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Football Football Recruiting

Class of 2020 National Signing Day

This year’s class was nowhere near as hyped as the ones from previous years when it was something of a novelty to get a good class on signing day. NT last year tried to sign everyone but this year they still have “three or four” scholarships to fill.

The fans at GoMeanGreen.com, the forum of choice for NT crazies, will tell you that they saw last year coming because of some faulty classes in the previous years. To that I say “sure”. While we can speculate and criticize the results we know very little of the process of recruiting at North Texas.

The things we do know are that NT has missed out on some guys, that they have tried to fill “holes” in the classes with some risky JUCO guys that have not panned out. That is a fairly common occurrence as JUCO guys are risks almost by definition.

The staff at NT has recruited guys that have won all-conference awards, that are playing in the NFL, and have won some freshman awards (the defensive guys last year).

Whatever you think of the talent in CUSA, NT has recruited enough guys to compete with the top of this league. There was only two games where we could think “wow, we just do not match up with that” and those were the FAU games in 2017.

The most glaring whiff in the JUCO recruitment ranks was the CB play last year, after two-straight nice signings. So it goes.

Below are the new crop of Mean Green guys, with the data straight from MGS. North Texas has 19 commits and the average rating puts them at 2 (just being FAU with their 10 commits) on 247’s ratings. As always, the ratings do not matter when it comes to individuals, but they do when it comes to aggregate. Every player represents some chance they will reach their potential. The higher the rating, the higher the chance they will be impactful.

You cannot win by hitting consistently low rated guys and hoping to find that many diamonds in the rough. Everyone on the list was three-stars and that is nice. One of last year’s 3-star impact guys was Deonte Simpson. Two years ago, you might have seen Jyaire Shorter on the list. Maybe KD Davis. In 2017 you saw Tre Siggers and Jaelon Darden with three stars next to their names.

The point is that this is a class full of solid players and you can expect them to contribute soon. There are a lot of lineman and LBs here, which is good. One interesting thing is there is no QB on this list. NT has something of a logjam at the spot formerly occupied by Mason Fine and no true clear option.

There is always the transfer route.

  • Kade Bond OL 6-3 298 Magnolia, TX Magnolia HS 7:21 a.m.
  • Jordan Brown LB 6-0 200 Huntsville, TX Huntsville HS 7:22 a.m.
  • Garnett Burke S 5-11 170 Garland, TX Lakeview Centennial HS 7:17 a.m.
  • Jett Duncan OL 6-2 291 The Woodlands, TX The Woodlands HS 9:21 a.m.
  • Anterrious Gray OL 6-2 329 Macon, MS Northwest Mississippi CC 10:00 a.m.
  • Dane Jackson OL 6-0 277 Berea, KY Madison Southern HS 7:00 a.m.
  • Isaiah Johnson RB 6-0 200 Lubbock, TX Cooper HS 7:11 a.m.
  • Jacobi Johnson LB 6-3 230 Oklahoma City, OK Midwest City HS 7:53 a.m.
  • Ta’Shoyn Johnson DL 6-1 288 Killeen, TX Killeen HS 9:05 a.m.
  • Christian Lee TE 6-3 210 Friendswood, TX Friendswood HS 7:05 a.m.
  • Davontae McCrae DL 6-4 250 Miami, FL East Mississippi CC 7:29 a.m.
  • Jordan Nichols S 6-1 199 Waco, TX Connally HS 7:59 a.m.
  • Kortlin Rausaw DL 6-3 259 Wylie, TX Wylie HS 7:16 a.m.
  • Jake Roberts TE 6-4 235 Norman, OK Norman North HS 8:29 a.m.
  • Upton Stout DB 5-9 165 Houston, TX North Shore HS 9:34 a.m.
  • Loronzo Thompson WR 6-0 160 Friendswood, TX Clear Brook HS 7:30 a.m.
  • Ron Tiavaasue TE 6-3 244 Akid, New Zealand Snow College
  • Tavorice Weaver DB 5-11 190 Dallas, TX Madison HS 8:19 a.m.
  • Erik Williams OL 6-4 247 Lubbock, TX Coronado HS 9:14 a.m.
Categories
Football Football Recruiting

Class of 2019 National Signing Day

In the recruiting sites era, classes are judged by the rating of signees and how effectively those players fill their team’s needs, in both the short and long-term. However, as we have seen the college game transition from I-Formation, when run-heavy offenses were the norm instead of an anomaly. Most recruiting sites began before the spread revolution that captured the majority of FBS teams, and the position classifications on most recruiting sites have had trouble keeping up.

