Dustin McWhorter update

McWhorter

Dustin McWhorter, a defensive lineman from Graham, stopped by near the end of UNT’s Friday Night Lights camp last night and let me know that he planned to commit to the Mean Green today.

I got back in touch with him late this afternoon for an update.

McWhorter is still officially on the market.

“I have not committed yet,” McWhorter said. “The coaches said that they needed to verify everything and didn’t want me to commit yet. I have to get them my transcript.”

Despite having to put off making his decision to go to UNT official, McWhorter is still convinced the school is the best fit for him.

“North Texas is where I would like to go,” McWhorter said. “If another bigger, better offer comes I will look at it, but I will probably go to North Texas. Going to be a bigger school could mean less playing time.”

The obvious question is if UNT is slow-playing McWhorter.

Cedar Park defensive end Myles Cheatum was at UNT’s camp and said he was ready to commit to UNT pending approval from his mother.

Denton defensive end Dailon Holmes is also out there. UNT desperately wants to establish a pipeline to the Denton schools, which is going to be tough to do considering most kids want to get the heck out of town (and that goes for any home town) for college.

There is no telling how UNT’s board shapes up, how many defensive linemen the school wants to take or where McWhorter is in terms of UNT’s wish list.

All we know right now is that he wants to come to UNT. I wouldn’t be surprised if that ends up happening. It just didn’t happen today.

Converse Judson offensive lineman Abdul Beecham talks about commitment to UNT

Beecham

Converse Judson offensive lineman Abdul Beecham committed to North Texas last night during the Mean Green’s annual Friday Night Lights camp at Apogee Stadium.

We covered Beecham’s decision briefly in last night’s running blog during the camp.

Beecham talked more about his decision after the evening was over.

“I feel good about it,” Beecham said. “I woke up every morning thinking about it. I slept on it, talked to my parents about it and prayed about it. North Texas felt like home.”

Beecham, who is 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, was a first-team All-District 26-5A selection as a junior last season and was also named to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football’s preseason Class 6A all-state team.

Houston, Baylor and Oklahoma State were among about a dozen teams that showed interest in Beecham, but only UNT offered.

The commitment UNT showed by offering Beecham early helped convince him the school was the right place to continue his career. Beecham visited UNT earlier this summer during a series of events for the Mean Green’s top recruiting targets and returned early Friday to tour UNT’s facilities before finalizing his decision.

“The fact that North Texas showed me that I am a priority is important,” Beecham said. “I had the big schools like Oklahoma and Texas that showed a little interest here or there, but nothing like North Texas. They made a commitment and an effort to show that they wanted and needed me.”

For more on Beecham, see Sunday’s edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Friday Night Lights running blog (Wrap-up thoughts)

Friday Night Lights is about to begin over at Apogee Stadium.

I will post news and notes throughout the night.

First off, here’s the big news — Converse Judson offensive lineman Abdul Beecham just confirmed with me that he committed to UNT tonight.

Beecham had a preliminary commitment in place earlier in the week, but wanted to see UNT’s campus with his father and make things official tonight.

UNT was high on Beecham all along. He never officially received any other offers. Houston came close to putting one on the table. In the end, UNT really showed Beecham that he was a top priority. That paid off in the end.

Update 6:50 — There are a number of top prospects here tonight, including one of the top outside linebackers in the country. I knew he looked familiar and sure enough Anthony Hines, one of the top athletes in the Class of 2017, is here. The man with an epic fro is committed to Mississippi State, but said he is still considering UNT.

Update 6:55 — Jerminic Smith, a wide receiver from South Garland UNT has offered, is here. I didn’t know this, but he is the younger brother of former UNT wide receiver Darnell Smith. The younger Smith brother has offers from TCU and Texas Tech. Smith said he will take his official visits before deciding where to go, but UNT is definitely in the hunt. Darnell said the family’s relationship with UNT, its staff and wide receivers coach Mike Grant will help the Mean Green.

Update 7:00 — UNT offensive line recruit Creighton Barr is here, but is not working out. He was working through and ankle injury the last time I talked to him. Barr is hanging out with Abdul Beecham. I have a feeling there is a good chance he ends up playing for UNT.

