Friday practice report — Mike Gallup, a UNT institution retiring, Buyers coaching

North Texas wrapped up the first week of spring practice this morning at the Darrell R. Dickey Football Practice Facility, where there were a couple of interesting tidbits to come down on the program’s staff.

UNT announced yesterday that Mike Gallup is retiring. He has served as UNT’s equipment manager since 1994 and is something of an institution when it comes to Mean Green athletics.

Gallup is a great guy who will be missed.

North Texas defensive linemen work out at the Darrell R. Dickey Football Practice Facility.

North Texas defensive linemen work out at the Darrell R. Dickey Football Practice Facility.

While Gallup is on his way out, one familiar face is sticking around. Kenny Buyers, who played cornerback and wide receiver at a high level for UNT, is working as a volunteer assistant at the moment. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stick around as a graduate assistant coach. Buyers has all the tools to be a college coach, if that is the direction he decides to go.

And in other news, notes and observations …

– There were a handful of prospects on hand today, including Devonte Lee, a running back from Oklahoma. The Tweet at the top of this post is of him standing around at practice with head coach Seth Littrell. UNT has offered, as has Central Michigan. Here’s his Scout.com profile.

– UNT is giving prospects who show up for practice credentials like you would see for a media guy or staff member at a game. It’s a nice touch.

– High school coaches are starting to show up on a regular basis. Lake Dallas coach Michael Young was on hand today, along with a couple of his assistants. Young is a key local coach who develops high quality college players on a regular basis. Coaches from Fort Worth Christian and Denton Braswell were also on hand. A group of players from Fort Worth Poly were at practice along with some of their coaches.

North Texas graduate assistant coach Brandin Byrd talks with defensive backs, including Chance Marshall (29) during practice.

North Texas graduate assistant coach Brandin Byrd talks with defensive backs, including Chance Marshall (29) during practice.

– Littrell mentioned before spring drills that tight end Kelvin Smith would play a variety of spots. UNT split him out in the slot at times today.

– Kishawn McClain showed some veteran leadership while tutoring Kakpa Mansaray in team drills.

– Wide receiver O’Keeron Rutherford is coming on in the first week of practice. He caught a deep ball in team drills.

– Another player who appears to be turning heads is tight end Caleb Chumley, who is healthy again. He caught a touchdown pass from Mason Fine in goal line drills.

– Fine threw the ball well today and also pulled the ball down multiple times for long runs. He hit Turner Smiley on a deep ball and connected with Rutherford a couple of times for long gains.

– UNT’s defensive line had a good day. Bryce English posted a sack, while Tillman Johnson burst into the backfield for a tackle.

– Key JUCO transfer wide receiver Jalen Guyton is starting to show up. He made nice catch on a ball from Cade Pearson.

– Devlin Isadore is still limited as he recovers from knee surgery, but he continues to show that he can really sling it. He hit Deion Hair-Griffin and Tyler Wilson for touchdowns.

– Nate Brooks made a diving interception in team drills.

– Nick Smith broke off a long touchdown run.

– Smiley, Guyton, Hair-Griffin and Wilson all fielded punts.

Late night hoops rewind: Western Kentucky 74, UNT 63

Final: Western Kentucky 74, North Texas 63

Where UNT stands: UNT fell to 8-21 overall and 2-15 in Conference USA play after dropping its first game on a two-game road trip to cap its season.

Now what?: UNT will head to Marshall for its final game of the season on Saturday. The Mean Green have already been eliminated from the C-USA tournament.

Reese

Reese

Star of the day: J-Mychal Reese scored 14 points to lead UNT in its loss to Western Kentucky. Reese went 5-for-8 from the field and hit all but one of his five 3-point shots. The senior scored the 1,000th point of his career that started at Texas A&M. Derail Green and Ryan Woolridge both added nine points for the Mean Green, who trailed by 10 at halftime and couldn’t work their way back.