While the move has not been as quick or widespread as the transition of most college programs to spread offenses, defensively we have seen many teams move from a traditional 4-3 base to 3-4, 3-3-5, and 4-2-5 defenses in order to get more speed on the field in hopes of slowing down spread offenses. The positions in these various offensive and defensive schemes differ, yet we still see most recruits classified based on where they would fit in a 4-3 scheme. This is likely due to the impracticality of each site giving each recruit different ratings for each position they could play in each scheme they may choose to play in. But now that the December Signing Day is behind us and we know which players are coming to Denton, and we know which schemes we are going to run under this coaching staff, we can start projecting where each recruit is going to fit in our scheme here at UNT.
Adam posted a piece that breaks down each position in our base formations on each side of the ball, and what type of frame and player our coaches our looking for when recruiting for each position.

Let’s look at the actual players from the best UNT signing class in the recruiting site era and where they will fit in the various positions in our schemes.

Offense

Quarterback – Will Kuehne

This is the position that needs the least amount explaining. Kuehne is a 6’1” 190 lb legacy recruit, as his grandfather was a former track athlete at UNT and is in the North Texas Athletics Hall of Fame. Kuehne spent time early on in his high school career at Liberty Christian, then really found his footing as a Division 1 quarterback prospect at Owasso High School in Owasso, Oklahoma, where he led the Rams to the 6A-I State Championship as a junior. Kuehne was a 3-star recruit1 and had offers from Maryland, New Mexico, Arkansas State, and few Ivy League schools. Kuehne is a well-rounded QB who can make plays with his legs and beat teams with his accuracy, particularly over the middle of the field. Developing his throwing ability outside the numbers will be the next step in his progression and will be key for him in trying to establish himself as a legitimate contender to replace Mason Fine after next season.

Running Back – Oscar Adaway III

Another position that needs little explaining, and another recruit who was a key member in winning a state championship his junior year. Adaway III was a Swiss Army knife while playing for North Little Rock in Little Rock, Arkansas. Adaway III was announced as a running back signee, but he also spent considerable amounts of time on defense, in the return game, and splitting out as a receiver. Adaway III was a 3-star recruit who chose North Texas over Colorado State, Southern Miss, Texas State, and various FCS Schools.

At 6’ 208 lbs, Adaway III immediately steps onto campus as UNT’s biggest scholarship running back. In addition to having size, Adaway III also steps onto campus with very advanced route-running skills for a running back. Adaway III is the only running back signee of this class and, as we did not sign a high school running back last class, he will be the only underclassmen running back on next year’s roster

Tight End/Y/H-Back – Asher Alberding

Alberding, a 6’4” 230 lb from Houston Clear Lake High School, was one of UNT’s most highly-rated recruits and held five other FBS offers. Alberding is the first tight end recruit that Seth Littrell has signed in his time at North Texas. This makes sense when you consider that the base offense often does not have a tight end. Also, with Kelvin Smith and Caleb Chumley both being redshirt freshmen when Littrell arrived, he has been able to rely on them as the tight ends on this team and allocate his scholarships elsewhere. But with both of those players entering their senior seasons, Alberding has been signed to fill that role.

Alberding spent most of his senior season on the defensive side of the ball, but he also has plenty of experience at the more traditional in-line tight end role in high school. He will likely be featured in the same ways that Kelvin Smith has been featured in this offense but may spend next season redshirting and learning behind the experienced seniors. Alberding also may help fill the H-Back role that Cannon Maki has manned the past three seasons.

Wide Receiver – Deonte Simpson, Damon Ward, Kealon Jackson, & Khatib Lyles

This is where the positions start to become a little more specific to our scheme. While they are all receivers, each of these four signees have different skill sets that will be showcased at various receiver positions in our scheme.

X and Z (Outside) Receivers

One of the two surprise signees this year was Khatib Lyles. Lyles was not previously a public commit heading into Signing Day, but he immediately became a headliner for the top class in CUSA. Lyles, from Parkland High School in El Paso, Texas is 6’2” 190 lbs, had 11 other FBS offers including Texas Tech, Utah, Kansas, and Indiana. Lyles’ size and speed combo are what made him a P5-level prospect, which is why he is a prime candidate to play outside and possibly succeed Jalen Guyton or Rico Bussey at either the X or Z following next season.

High school teammates Deonte Simpson and Damon Ward of Beaumont West Brook (Playing for the Texas 6A Division II Title at AT&T Stadium this Saturday) are both listed at 6’ 192 lbs. Simpson, with seven other FBS offers, was one of the more highly recruited players in the class, and for good reason. Simpson played primarily in the slot in high school but has the speed and size to potentially play outside. Ward suffered a season-ending injury earlier in the year, but he is another receiver with a diverse skillset. Ward held four other FBS offers, and primarily played on the outside for his high school. Ward is a polished route runner, and he also has good ball skills. For both Simpson and Ward, it will be interesting to see where the staff places them, as they could project outside at X or Z but based on the signings of recent recruiting classes, they may be needed more at Y or A/H receiver as the roster had three freshmen receivers backing up Guyton and Bussey this past season.

