visit UNT at one point. We talked a little about Brooks a few days ago.

It looks like Eaglin and Ahmed could be it for today. I will update the blog if anything changes.

And on the football front, it doesn’t look like it is out of the realm of possibility that UNT could face a former Texas A&M quarterback next season. Matt Joeckel is leaving Texas A&M will use the fifth-year senior loophole to transfer and play this season. What makes it interesting/UNT related is …

UNT faces SMU in the second game of the season in the fall.

This is all pure speculation at this point, but it would be interesting. Joeckel is a good player. Could he transfer to SMU after spring practice, win the job and play against UNT?

Maybe.

What I wonder is if A&M would allow Joeckel to transfer to SMU. The Aggies play the Mustangs this year.

Teams often restrict players from transferring to schools they will play in the subsequent season.

UNT recruiting target series — Keenan Kelly

Keenan Kelly never would have guessed that his first FBS scholarship offer would come from a school so far from home.

The Cedar Grove, Ga., standout defensive lineman/linebacker had been hearing from Georgia and Georgia Tech, which was to be expected considering both schools are in his backyard. What took Kelly by surprise was the news his high school coaches delivered recently. He had caught the eye of Kevin Patrick, the new defensive line coach at North Texas.

“Coach Patrick saw my video and liked it,” Kelly said. “I was surprised to hear from a school in Texas. I talked to coach Patrick for the first time a couple of weeks ago.”

Patrick has been working to build a relationship with Kelly ever since. The two spoke on the phone on Tuesday night, the first day of the spring evaluation period. Kelly has not met Patrick in person yet, but is already planning a visit to UNT this summer.

“North Texas is the first school to offer,” Kelly said. “That means a lot to me.”

Kelly, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound standout could soon be hearing from several schools other than UNT and the in-state powers. One of Kelly’s coaches said that Boise State has called in the last few days.

Kelly finished with eight sacks last season and could project as a middle linebacker, outside linebacker or defensive end, depending on how he develops physically.

“North Texas is recruiting me as an outside linebacker,” Kelly said. “I played middle linebacker and defensive end last season, but I can make the transition. Outside linebacker is more of my natural position.”

Kelly finished with eight sacks last season and estimated that he had about 80 tackles on the year.

While Kelly is still in the early stages of the recruiting process, he said he already has a feeling for when he would like to commit.

“I want to make a decision during the summer, before school starts,” Kelly said.

Patrick is putting UNT in position to be a key player in Kelly’s recruiting process by jumping in a race the coaches at Cedar Grove have told Kelly should soon pick up.

“It will pick up,” Kelly said. “My coach said he has seen that a lot of times. The word will get out.”

Mean Green blog recruiting series
CB Nafees Lyon, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
DL Carl Thompson, Guyer
OL Beau Hott, Plano
WR Akile Davis, DeSoto
ATH Jonathan Giles, Fort Bend Elkins

Tuesday afternoon football notes

We are into the off-season now, but there are a couple of tidbits on the football front worth talking about.

First off, I was able to confirm with UNT officials yesterday what a few people close to the program — and UNT’s Guyer contingent — had been indicating over the last few days. San Diego State transfer defensive lineman Dan Kottman is no longer with the program — at least not at this point.

We covered the story when he enrolled at UNT pretty extensively due to the fact he was a pretty good player and a former Guyer standout.

Kottman had some medical issues when he arrived. UNT didn’t put him on scholarship immediately. He hoped to earn one once he showed that he was healthy.

And in other news, this is the first day of the spring evaluation period for football recruiting.

Recruiting coordinator Mike Grant and the rest of UNT’s coaches will be out on the road over the next several weeks seeing prospects across the state and the country.

UNT has landed most of its key recruits late over the last several years. Most top prospects (the guys UNT wants) have held out for Big 12/SEC offers in the past. I have talked to a few UNT targets over the last several days. Several of them told me they will hold out until the end of the summer to see who comes in. One never knows, though. We could start to see some activity.

Here is a link to the latest installment of our targets series on Fort Bend Elkins athlete Jonathan Giles, which also includes links to previous installments.

UNT recruiting target series — Jonathan Giles

Jonathan Giles knows a whole lot about the football program at the University of Houston. It goes with the territory for the son of a Houston letterman.

Thanks to a trip to Denton with his father, Giles knows a little bit about UNT as well.