Say what?:

“We beat then on the backboards by 10, got stops and didn’t turn it over. The best way to beat that zone is to beat it in transition. We made enough plays doing that to win the game.

– Rick Stansbury, Western Kentucky head coach on the Hilltoppers win over the Mean Green.

Our take: UNT has now lost 21 games, the highest total for the program in a season since 2002-03.

If the Mean Green can’t win their finale at Marshall on Saturday, UNT will post the most losses in a season since 2000-01. UNT went 4-24 that year in Vic Trilli’s final season.

The same problems that have haunted UNT all season were evident in its loss to the Hilltoppers. The Mean Green shot 50 percent from the free throw line (6-of-12) and 33 percent from 3-point range (9-of-27). UNT was also outrebounded 41-31.

 

 

UNT-WKU women’s hoops running blog

The North Texas women’s basketball team will take on one of Conference USA’s elite teams tonight at the Super Pit in Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers are 14-2 in conference play and can win the league title if they win out. Middle Tennessee is one game back.

UNT will try to spoil WKU’s plans and move up a bit from the middle of the C-USA pack, where they sit at 8-8.

WKU has three players averaging double figures, including Kendall Noble, the likely player of the year in the conference.

This is the first of UNT’s final two home games for three of its key players — Candice Adams, Terra Ellison and Kelsey Criner.

Terriell Bradley is averaging 12.7 points per game to lead UNT.

4:38 — UNT is up 12-7 at the first media timeout of the first half and is playing well early on. Terriell Bradley has seven points for the Mean Green. UNT has hit four of its first seven shots from the field.

End of the first quarter — Well, that was fun while it  lasted. WKU closed the first quarter on a 14-1 run and is now up 21-15. Terriell Bradley has eight points for UNT, The Hilltoppers are killing UNT on the glass 15-5 and have 14 second-chance points

4:19 — UNT is down 33-22 at the second media timeout of the first half. Terriell Bradley has 11 points to lead the Mean Green. WKU is shooting 52 percent from the field and has hit four of its six shots from 3-point range.

1:24 — UNT is down 39-26,. WKU just took a timeout to save a possession.

Halftime — UNT is down 43-29 at halftime here at the Super Pit. The Mean Green led 14-7 in the early going before Western Kentucky woke up and remembered that it’s Western Kentucky. Terriell Bradley has 11 points. UNT was called for a technical foul because Hannah Hopkins wasn’t in the book. Kendall Noble has 10 points for Western Kentucky.

4;43 — UNT is down 49-37 in the third quarter. The Mean Green scored the first four points of the second half and got within 10 points a couple of times. WKU is shooting 50 percent from the field. Terriell Bradley has 13 points for UNT.

End of the third quarter — UNT is down 57-43 at the end of the third quarter. UNT got within 10, but couldn’t get any closer than that. Terriell Bradley has 15 points for the Mean Green.

4:39 — WKU is pulling away from UNT and is now up 67-48 in the fourth quarter at the Super Pit. The Hilltoppers are still shooting almost 50 percent from the floor. UNT is shooting 35 percent.

Chalk talk: UNT at Western Kentucky

North Texas freshman guard A.J. Lawson drives to the basket during the Mean Green's loss to Southern Miss last week. UNT will face Western Kentucky in Bowling Green tonight. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

North Texas freshman guard A.J. Lawson drives to the basket during the Mean Green’s loss to Southern Miss last week. UNT will face Western Kentucky in Bowling Green tonight. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

North Texas at Western Kentucky 

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: E.A. Diddle Arena

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1

TV: Fox College Sports

Records: UNT 8-20, 2-14 Conference USA; Western Kentucky 13-16, 7-9

Last game: Southern Miss 76, UNT 53; Old Dominion 67, Western Kentucky 53

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: J-Mychal Reese, 6-2, Sr. — Reese endured one of his worst games of the season in UNT’s loss to Southern Miss, scoring two points on 1-of-6 shooting. The senior is averaging 10.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.