Y and A/H (Inside) Receivers

Kealon Jackson was another one of the crown jewels of the class, with 10 other FBS offers including Kansas and West Virginia. Jackson also will be playing at AT&T Stadium on Saturday morning with a fellow Mean Green signee in DB Jevin Murray at Pearland Shadow Creek. At 5’9” 163 lbs, Jackson is nearly the exact same size as Jaelon Darden and appears to be the perfect heir apparent to Darden at the “A” receiver in this offense. Jackson may very well be the fastest member of this signing class. Due to Jackson’s exceptional speed, he could push for early playing time at receiver and even at returner as he returned two punts for touchdowns this season.

As previously mentioned, it likely that at least one of Deonte Simpson or Damon Ward end up inside as well. As Simpson has more experience inside in high school, he seems like the more likely candidate there.

Offensive Line – Daxton Buyers, John Brunner, Chris Cassady, & D’Andre Plantin

While this may not be the most heralded group of the recruiting class, it is likely the most paramount to the long-term success of this class and the program.

Offensive Tackle

Grad transfer signee D’Andre Plantin comes to UNT after spending his first four seasons of college football at Virginia Tech. Plantin comes to UNT for his final season in which he is slated to be the team’s starting left tackle. In 2017 as a Redshirt Sophomore, Plantin got some starting experience for Virginia Tech at left tackle following an injury to the starter and was listed as a co-starter at left guard after this past spring, but ultimately did not win the starting job and elected to find a new program upon graduating this December. At 6’5” and 295 lbs, Plantin will attempt to improve the much maligned UNT pass protection. If you’re looking for an immediate impact guy, it absolutely should be Plantin.

As for the three high school offensive line signees, Daxton Buyers, a 6’5” 295 lb lineman from Deer Creek HS in Edmond, Oklahoma, appears to be the most likely to play tackle in college. Buyers, a player who apparently outgrew the receiver position, has the best footwork of the group, in my opinion. Buyers also had the best offer list with four other FBS offers. Offensive tackle is one of the hardest positions in football to recruit, especially for a G5 program. In the Littrell era he has primarily depended on transfers Trey Keenen and Riley Mayfield, and inherited offensive tackle Jordan Murray. With those players gone, Littrell is hoping that Plantin can fill that void in the short term and one of these freshmen can help fill the void in the long term.

Guard and Center

John Brunner is a 6’5” 300 lb offensive lineman from Brock High School in Brock, Texas. Brunner, who held one other FBS offer and a few FCS offers, comes from a three-back, under center offense in which he almost always went forward. Because of this, it’s hard to project how Brunner would perform as an offensive tackle in a pass-heavy offense, even if he does have tackle size. Brunner’s specialty is mashing people in the run game, and he will have plenty of time to work on pass protection once he gets to campus. I project Brunner to likely end up on the offensive line, likely at right guard.

Chris Cassidy, a 6’4” 275 lb from Angleton High School in Angleton, Texas also comes from a run-heavy offense. Cassidy, who held one other FBS offer and a few FCS offers, is a smaller, nimbler offensive lineman who could project at a few positions on the offensive line, including center. Cassidy is also another player who will greatly benefit from a redshirt year and learning how to pass block, but I see him likely at left guard or center.

Defense

Defensive Line – Kenneth Dotson, Jimmy Walker, & David Sow

UNT introduced three signees as defensive linemen. Kenneth Dotson, a 6’3” 255 lb defensive end from Houston Lamar High School, also held one other FBS offer from UMASS. Dotson comes to campus already having exceptional size for a defensive lineman and particularly excels in the running game. Dotson looks to be a candidate to play the 5-technique defensive end position that Ladarius Hamilton plays, although with his size it will be interesting to see if he outgrows that position and becomes suited to play the 3-technique defensive end as an upperclassman.

Jimmy Walker, also listed at 6’3” 255 lbs from Lutheran North High School in Houston, held offers from three other FBS teams. While Walker is listed at the same size as Dotson, he appears slighter on film and faster, even returning a kickoff for a touchdown in his highlights. Because of his size and speed combo, I can’t help but wonder if he may start his career at the JACK position, similar to how Ladarius Hamilton began his career at JACK and outgrew the position/was needed more at 5-tech. Regardless, Walker has a very intriguing combination of size and speed.