Update 7:15 — D’erren Wilson, a wide receiver from Greenville, is here. We talked about him a little in the paper today. He was supposed to decide between Indiana, BYU and Arkansas State a few weeks ago. He said he wanted to wait to consider his options and could decide late this summer or at the middle of the season.

Update 7:20 — UNT commit Ashton Preston is here tonight. Preston said that his commitment to UNT is solid, but that there are a few other schools that could soon offer him. Preston mentioned Cal, but declined to name the other school he thinks could soon offer him. I have a gut feeling it’s Louisville.

Update 7:42 — The Flower Mound offensive line connection is here tonight. I mentioned that Creighton Barr is here. Barr plays for Flower Mound Marcus. Evan Curl, who plays for Flower Mound, is also at the camp. Neither is working out. I stood and chatted with both for a while. Barr has offers from UNT, Fresno State and Arkansas State and is considering all three schools. Mississippi State has also been talking to Barr. Curl has offers from UNT and Fresno State. He is also talking to Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. My impression is that both are pretty high on UNT’s board, but spots are starting to fill up at this point.

Update 8:13 — Myles Cheatum, a defensive end from Cedar Park is here and is getting the full-court press from UNT’s coaches and even athletic director Rick Villarreal. We wrote about Cheatum a while back in our on-going UNT recruiting target series. Reggie Pegram is on hand. I said hello. He looked like he is in good shape and he was moving around pretty good on his knee. Dan McCarney said at media day that he is at full strength.

Update 8:19 — I just got a chance to talk with Myles Cheatum. He really likes what he has seen at UNT. I also talked with Cheatum’s father who is here with him. Both want a chance to talk with Cheatum’s mom and let her meet UNT’s coaches before making a decision. UNT is in a really good spot, though. Cheatum also has offers from Fresno State, Texas State and Louisiana Tech.

Update 9:10 — UNT is wrapping up its Friday Night Lights here at Apogee Stadium. Mac is killing it in the closing speech as usual. I’ve got one more zinger for the night. Graham defensive lineman Dustin McWhorter stopped me near the end of camp and said that he is going to commit to UNT tomorrow. He wanted to commit tonight, but UNT’s coaches wanted him to out it off for a day. McWhorter has offers from UNT, Texas State and Colorado State. Nothing is official at this point, but it sure looks like McWhorter will be will be the second commit UNT picks up out of the camp.

Wrap-up thoughts — UNT’s Friday Night Lights camp is in the books for another year. We mentioned heading into the camp that this is historically a night where UNT makes a lot of hay in recruiting. UNT’s coaches were all out tonight, putting their best foot forward. Some of the heavy-hitters from the athletic department (AD Rick Villarreal) and booster community (Ernie Kuehne, C. Dan Smith) were also on hand.

The camp was a hit. There were about 425 players there, according to UNT’s staff.

UNT also picked up a commitment from its top offensive line target Abdul Beecham, a standout from Converse Judson who made the trip, but didn’t participate.

Beecham is an interesting prospect. UNT’s coaches love him and a ton of other schools showed interest, including Houston and Iowa State. In the end UNT was the only team that offered. UNT’s coaches have shown that they are good at evaluating talent. They like Beecham. They like him a lot. What will be interesting to see is how he develops.

A couple of other players appear to be imminent commits.

Cedar Park defensive end Myles Cheatum said he needed to talk to his mom and have his mom meet UNT’s coaches, but that if things go well, he will commit to UNT. Cheatum would be the highest rated commit on UNT’s board, according to some services.

Graham defensive lineman Dustin McWhorter also stopped me at the end of camp and said he would commit tomorrow. UNT’s coaches wanted him to wait a day.

I’m not going to pretend I know for sure if either commit goes through, but the chances seem pretty good that they will.

That would give UNT three commits out of the camp that we know of, and all seem like good prospects at need spots in a class that will be heavy on linemen.

Friday Night Lights preview

One of the more important dates on the UNT football calender has arrived. The Mean Green’s Friday Night Lights camp is tongiht.

UNT’s football staff travels the state and sees a host of the best players in Texas high school football at its satellite camps. The best of the best are often invited to Denton for the final camp in the series — Friday Night Lights.

The concept is pretty common in college football. Schools often have select camps for their top prospects.

The format UNT follows is a bit different. Friday Night Lights is open to any high school player who wants to come. Players can register for the event that begins at 5 p.m. before the camp.