Giles, a quarterback from Fort Bend Elkins, is the son of former Houston running back Lonzo Giles, who these days is the video coordinator for the Texas Southern athletics department. Lonzo Giles played running back for Houston in the 1970s. The pair made the trip to Denton when TSU played the Mean Green.

That trip made an impression that stuck with Jonathan Giles.

“The school was nice and so was the stadium,” Giles said. “I was very impressed.”

Giles has kept UNT in mind as a place to potentially continue his career ever since. He was offered a scholarship by UNT about two months ago.

Houston is also recruiting Giles, but has yet to join UNT, Colorado and Fresno State on the list of schools who have offered the 6-foot, 175-pound athlete a scholarship.

Giles said he is wide open when it comes to schools he will consider at this point, but UNT is high on his list of potential destinations.

“I like how North Texas is coming up,” Giles said. “You didn’t used to hear about North Texas. Now you hear about them all the time. I also like the facilities.”

UNT recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Mike Grant is recruiting Giles as a slot receiver. Giles moved to quarterback for his high school team as a sophomore and threw for more than 2,000 yards as a junior, but projects as a slot receiver or cornerback on the college level.

“Most of the schools are recruiting me as an athlete who can play receiver or cornerback,” Giles said. “I see myself as a wide receiver. That is what I played in middle school and little league.”

Giles is considering playing there for UNT as well as he heads into the final few months before he plans to make an early decision on where to continue his career on the college level.

“I want to make a decision before the start of the season,” Giles said. “That way I can concentrate on my senior year.”

Mean Green blog recruiting series
CB Nafees Lyon, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
DL Carl Thompson, Guyer
OL Beau Hott, Plano
WR Akile Davis, DeSoto

Monday morning notes (JUCO guard to visit UNT)

The late singing period in basketball begins this week, when UNT will have yet another visitor to campus.

Macari Brooks, a highly regarded shooting guard from Blinn College, will visit Denton. Brooks posted on his Twitter account this morning that he can’t wait for his visit to the school to begin.

We wrote about Brooks not too long ago on the blog.

UNT has churned its roster quite a bit in the off-season. Kelvin Gaines decided to pursue a professional career, while Keith Coleman is also no longer on the roster.

I will go through who is staying and who is gone later (It’s a long story).

Right now, what’s more important to look at are the potential late additions. UNT had Paris JC post Nouhoum Bocoum in over the weekend. We caught up with Bocoum not too long ago. Bocoum said at that time that he was planning on visiting Eastern Michigan and Houston this week after visiting UNT.

UNT wants to move to a up-tempo style in Tony Benford’s third season, but is going to be seriously undersized in the middle if it doesn’t replace Gaines and Coleman. Bocoum could be the guy to fill that void. UNT did pick up a commitment from 6-foot-7 forward Muhammed Ahmed but could still use a center-type player.

While the focus has been on UNT’s efforts to bolster its front court, it also has some holes at the guard spots following the departure of Brandan Walton, Vertrail Vaughns and — most importantly — Alzee Williams. Those three guards combined to score almost a third of UNT’s point last year. Williams was UNT’s second-leading scorer.

Brooks could be the guy to help fill that void. The 6-foot-2 guard is a high-level player who signed with DePaul out of high school, when he was also recruited by Marquette, where Benford and several members of his staff worked before arriving in Denton.

Brooks averaged 19.9 points a game for Blinn last season.

The question now is if UNT can land Bocoum or Brooks or both and how the Mean Green would work its roster to get both on the team.

And in a side note, I hung out with the great Rick Gosselin from The Dallas Morning News at UNT’s spring game. Here’s his column on the rise of UNT’s football program:

Sunday night notes

Here are a few items of note on a Sunday night:

– The UNT softball team had a good weekend, sweeping Marshall. The Mean Green won the third game today by an 8-2 final. UNT is sitting in second place in the C-USA standings at 12-5. Tulsa is 12-2.

– UNT men’s basketball recruit Nouhoum Bocoum was in town over the weekend. I passed the Paris JC center while walking to the locker room after the spring game. He told me he is headed to Eastern Michigan and then Houston this week. Stay tuned. UNT is looking to land a post player late.

– We have talked a lot about spring practice over the last few weeks and will continue to sort through the fall-out. Check back a little farther on the blog for a Dan McCarney state of the union video.