The last defensive lineman to commit to us was Junior College Defensive End David Sow, from Navarro College. Sow also held four other FBS offers, including from Oklahoma State. At 6’4” 240 lbs, Sow is another player who I wonder if the staff is actually projecting at JACK instead of a true defensive line position. When Josh Wheeler was signed in 2016 he was listed as a defensive line signee officially but was our starting JACK from day one, through the first two seasons of the Littrell era. Sow did not begin playing football until his senior year of high school, so his game is still fairly raw for a junior college player, but it is obvious the staff really wanted him as they pursued him late when the class was said to possibly be full.

Linebacker – Gabriel Murphy, Grayson Murphy, Taylor Jacobs, Kevin Wood

In a defense that features just two second-level linebackers in the MLB and WLB positions, it was somewhat surprising to see four high school linebackers signed. As previously mentioned with David Sow and Jimmy Walker, it remains to be seen if either or both of those two see time at the JACK position. The same can be said of this group.

WLB

This linebacker class is headlined by the Murphy twins, both 6’2” 215 lbs from Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas. Both are also two of the headliners of the entire class, with six other FBS offers and being tied with Khatib Lyles for the second highest composite ratings in the class. While they predictably have similar skillsets, Gabriel played more inside in high school and Grayson played more outside linebacker in the Bishop Lynch defense. Both run extremely well for linebackers of their size, and both display the abilities to cover, rush the passer, and stuff the run. With their size, they seem like solid fits at the WLB position that EJ Ejiya manned for us this year, but because there are two of them it will be interesting to see if one plays the MLB position or even JACK in order to get them both on the field should they pan out. With both Garner and Ejiya graduating and no JUCO LBs signed, I expect at least one of the Murphy twins to either obtain a starting spot or at least be involved in the LB rotation.

Taylor Jacobs is listed at the same size as the Murphy twins at 6’2” 215 lb as well and is a linebacker from South Grand Prairie high school in Grand Prairie, Texas. Jacobs held one other FBS offer from Texas Tech. Jacobs specialized in making the big hit in high school, and he also seems to project to the WLB position in this defense.

MLB

Kevin Wood, a 6’ 200 lb linebacker from Converse Judson High School in Converse, Texas, held three other FBS offers. Wood is a comparable size to what both Brandon Garner and KD Davis were when they were coming out of high school, and those two both play the MLB position in our scheme. Like Garner, Wood is a heat-seeking missile in the open field and in high school was often too quick for linemen to even get a hand on. Wood is also another member of this class who comes from a very prominent high school football program in Converse Judson. As alluded to, I expect Wood to play the WLB role at UNT.

Defensive Backs – Deshawn Gaddie, Jevin Murray, Dorian Morris, Leandre Davis, and Quinn Whitlock

For the second straight season UNT signed a very impressive defensive back recruiting class. This group will have a chance to make their mark early with both starting cornerbacks Nate Brooks and Kemon Hall graduating.

Cornerback

As mentioned, both starting cornerback spots need to be replaced. Out of the high school signees, Deshawn Gaddie stands out as one who may be up for that task immediately. Gaddie, a 6’ 190 lb cornerback from Arlington Lamar was another premier signing in this class as he held 10 other FBS offers and was our highest rated recruit based on the 247 Composite Rankings. Gaddie may be the best overall athlete in the class and has a similar build to Nate Brooks. Despite having an angular frame, Gaddie is very eager and involved in defending the run as he is a very capable tackler for a high school corner. Gaddie played all over the Arlington Lamar secondary in high school, playing corner outside and inside and even playing safety as well, which should help him see the field early. I expect his long-term position to be outside corner.

Dorian Morris is a 5’10” 162 lb cornerback from Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas who held six other FBS offers. If Kealon Jackson is not the fastest player in this recruiting class, it probably is track star Dorian Morris. Morris is a smaller corner who could possibly even contend for some time at the Nick in this defense on third downs. Morris has solid play recognition and looks like someone who has played corner for a while.

One of the two surprise signings was Khatib Lyles, and the other was Quinn Whitlock, a 6’ 195 lb defensive back from Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. UNT was Whitlock’s only reported FBS offer, and he will join the team with three seasons of eligibility remaining. While Whitlock was a surprise signing, it should not come as too much of a surprise to see UNT sign a JUCO corner with both starting corners graduating.

Nick

In UNT’s defense there are two types of Nickelbacks. One is more of a safety/linebacker hybrid like Tyreke Davis, and the other is more of a traditional Nickel/third corner like Jameel Moore.

Similar to Tyreke Davis, LeAndre Davis is a player who primarily played running back in High School and will make the transition to defensive back at UNT. At 5’10 190 lbs LeAndre, from Rosenberg Terry High School, is listed at a very similar size to Tyreke Davis and I would expect him to play the same position.