G: Ryan Woolridge, 6-3, Fr. — Woolridge suffered through an off shooting night in UNT’s loss to Southern Miss. He went just 2-for-8 from the field and finished with four points. Woolridge has been one of UNT’s best players late in the season and is averaging 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

G: A.J. Lawson, 6-5, Fr. — Lawson has scored in double figures in six of UNT’s last seven games. He tallied 17 points in UNT’s loss to Southern Miss and is averaging 11.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

F: Shane Temara, 6-9, Jr. — Temara has scored just nine points in UNT’s last two games combined, ending a streak that had seen him score at least 15 points in consecutive games. Temara is averaging 6.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

F: Derail Green, 6-7, Sr. — Green is finishing his college career on a high note when it comes to his individual production. He has scored in double figures in four straight games and is coming off a 17-point outing in UNT’s loss to Southern Miss. He is averaging 8.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.

Scouting Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers have lost consecutive games and at 7-9 are stuck in a logjam in the middle of the C-USA standings. How Western Kentucky fares in its last two games will have a significant impact on the Hilltoppers seeing in the conference tournament. Junior forward Justin Johnson leads three Western Kentucky players who are averaging double figures in scoring at 14.2 points per game.

What you need to know: UNT has already been eliminated from contention for a spot in the C-USA tournament, but is looking to finish the season on a high note in its last two games.

Green and Reese are both seniors, as are injured guards Deckie Johnson and Keith Frazier.

UNT just doesn’t have a lot of firepower without Johnson, Frazier and forward Jeremy Combs, who is also out due to injury.

The Mean Green have won just one game on the road this season and are headed for their worst season since finishing 7-21 in the 2002-03 campaign.

UNT specialists outlook for 2017 — Moore’s return provides boost

North Texas kicker Trevor Moore kicks a field goal as Eric Keena holds during spring practice last year. Moore will return in 2017, but UNT will have to replace Keena. (DRC file photo)

North Texas kicker Trevor Moore kicks a field goal as Eric Keena holds during spring practice last year. Moore will return in 2017, but UNT will have to replace Keena. (DRC file photo)

Key returnees: K Trevor Moore, DS Jake Davis, KR Tyler Wilson, PR Turner Smiley

Key losses: P Eric Keena

Newcomers: DS Nate Durham, P Austin McGehee

Biggest unanswered question: UNT lost one of its best special teams players in Keena after last season and also switched coordinators. Keena averaged 43.7 yards per punt in 2016 in addition to kicking off and holding for Moore on field goals and extra points. Former Notre Dame analyst Marty Biagi will coach UNT’s special teams this fall after taking over for Tommy Perry. UNT head coach Seth Littrell and Perry mutually agreed to go their separate ways after last season due to philosophical differences. The question now is how UNT will fare without one of its key specialists while working under a new coordinator.

Why 2017 could be better: Biagi has a long history coaching elite special teams units, and he has some talented players to work with. Moore is a proven player who hit nine of his 13 field goal attempts last season, while Wilson showed potential in the return game. He averaged 21.9 yards per kickoff return in 2016. McGehee started his career at Purdue before spending last season at Fullerton College. Biagi will have some solid pieces to work with.

Why 2017 could be worse: Replacing Keena won’t be easy because of the numerous roles he played. The senior was a weapon. He helped UNT out of several bad spots and put the Mean Green in a good position numerous times when it came to field position. Making the transition to a new coach with a new philosophy could also be challenging.

UNT spring practice report with Joshua Wheeler video

North Texas went through its second workout of spring practice this morning at the Darrell R. Dickey Football Practice Facility.

I will delve into this more in the paper in the next couple of days, but I did get some clarification on UNT’s plans for its defense now that Troy Reffett is fully in charge after sharing the coordinator duties with Mike Ekeler last season.

Reffett said today that nothing dramatic has changed.