In the end, UNT ends up with a mix of high school players from the region and several of its top recruiting targets.

We ran a preview of the event in today’s paper.

There were 417 players who showed up last year, including a few key recruiting targets. Elkhart running back Jeffery Wilson, Rosenberg Terry defenisve back Kishawn McClain, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M linebacker Akii Smith and Flower Mound offensive lineman Christopher Miles all committed to UNT after attending last year’s Friday Night Lights event.

Tyler JC offensive lineman Drew Sarvary (Florida), Tyler JC defensive end William Coleman (Mississippi State) and Garrett Davis (Houston) were among the other top prospects at least year’s camp who went on to sign with other schools. Davis committed to UNT before changing his mind.

So who are the top targets who will be at this year’s camp?

Converse Judson guard Abdul Beecham is scheduled to attend, according to his father. We wrote about Beecham in our on-going UNT recruiting target series. Beecham is a heavy UNT lean. I would be surprised if he doesn’t officially commit to UNT tonight.

Trinity Valley wide receiver Jarvis Baxter, who committed to SMU out of high school, is also supposed to be at UNT tonight. We talked to Baxter after he visited UNT.

Greenville wide receiver D’erren Wilson is also supposed to be at the camp. Indiana, BYU and Arkansas State are considered the favorites to land Wilson, who said late this summer when we talked to him that he is waiting to consider his options before committing.

UNT has commitments from eight players at this point, including three who committed in the last week or so. Here’s the full list and a look at where UNT stands.

That list could soon have a couple of additions after tonight’s camp. I will be there.

Stay tuned.

Opponent watch — Texas suspends wide receivers

Texas suspended wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander today. Both face face felony sexual assault charges stemming from an incident in late June.

Chuck Carlton from the Morning News has the story.

Sanders caught 37 passes for 361 yards and a touchdown last season, when he was one of Texas’ top receivers.

We bring it up for the obvious reason — UNT opens at Texas on Aug. 30.

Texas is one of those elite programs that can lose a key player like Sanders and just pull another four-star, top-end talent off the bench.

Texas is going through a time of transition under Charlie Strong, though. Added turmoil is only going to help UNT’s chances of pulling off what would be arguably the biggest win in program history.

The situation is one to watch in the coming weeks.

Thursday afternoon tidbits (UTSA offers UNT target, the hate debate)

I was sitting with Jerry Briggs of the San Antonio Express-News at Conference USA media day this week and heard UNT coach Dan McCarney talk a little about the Mean Green’s loss to UTSA.

Mac was gracious as always and gave Jerry some material that he turned into a nice little story on where everyone was picked in the preseason poll.

The reaction has solidified my feeling that I was on the button when I dubbed the the Mean Green’s game against the Roadrunners last year the “UNT Fans Wing Zone Green Kool-Aid Suicide Pact Game.”

It was meant to be funny, but it was also true. There is a lot of downright hate for UTSA from UNT fans. UNT toiled for 100 years to get to where it’s at in C-USA. UTSA got there in a fraction of that time, and beat UNT in the first game between the teams.

UNT plays at UTSA in the final game of the regular season this year.

Depending on the way things go, that game could end up being huge. If it does, it will only add to the developing rivalry between the schools. And yes, it is becoming a rivalry.

And speaking of the rivalry …

The Roadrunners have offered Oklahoma offensive lineman Shane Block (great name for a lineman) who we featured in our UNT recruiting target series a while back.

MGB video: McCarney talks about season at C-USA media day, notes

UNT coach Dan McCarney was a popular guy at Conference USA media day this week. He took a minute or two to shoot a video with me. We talked a little about the upcoming season and where the Mean Green is at as the beginning of two-a-days on Aug. 5 looms.

I wrote a story and a notebook for today’s paper on what went down at media day.

The big topic of the day was the changing landscape in college athletics and full cost of attendance scholarships. Conference USA will go in that direction, one that will provide players more money to live than they have in the past.

That issue ties in with the top five conferences in college football potentially being granted autonomy from the rest of the schools in college athletics. It’s going to happen — likely in a couple of weeks.

We covered both topics in today’s main story.