As previously mentioned, we could also see one of the cornerback signees spend some time at this position in more obvious passing downs, especially if Jameel Moore, the man currently playing the role, moves back outside to help replace Brooks and Hall.

Safety

Last, we have the signee who had more offers than anyone else in our recruiting class in Jevin Murray. Murray, at 5’11” 175 lbs, had offers from 12 other schools including Louisville and Oregon State. Murray has spent a lot of time in high school at Pearland Shadow Creek playing corner but is listed on 247 as a safety commit. Clearly Murray is an exceptional talent and could play either corner or safety at UNT, but with ability to tackle and cover a lot of ground he projects well as a free safety in this defense. Murray and Gaddie are two interesting players to watch, as I could see either at corner or safety. And with a really good defensive back class signed last year it will be interesting to see who emerges and who will play what positions in order to have the best players on the field.


  1. According to 247Sports Composite Rankings which aggregate recruits’ ratings from each of the recruiting sites into one rating 
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Football Football Recruiting

North Texas Recruiting: Ideal Profiles

Signing Day is around the corner and per a request from friend-of-the blog, here is what North Texas is looking for. This is a compilation of some of the things written on this site and in the season preview e-book.

We are not in the huddle or the game-planning sessions but after three years of watching this team recruit and play, and knowing a little about the systems we have an idea of the roster requirements. When you see NT going after some players this coming signing day, use this guide to help project their ideal fit into the scheme.

Defense

Since Littrell has been the head coach, he has preferred a 3-3-5 / 4-2-5 hybrid. Officially it is called “multiple” but it is referred to as a 3-stack defense even though North Texas rarely lines up in the traditional 3-3-5 look. Instead, North Texas has 4-2-5 defense with some 3-stack nomenclature.

TCU has a 3-3-5 look they call ‘nickel’ and all 4-down lineman team have a 3-stack look. Most 3-3-5 and 3-4 defenses have a 4-DL package. It is all the same.1

NT defense 2018 | MGN Illustration

Let’s talk broad strokes first. Every defense would like to have behemoths who can fly. As compromises with the laws of physics are made, teams make choices.

In this defense there is a pass-rushing defensive end, and a run-stopping defensive end. The “DE” is really the JACK LB. We will get to that later. The Nose tackle is usually bigger, and the other tackle is lighter and can probably play some of the run-stopping DE spot if he is versatile.

The linebackers are usually split between a run-stuffing guy and a versatile one. The corners are usually field-boundary, unless they are not. Generally speaking, the more versatile you are the better for everyone. The safeties are generally interchangeable, but usually one or two are better at run support while the other is better in coverage. The NICK ( in our terminology, it is the $pur in others ) is a hybrid. Not quite linebacker, not quite safety.

Let us get into specifics.

Nose: The foundation of the defense. The ideal size is “big” and strong. Weight at about 300+ lbs and strong as an ox. Most defenses want this man to command two-blockers.

Every defense needs a good nose tackle, and NT is no different. Ulaiasi Tauaalo is 6’2″ 300 lbs. Bryce English is 5’11” 297 lbs. Rod Young, who has spent time in the position over the last few years, is 6’1″ 298 lbs.

Strong Side DE: This man is usually a little stouter, as he has to be on the strong side of the defense, inside the tackle. He usually faces the strength of the offense and the focus of the run game. Ideal weight is somewhere between 270-290 lbs.

Rod Young, again, plays here for NT. The defense also likes to have Dion Novil in to play the other DE spot to have a “big” old 3-4 defense look with two space-eating DEs to go with a big Nose tackle. This usually for the bigger sets in short-yardage and goal line.

Jack: This is a pass-rushing linebacker. Jack linebackers are usually found in 3-4 defenses but they do the same thing as a 4-3 defensive end. DeMarcus Ware, Charles Haley, Bruce Smith, and so on. In most 4-DL sets this is called the Elephant or WDE or LEO or something. Southern Miss calls it Wolf. The idea is that it is different and supposed to get to the QB and drop in coverage. You need an athlete here. Ideal size is something like 6’3″ – 6’7″ 230-250 lbs, that is super quick and good in space.

North Texas had Josh Wheeler the last two years here. He was 6’3″ 230 lbs. Joe Ozougwu is 6’3″ 235 lbs and Jamie King is 6’3″ 231 lbs. Last year NT also put EJ Ejiya here also. He has the same size. NT’s latest haul of LBs like Tim Faison, Darrian McMillan all are near this height/weight and should grow into it if not.