“The thing that we have to really focus on is our execution,” Reffett said. “We are not really changing the scheme. This is the same defense I have been running for 12 years. It’s not the schematics we need to work on. It’s the execution of the scheme, how we are supposed to be hitting our movements and pressures and focusing on being more physical.”

The video at the top of this post is of linebacker Joshua Wheeler talking about where UNT stands after the first two days of drills.

UNT has a special guest today in former Cowboys wide receiver and 105.3 The Fan personality Jesse Holley, one of the guys I hear quite a bit listening to the station.

Holley is good friends with Tashard Choice, another former Cowboy who helps out at UNT.

And in other news and observations …

– Cornerback Jameel Moore is getting a long look with UNT’s firs-team defense with Eric Jenkins down due to injury.

– UNT’s secondary had a good day. Adrian Lisangi, Taylor Robinson and Kakpa Mansaray all intercepted passes.

– UNT is working on a variety of blitz packages and appears as if it might be more aggressive this year.

– Rico Bussey Jr. continues to play well in drills at wide receiver. He will help UNT this season. He made a couple of nice catches in drills.

– UNT’s offensive line continues to struggle at times and is something of a work in progress.

– Deion Hair-Giffin is as fast as advertised. He can really scoot and get down the field.

– Devlin Isadore continues to impress with his overall athleticism and a live arm.

– Mason Fine is still UNT’s best quarterback and threw a touchdown pass to Tyler Wilson over the middle early on in practice before connecting with Bussey to end it.

– Dennis Smith made a heck of a leaping, twisting catch in goal line drills.

– Kam Duhon continues to make plays in practice and caught a ball over the middle today.

– Redshirt freshman Jason Pirtle gives UNT something a little different as a bigger, stronger wide receiver.

– Will Boyd made a nice adjustment and grabbed a touchdown pass in the end zone.

– Tight end Caleb Chumley is healthy again and moving around pretty well.

– Anthony Wyche took a screen pass for a touchdown.

– Cade Pearson hit Michael Lawrence for a long touchdown.

– Transfer running back Christian Hosely continues to play well.

UNT secondary outlook for 2017: Defensive backs will be a strength

North Texas safety Kishawn McClain tackles Louisiana Tech quarterback Ryan Higgins last season. McClain will anchor what should be a strong secondary in 2017. (Denton Record-Chronicle/ Jeff Woo)

North Texas safety Kishawn McClain tackles Louisiana Tech quarterback Ryan Higgins last season. McClain will anchor what should be a strong secondary in 2017. (Denton Record-Chronicle/ Jeff Woo)

Key returnees: S Kishawn McClain (senior), CB Eric Jenkins (senior), CB Nate Brooks (junior), CB Jameel Moore (sophomore), S Dee Baulkman (senior), S Ashton Preston (junior), S Khairi Muhammad (sophomore)

Key losses: CB Chad Davis (graduation), S James Gray (graduation)

Newcomers: CB Cameron Johnson (freshman), S Makyle Sanders (freshman)

Biggest unanswered question: UNT returns several players in its secondary, but has a hole at safety. The Mean Green lost Gray, who finished third on the team as a senior with 64 tackles. Sophomore Khairi Muhammad will likely step in, but is largely unproven. Muhammad finished with 15 tackles last season.

Why 2017 production could be better: McClain might be UNT’s best overall player and leads a host of talented and experienced players who will anchor the Mean Green’s secondary. He led UNT with 91 tackles, while Jenkins led UNT with 13 passes defended. Nate Brooks is developing into an elite cornerback on the C-USA level. Those three players should improve with experience and will anchor what should be an improved unit.

Why 2017 production could be worse: While UNT has most of its key players back, the loss of Gray and Davis could come back to bite the Mean Green. There is no replacement for experience and both had a ton.

Overall outlook: UNT’s secondary was arguably its best overall position group in 2016. The return of McClain, Brooks and Jenkins should make the group even stronger this fall.