The key point when it comes to full cost of attendance scholarships is that schools are going to need a whole lot more money to cover the added expense. How much depends largely on the school, but the rough estimate we settled on in the media room after talking to everyone is schools will need $345,000 and $1.15 million more per year, a figure based on a rough estimate of 230 student-athletes receiving an additional $1,500 to $5,000 more than their current scholarships provide.

I am like a lot of other UNT fans out there who wonder if the school deciding to sell beer at football games right about the same time the higher-cost scholarships come into play is more than a coincidence.

The bottom line is that there is a whole lot of money flowing into college athletics. A lot of people, including some of the players on the field, are becoming more and more disenchanted with a system that only provides the basics of room, board, books and a small amount of money on the side.

A lot of college coaches and fans believe that should be enough, but people in that camp are quickly becoming the minority. The argument of playing for the glory of the green or the orange and white or the crimson and cream is quickly becoming an antiquated notion.

Full cost of attendance scholarships are another step in that direction.

As far as the top conferences potentially being granted autonomy, the move is another step that will widen the divide between top schools and the ones with lesser resources chasing them.

McCarney and his players talked about wanting the opportunity to play teams like Texas. McCarney is a big advocate of the bowl system and wants to maintain it in a time when a college football playoff is set to begin.

Our notebook covers a few items, including the development of a new team personality, the status of UNT’s suspended players and how UNT is handling being a favorite this year. We also checked in with Florida Atlantic coach Charlie Partridge, who hired former UNT great Chris Hurd for his first staff. He had a lot of good things to say about one of the cornerstone players from UNT’s New Orleans Bowl run that began in the early 2000s.

C-USA media days wrap-up thoughts and tidbits

After banging out a few stories for the tomorrow’s papers, I’m back with some follow-up thoughts from Conference USA media day.

I wrote a main story and a notebook for tomorrow’s DRC (buy the newspaper), so there isn’t much I didn’t get in, but here’s one tidbit I omitted.

Dan McCarney talked a little about opening against Texas and facing SMU early in the season …

“North Texas has never beaten Texas and is 4-28 against SMU [actually, it's 4-28-1, but who's counting?],” McCarney said. “Rivalry? Rivalry at 4-28? We had better establish one where we have a chance and they have a chance. Do the math, there is no rivalry.”

McCarney has a point.

The bottom line, though, is this — If you think McCarney is beloved and pretty much an employee of UNT for as long as he wants to be now, just wait and what happens if he beats SMU.

And I’m not saying that Mac hasn’t earned that kind of respect. He has.

I posted most of the key news tidbits, but to review …

– UNT still has no idea who its quarterback will be. Andrew McMulty and Josh Greer will split snaps with the first and second teams. Dajon Williams and Connor Means will split snaps with the second and third teams. And yes, UNT not having a quarterback at this point should scare the heck out of UNT fans.

– Reggie Pegram should be back to full speed and looks like he will compete with Antoinne Jimmerson for starting job.

– McCarney also really likes Rex Rollins.

– A guys have stepped into leadership roles, including some unexpected characters in Kenny Buyers and Carlos Harris.

It was also worth noting that UNT really downplayed being a favorite in the league.

Cyril Lemon talked about maintaining that underdog attitude.

That pretty much covers the UNT end of it, but the big league-wide news is that C-USA is going to full cost of attendance scholarships. That means more money for players. The league had to go that way to stay competitive. I talked to a lot of people about it and the autonomy issue for the five top leagues for my main story in tomorrow’s paper.

Conference USA media day running blog

Update 11:00 — The morning session, which had UNT’s coaches and players wrapped up a few minutes ago. Here are a few highlights:

– Dan McCarney called UNT’s incoming freshman class maybe the most athletic that he has brought in during his time at UNT.

– The quarterback race is wide open. When practice begins, Andrew McNulty and Josh Greer will rotate with the first and second teams. Dajon Williams and Connor Means will rotate with the third and fourth teams. UNT isn’t close to deciding who to go with at this point.

– McCarney, Lemon and Akunne all said that UNT is starting to develop an identity as a team. A few guys who were never leadership types in the past like Carlos Harris are moving into those roles after the departure of Zach Orr and guys like him.

– Reggie Pegram looks like he has fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of the last five games of last season. McCarney indicated that UNT will rotate backs again this year and that Antoinne Jimmerson still has some work to do.