DE: This is where it can be confusing. When NT has that SS DE play like a “3-technique” tackle (meaning on one of the offensive guards) this other DE becomes the “strong side DE.” On pass rushing downs, this is where NT will have two pass-rushing defensive ends. Ideally can play defensive end. Depending on the need, it can be another pass-rusher or another DE.

NT uses LaDarius Hamilton here — 6’3″ 240 lbs. Sometimes when they need more size they go with Caleb Colvin or Dion Novil. Colvin is 270 lbs, and Novil is 285 lbs.

MLB and WLB: These linebackers need to stop the run, and occasionally run in space. Everyone needs to be able to run, obviously, but these backers have some crossing and underneath route responsibilities. Good height — something about 5’11” – 6’4″ is fine, and solid enough to make tackles while light enough to run everywhere is ideal. Weight about 210 lbs at the lightest to about 240 lbs at the heaviest.

North Texas’ linebackers are 5’11” 223 lbs (Brandon Garner) and 6’3″ 231 lbs (EJ Ejiya). They are fast and hit hard, while being sure tacklers.

Safeties: Most teams like a free safety and a strong safety that likes to hit. The free safety is more coverage, while the strong safety can come up and make tackles. Defensive back size — no more than about 210 lbs and usually in the 195-200 lbs range.

North Texas is really interchangeable with their safeties. Khairi Muhammad and Makyle Sanders are about the same height and weight — 5’11” 185/191 lbs respectively. Both are solid in coverage but Khairi is probably the better at both aspects.

Nick: The “extra” safety is usually a hybrid linebacker/safety. Most often it is just another strong safety. Ideally, this man can cover a DB and hit like a LB without losing anything. Most often, teams will have to swap this position for the better coverage DB on passing downs.

North Texas has used Ashton Preston, Dee Baulkman, Tyreke Davis, and Jameel Moore here. Ashton, Dee, and Tyreke are all in the safety mold — about 200 lbs, while Moore was a backup corner. Teams have recently picked on this position — anyone in here really, but most recently Tyreke Davis got burned by UTSA and ODU — as this is the weakest of the five defensive backs. The right guy here can be a game-changer — someone that can do it all, wreaking havoc.

Offense

This is much easier, as the offense can set the tone. Defenses have to be reactive while offenses are proactive and set the personnel each play.

NT still runs the Air Raid but a more modern, run-friendly version.

QB: Ideal QB is about 6’4″ with a rocket arm and enough heft to withstand a couple of hits while also being mobile enough to extend the play. Patrick Mahomes is great but any QB has to be smart and accurate above all else. Mike Leach talked about his QBs needing to be accurate first, because it doesn’t matter how much arm they have if it is not where it is supposed to be.

Mason Fine is short but accurate and has improved his deep ball that now he is one of the best in the nation. He knows where to go with the ball and makes great decisions. He’s a great example of size not being the number one factor in QB-finding.

LT: Tackles are usually tall and quick enough to keep up with the freak athlete defensive end/ pass rushing linebackers. Ideally they are tall so they can get their long arms out and protect that way. Flip this if you are a lefty QB. Something like a 6’5″ 300 lbs guy with great mobility — quickness, balance, reaction.

Jordan Murray is 6’9″ and has good mobility. He gets a ton of flack because he might be a little taller than the ideal range for a left tackle and so does not have the greatest leverage against the pass rush.

RT: You can probably live with your second-best tackle being out here. This still has a ton of pass-protection responsibilities, but usually this is the run-clearing tackle. Ideal is a quick, long-armed tackle with heft that can bulldoze and move.

LG/RG: Guards need to be powerful, but quick enough to pull and get out and block on gap-runs. Ideally something like 6’3″ 323 lbs or so — strong enough to deal with the mammoth nose guards, but mobile enough to get a hat on a linebacker in space.

NT has Elex Woodworth — a converted LT — at left guard (6’4″ 288 lbs) and Manase Mose at RG — 6’1″ 294 lbs. Woodworth has been good but Mose has been outstanding.

C: The center is usually the smallest and most mobile of the lineman, they usually have the responsibility of calling out the blocking assignments.

NT has Sosaia Mose, 6’1″ 301 lbs. He has also been outstanding.

Outside WRs: X and Z: In the Air Raid, the outside WRs are the biggest, fastest, and most prototypical WRs on the team. Usually about 6’3″-6’5″ 195-220 lbs, they are responsible for getting vertical, beating man coverage, and winning 1-on-1 matchups against the opposition’s best cover guys. Mike Crabtree was 6’1″ 215lbs, could jump, run, and catch everything.