UNT extends series with SMU

North Texas and SMU announced Monday that they have extended their football series another four years through the 2021 season. (DRC file photo)

North Texas and SMU announced Monday that they have extended their football series another four years through the 2021 season. (DRC file photo)

North Texas and SMU announced Monday that they have extended their football series through the 2021 season.

The new contract adds four games to what has become a key rivalry for both schools.

UNT will host SMU on Sept. 1 of 2018 and Sept. 5 of 2020. The Mean Green will travel to SMU on Sept. 7 of 2019 and Sept. 11 of 2021.

UNT and SMU have played 36 times, making it one of the longest-running series in Mean Green football history. The Mustangs have a 30-5-1 edge all-time against UNT.

The Mustangs beat the Mean Green at Apogee Stadium 34-21 last season in Seth Littrell’s debut as UNT’s coach. That victory gave SMU consecutive wins in its series with the Mean Green that has become more evenly matched in recent years.

SMU has won four of the last seven meetings.

The schools played in both 2006 and 2007 and agreed to play on a regular basis shortly after splitting those games. Former UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal and former SMU athletic director Steve Orsini agreed to a four-game series late in 2007.

That contract included games in each season from 2014-17. The deal included a provision that reserved dates for the teams to play annually through 2025. The schools agreed at the time to negotiate to play on those dates.

The deal UNT and SMU announced on Monday solidifies games in the first four of those seasons, beginning in 2018.

New UNT athletic director Wren Baker said he was in favor of extending the school’s series with SMU shortly after taking over the program.

“I like the SMU game,” Baker said. “We are always going to recruit inside the Metroplex first. That is a game with two DFW teams. Our fans like that game. In talking to [current SMU athletic director] Rick Hart, SMU likes that game. Both teams have interest in extending it. The crowds are good.”

A crowd of 24,718 fans packed the stands at Apogee Stadium when SMU visited UNT last season. The crowd was the largest of the year for a UNT home game.

UNT’s game at SMU in 2015 drew 25,401.

The UNT-SMU rivalry was dubbed the “Safeway Bowl” in the early 1990s after former UNT coach Matt Simon essentially called out Mustangs out for not agreeing to play the Mean Green regularly.

“I’d like to play because I think we could beat them, and my players feel the same way,” Simon said. “If they’d like to play on a Safeway parking lot … just give us a date and time.”

Monday morning practice report

New North Texas offensive line coach Chuck Langston talks with Jalen Thomas during the first workout of spring practice on Monday.

New North Texas offensive line coach Chuck Langston talks with Jalen Thomas during the first workout of spring practice on Monday at the Darrell R. Dickey Football Practice Facility.

North Texas opened spring practice this morning at the Darrell R. Dickey Football Practice Facility and ushered in an era of change in the process.

UNT enjoyed a tremendous first season under Seth Littrell, who led the Mean Green to a 5-8 finish and an appearance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

UNT will have four new assistant coaches next season largely because of the success the Mean Green enjoyed. It was pretty apparent on the first day of practice that UNT will have a slightly adjusted defense as well.

The expectation heading into the spring was that the Mean Green would move to a 3-3-5 stack that differs slightly from what UNT ran last season. Troy Reffett has run that system throughout his career. He is now UNT’s sole defensive coordinator after the departure of Mike Ekeler for North Carolina.

Ekeler and Reffett worked together to coordinate UNT’s defense last season.

New North Texas defensive line coach Marc Yellock and his players watch drills from the sideline on Monday morning

New North Texas defensive line coach Marc Yellock and his players watch drills from the sideline on Monday morning

UNT ran a defense with a three-man front last season as well, but used a slightly different system.

Reffett was clearly in charge on the defensive side throughout practice, when UNT four other new assistants made their debuts. Defensive line coach Marc Yellock, offensive line coach Chuck Langston, linebackers coach Jeff Koonz and special teams coordinator Marty BIagi were also working with their players for the first time.

And in other notes and observations:

– Wylie Reinhardt enjoyed a good day in drills at guard and appears poised to make a run at a starting job in his senior season.