– And it looks all but certain now that UNT will have a golfer on the PGA tour next year. Carlos Ortiz won the El Bosque Mexico Championship on the Web.com Tour. It’s Ortiz’s second win on the tour this year and pushes him to No. 1 on the money list at $304,458. The players who finish in the top 25 receive PGA Tour cards.

MGB video: McCarney talks spring game, Is this UNT’s deepest batch of backs ever?

The video at the top of this blog is of Dan McCarney and I chatting a little about the spring game and how spring practice went in general for the Mean Green. McCarney has some interesting things to say, as always.

And while we are at it, I’m going to break one of my unwritten rules and allow myself to be drug into a ridiculous debate after being called out for not agreeing with a reader’s opinion on a topic that really doesn’t matter in the large scheme of things.

The topic? Is this the deepest batch of running backs UNT has ever had going into the 2014 season?

First off, I really like UNT’s running backs. Antoinne Jimmerson is a dynamic player and should really shine. Erick Evans has been a great find and UNT will only be deeper when Reggie Pegram comes back from knee injury he suffered last season.

UNT is deep and talented, but there is no way this is deep as the Mean Green has been. It’s not even close.

Let’s look at what UNT has this season:
Antoinne Jimmerson, 446 rushing yards in 2013 as a backup, 990 yards in two-year career, no starts
Reggie Pegram, 338 rushing yards at UNT in 2013, 116 yards in two seasons at Purdue, no starts at UNT, coming off a major knee injury
Rex Rollins, 92 rushing yards at UNT in 2013, spent time working as a defensive back, no starts at UNT, missed the spring due to injury
Mark Lewis, 63 rushing yards as a backup on 18 carries in 2013, no starts at UNT
Erick Evans, never played a down at UNT, walked on and has suddenly shot up to second string behind Jimmerson in the spring
Andrew Tucker, converted safety, no carries at UNT
Jamaine Wilhite, never played

Again, I like the group. Let’s compare it to what UNT had heading into 2004:

Patrick Cobbs, 2003 national rushing champion with 1,680 yards, 2,840 career rushing yards heading into the season
Jamario Thomas, freshman ranked No. 21 among high school running backs nationally, would go on to win the national rushing title as a freshman
James Mitchell, career backup who came into the season off a 46-yard year in 2003, went on to rush for 274 yards in his career, including 166 against Arkansas State in the 2004 season when Cobbs and Thomas were out
Kevin Moore, backup who rushed for 408 yards in his career and entered the 2004 season off a 267-yard season in 2003
Thomas Pratt, ranked No. 52 on the Dallas Morning News Area Top 100. Left the program when he realized he would never play because of all the talent in front of him.

What do we have? UNT’s running backs head into the 2014 season with 1,599 career rushing yards and no starts. Two of the guys who are expected to contribute — Pegram and Rollins — missed all of spring practice and there is some doubt to how healthy Pegram will be at the beginning of next season after suffering a major knee injury late last year. Rollins has minimal practice time at running back after spending time working out at defensive back. Lewis played a little last season, while Evans, Tucker and Wilhite have never played for UNT.

In 2004, UNT had a returning national rushing champion in Cobbs, who had more yards in 2003 than the Mean Green’s entire running back roster for 2014 combined in their entire careers. UNT also had arguably the most highly regarded player to sign with the Mean Green in the ratings era in Thomas arriving and two backups who had played in Mitchell and Moore. It also had Pratt heading into the season.

One could make the argument that we won’t know for sure until the end of the season how it all plays out, but the bar is set pretty high up there.

In 2004, UNT lost a national rushing champion in Cobbs to injury. Meh, UNT rolled out Thomas. He won another rushing title. When Thomas got hurt late in the year, meh, UNT rolled out Mitchell and watched him go for 166 against Arkansas State. Kevin Moore also rushed for 141 yards that season.

UNT became the only team in college football history to have two returning national rushing champions in 2005 because of the remarkable depth it had in 2004.

UNT has four guys who have played heading into next season, none of whom have started, two of them coming off injuries.

UNT has the potential to be deep and productive at running back, but saying it’s the Mean Green’s deepest group ever based on what one sees in spring practice is a huge stretch at this point. That is what they call wishing and hoping. There is a big difference between that and looking at what history tells us about what UNT has now and the performances of the past that set the bar for the program.