Rico Bussey Jr and Jalen Guyton are the outside WRs for NT. Bussey is 6’2″ 190 lbs, and Guyton is 6’1″ 202 lbs. Both can run and stretch the defense vertically, but also can get yards on medium and deep crossing routes. They catch shorter stuff for variety, but they need to win the medium to deep stuff for this offense to run best.

Inside WRs: Y and H: Some teams call the ‘H’, ‘A’. It is the same thing. The ‘Y’ was traditionally a TE but in the 4-WR sets it is usually a slight-of-frame slot WR. Wes Welker did it for Mike Leach at Texas Tech and went on to be the prototypical slot guy in the NFL. While shortness is what people think of, it is really about route precision and quickness. The size thing came about because Tech usually got the cast-offs — guys who would not normally find their way on a roster.

Mike Lawrence 5’10” 181 lbs and Jaelon Darden 5’9″ 165 lbs have had good-to-great seasons in their two years here. Lawrence caught a bunch of passes last year while Darden has been explosive in the slot this year.

Y / H-back / TE: Again, the traditional Y-position was a TE and the intermediate crossing routes, the flag routes, the “safety valve” stick-routes are all from the original BYU-era playbook. A pass-catching TE that can also block in the run game is ideal. A slighter-than-normal TE is fine but a big guy is awesome. Gronk was an Air Raid TE.

Kelvin Smith is 6’2″ 243 lbs TE with sure hands and quick feet. He is solid in the run game, too.

RB or F: The Air Raid backs of the Texas Tech days were slight, quick, pass-catching guys — one guy had 100 catches — and this again was due to the recruiting available to Leach in those days. As the entire sport has moved toward spread-and-shred it is clear that a good back in more space is fine. Power backs, scat-backs, and so on have all thrived in this position.

Jeff Wilson, Loren Easly, DeAndre Torrey, Wily Ivery, Nic Smith — these guys have all had nice games — 150+ yards rushing — in this offense and caught the ball and made plays. NT has favored some more power looks — using an H-Back/TE — and usually will carry at least one power back. Loren Easly was that power guy until he was hurt. DeAndre Torrey is the evidence of what happens when there is lots of space to run in, and a speedster with the ball in his hands.

H-Back: As mentioned previously, NT has favored an H-Back at times. Last year, Cannon Maki was a full-back without the name for a while. NT has favored Kelvin Smith in that role this year. NT will not likely recruit for this role, but backup TEs might be ideal here.

Conclusion

It is important to remember that you want football players and not beauty pageant winners. While some coaches will choose a guy that fits their profile over a good football player who is undersized, (Nick Saban is famous for this) they usually have the advantage of choosing a 5-star athlete and know they can coach them into the player they need.

Ultimately, the result is the most important thing. EJ Ejiya is the leading sack-man on the squad and he is a MLB. That is “supposed” to be the Jack. Does it matter? Not so much, as long as the defense is getting stops.


  1. Utah State, the bowl opponent lists four linebackers. In truth, one of those is a NICK/Spur (210 lbs) and the other is a JACK LB (6’5″ 230 lbs). 
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Football Recruiting MGN Podcast

98: 2018 NSD

Adam and Aldo discuss the the 2018 recruiting class.

We are also in the iTunes store.

You can contact the podcast at podcast@meangreennation.com.

Important Links:

 

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2018 National Signing Day – February Additions

Seth Littrell mentioned in his press conference that he wanted to focus on defense a little after working to build the offense. The haul for February is small because of the roster situatoin. Litrell said he expects next year’s class to be 23-24 players.

For more on the December signings read this post.

Tim Faison – LB 6’2″ 225 from Tallahassee, Florida (Independence CC)
Alex Morris – S 6’1″ 188 from Humble, Texas (Atascocita HS)
Thomas Preston III – OL 6’4″ 290 from Mesa, Arizona (Scottsdale CC)
Derrick Shaw – DT 6’0″ 260 from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (Broken Arrow HS)
Jyaire Shorter – WR 6’2″ 215 from Killeen, Texas (Ellison HS)

LB is a need position. Florida Atlantic and Iowa leaned on North Texas and gained yards on the ground. Troy was able to get what they wanted in running situations, also. Even though NT was relatively solid in run situations on average, the LB corps could stand an invigoration.

Enter Tim Faison. He has the prototypical LB size and strength to make an impact. His highlight tape shows that strength and some mobility. Having a plugger at one of the interior LB positions is important — the Colton McDonald role — and Faison could be that person.

Alex Morris is yet another safety in this class which makes five depending on where you put Kevyon Davis (he likely will be a safety). The highlight film shows a guy with some ball skills and good agility.