– Lemon that UNT will always start with the base goal of winning six games, but he would like to win a conference title.

– Linebacker Sed Ellis and tight end Chris Loving are still suspended, but are working out on campus. They are not with the team. McCarney said he would decide before the beginning of two-a-days is both will be reinstated.

Update 8:50 — Executive playoff director Bill Hancock says that the playoff will not detract from Saturdays in college football.

Update 8:45 — C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said that the model for college athletics is under review and that change is on the horizon. The move to full cost of attendance scholarships is a change the league supports.

Today is the big day, or at least one of the big days leading up to UNT’s season opener at Texas. It’s Conference USA media day.

I will update the blog throughout the day with notes and tidbits.

Leading off — The one news item that I haven’t mentioned on the blog yet is that David Ash has been named the starter at Texas. That kills one of the interesting storylines of UNT’s season-opener — UNT taking on Texas with Guyer grad Jerrod Heard starting at quarterback for the Longhorns.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Heard at least sees the field in the opener, though.

I just ran into Dan McCarney, Cyril Lemon and Derek Akunne in the lobby. The trio will represent the Mean Green today during interviews later in the day. Lemon was named to the preseason all-conference team along with fellow guard Mason Y’Barbo.

3 UNT media-day storylines to follow: Can UNT build on a breakout season?

North Texas coach Dan McCarney will join offensive lineman Cyril Lemon and linebacker Derek Akunne at Conference USA media day on Wednesday in Dallas. (DRC/David Minton)

When: Wednesday, July 23

Where: DFW Marriott North

Who: Dan McCarney, LB Derek Akunne, OL Cyril Lemon

North Texas will enter its second season in Conference USA with the goal of proving that last year’s 9-4 season capped by a win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl was no fluke.

The Mean Green was flat loaded last season, when several of the better players in recent program history were seniors, including wide receiver Brelan Chancellor, linebacker Zach Orr, safety Marcus Trice, quarterback Derek Thompson and running back Brandin Byrd. Those key players led UNT to its first winning season since 2004 and just the third bowl win in program history. UNT will look to a few key veterans and a host of young players to help the Mean Green continue its rise under McCarney.

Two of those key veterans will represent UNT at media day. Cyril Lemon will start at guard for the fourth straight year and is on the watch lists for the Lombardi and Outland trophies. Akunne is headed into his third year as a starter.

Here are three storylines to keep an eye on when it comes to UNT.

1. Where does the quarterback race stand? UNT ended spring practice without making a whole lot of progress when it comes to picking a replacement for Thompson, the MVP of the Heart of Dallas Bowl and a three-year starter who threw for 7,447 yards in his career. UNT entered spring practice with four players in the hunt for the starting job before junior Andrew McNulty and JUCO transfer Josh Greer emerged as the top two candidates. Redshirt freshman Dajon Williams might have more talent than any of UNT’s quarterbacks, but was inconsistent and then suffered an ankle injury that prevented him from playing in the spring game. Despite that injury, McCarney and offensive coordinator Mike Canales said Williams will be involved in a three-way competition with McNulty and Greer this fall.

2. What is the status of players charged with theft in the off-season? Linebacker Sed Ellis and tight end Chris Loving were both charged with theft following an incident involving a pair of televisions at a Denton Walmart this summer. Both were suspended indefinitely. UNT lost six of its seven starters in its defensive front seven to graduation. Ellis was one of UNT’s few backups with experience and was listed as a co-starter after spring practice at one outside linebacker spot with Jamal Marshall. UNT has solid depth at tight end, but could use an extra weapon in Loving, a highly regarded JUCO prospect who has fought injuries since arriving at UNT. The Mean Green could use both this season. McCarney could provide an update on the status of both players.

3. Who will UNT’s playmakers be on offense? UNT lost a 1,000-yard rusher in Byrd and its top two wide receivers in Chancellor and Darnell Smith, who combined for 123 catches, 1,583 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Antoinne Jimmerson returns and is expected to start at running back, where UNT will also have Reggie Pegram. The Purdue transfer missed the last five games of the 2013 season with a knee injury and will be back this fall. Carlos Harris returns at wide receiver, but there is little doubt UNT needs some young players, including freshman Tee Goree of Carthage, to contribute.