– UNT’s starting offensive line consisted of: Elex Woodworth, Reinhardt, Creighton Barr, T.J. Henson and Jordan Murray.

– One player who certainly looks the part is quarterback Devlin Isadore. The Navarro College transfer is every bit of his listed size of 6-4, 228, and threw the ball well in drills. He is coming off a knee injury and couldn’t participate in team drills. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make a run at the backup job.

– I mentioned earlier this week that UNT could use Roderick Young at defensive end this year. I am starting to think that is a look the Mean Green will use quite a bit.

Devlin Isadore reaches up to catch a ball during drills during the first day of spring practice for North Texas.

Devlin Isadore reaches up to catch a ball during drills during the first day of spring practice for North Texas.

– UNT needs to find a new safety to partner with Kishawn McClain. The prime suspect appears to be Khairi Muhammad, who made a nice play on the ball to break up  a pass during team drills.

– I don’t think we are going to see much of running back Jeffery Wilson this spring. Littrell mentioned heading into workouts that Wilson would be limited. He was working on rehab all morning.

– Littrell mentioned that transfer Christian Hosley could make an impact for UNT. The former Howard Payne running back played well in the opening practice of spring drills, breaking a couple of long runs.

– Quarterback Mason Fine played well in team drills and hit Kam Duhon for a long touchdown pass. He also threw a bullet while scrambling toward the sideline for a long completion.

– Wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. made a nice grab on a deep ball and later caught another deep ball for a touchdown.

– JUCO transfer wide receiver Jalen Guyton looks good. He is going to help UNT this year.

– Running back Nick Smith has changed numbers. He is now wearing No. 21.

– Wide receivers Turner Smiley and Quinetin Jackson both made impressive catches.

The Sunday leftovers

Ryan defensive tackle Dayton LeBlanc -- flanked by Denton Ryan senior linebacker Tyreke Davis, right, and defensive end Thomas Wilson III – returns a fumble by Highland Park junior quarterback John Stephen Jones for a touchdown during the Class 5A Division I state semifinal at AT&T Stadium in December. LeBlanc committed to North Texas over the weekend. (Denton Record-Chronicle file photo)

Ryan defensive tackle Dayton LeBlanc — flanked by Denton Ryan senior linebacker Tyreke Davis, right, and defensive end Thomas Wilson III – returns a fumble by Highland Park junior quarterback John Stephen Jones for a touchdown during the Class 5A Division I state semifinal at AT&T Stadium in December. LeBlanc committed to North Texas over the weekend. (Denton Record-Chronicle file photo)

It’s Sunday night and time for the leftovers, 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 big news of the weekend is that spring practice starters tomorrow morning.

I went over some news and notes on the blog earlier today that also included a quick video interview with Mason Fine.

UNT’s coaches and players feel good about where they are at heading into the spring. After last year, it’s hard to doubt what they have to say.

Be sure to check out tomorrow’s paper for more.

UNT also picked up its first commitment for its 2018 recruiting class in Dayton LeBlanc, a defensive tackle from Denton Ryan. He is the son of now former UNT defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc. Our Ryan writer Steve Gamel will have a story in tomorrow’s paper. Be sure to take a look.

The news of the weekend was decidedly less positive on the basketball front, where we can now officially stick a fork in the UNT men’s basketball team. The Mean Green still have two games to play this week, but they’re done after being eliminated from contention for a spot in the Conference USA tournament with a 76-53 loss to Southern Miss.

The Golden Eagles whacked the the Mean Green when they faced a must-win situation. UNT coach Tony Benford had some interesting comments on his status going forward as his contract comes to an end. Be sure to check it out, if you haven’t yet.

The UNT women (11-16, 8-8 C-USA) are in the tournament, but lost their second straight, falling at Southern Miss 70-48. UNT is in eighth place in the C-USA standings.

UNT could really do itself some good by finishing strong in its final two regular season games against the best team (Western Kentucky) and the worst team (Marshall) in C-USA.