Thomas Preston fills a very big need. Littrell mentioned that they are finally nearing the numbers they want for solid depth — around 17-20 — to have first line guys and the future of the position on the roster. Given the fact that lineman usually need time to grow, having players on the roster for a while is the ideal. Preston will be eligible to participate in Spring given his Juco status and so will be expected to be a contributer sooner rather than later. He dominated his competition on the highlights. It will be interesting to see how he fares against CUSA competition.

Derrick Shaw is a DT from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. He has a good motor and good strength. He may be a bit too light to be expected to contribute right away, but he could get some spot action depending on how good he looks in practice. That energy and enthusiasm could come in handy. NT was a bit shorthanded at times along the DL so he may get some action just for that reason.

Finally, Jyaire Shorter is a 3-star WR from Kileen. He has prototypical outside reciever size. He had offers from UTSA and Houston, among others. His size is really intriguing, as he looks like the kind of wide out that USM has had in Korey Robertson. NT has had burners (Guyton) and a big guy in Rico Bussey, but adding another big size option diversifies the attack a bit. He also finishes blocks well, which is something very important in this offense.

Thoughts

NT got the bulk of their class in December, and had some battles for guys late leading up to February. At least two guys looked super committed to NT but then went elsewhere. The Mean Green have a good class that addresses some needs (LB, DL, OL) and adds depth (QB, WR, RB) but did not win the headlines. For those looking for NT to dominate the recruiting days, this is very frustrating but this is the nature of the staff. Littrell and company have shown a propensity to find unheralded guys and develop well. For certain positions — DL especially — this is not a feasible strategy. For every JJ Watt and Marcus Davenport there are countless others who do not turn into devastating playmakers.

NT has offered some quality DL players but has either been unlucky or out recruited. If at worst these recruits — Shaw and LeBlanc — require a two or three seasons to develop into all-league lineman that would still mean that the staff found two all-league lineman.

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Link: If you’re going to recruit in Texas …

Sam Khan Jr,  writing for ESPN:

But, still, it comes at a price. When tweets show a college coach’s interaction with a trainer or 7-on-7 coach, it validates them in the eyes of the players and raises eyebrows among high school coaches.

“In the state of Texas,” Hardeman said, “that’s a problem.”

It’s a reminder that Texas recruiting comes with some different unspoken rules than the primary grounds Fisher recruited at Florida State.

“That’s the way people operate in Florida,” Joseph said. “They don’t operate like that in Texas. I think he’s finding out more and more about that, too. You don’t necessarily have to meet with those people.”

Herman, with a few more years’ experience in the diplomacy of this Texas cold war — which he says helps him combat misperceptions — aims to educate the high school coaches who might have some hurt feelings.

“There is an element of ‘we’ve got to do business the way business is done,'” Herman said. “It’s not our job to change the way things are; it’s our job to find out who the influential people are in a young man’s life and make sure that we build relationships with them.”

This is a good dive into the intricacies of the recruiting game in this state. North Texas — for now? — does not seriously compete for the ESPN 300 guys. Still, keeping good relationships with coaches is an absolute must. Seth Littrell has a good reputation among coaches and Graham Harrell is the son of a long-time state HS coach so there is little danger of North Texas simply not knowing the hierarchy.

A little bird whispered into my ear that NT has a cool relationship with the 7v7 teams — this is simply a rumor and completely unverified, mind you — but that would make sense considering the staff’s respect for the way of doing business. Again, the rumor above is simply a rumor.

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Football Recruiting

North Texas and Oklahoma Recruits

This short piece is interesting.  North Texas does have an Oklahoma University alumnus who won a national championship as the head coach, who also is the son of an Oklahoma University national champion. It certainly makes sense that he would have ties to the state and its crop of coaches.

In fact, that is how he was able to land Mason Fine — a coaching colleague called him up once Seth was hired to inform him of the talented QB he had.

The current roster boasts 5 Oklahoma guys — including Rico Bussey, Mason Fine, Ashton Preston, and Quinn Shanbour. Considering that Oklahoma City is 2 hours drive from Denton — which is the same distance to Waco — I think we all forget that Oklahoma should be a part of the recruiting strategy.

Hat tip to the other forum

Image from the statsamerica

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Tashard Choice is the 10th Assistant

There were no rumors of movement or hires on the Littrell staff during the year and immediately after. The 10th assistant rule came into effect this January and there was little to no speculation about the new choice. When former RB coach Tommy Perry left for new opportunities (landed at Nevada) Seth Littrell took over TE/RB coaching duties — something he had done early in his tenure at Texas Tech.

It was likely that Littrell simply was going to coach that position until he could hire to fill it. The hiring of Tashard Choice, who has been a part of the NT staff in some capacity of the last year and is a former NFL, Georgia Tech, and OU RB himself, was unsurprising then.

All indications are that the RB roster liked Choice and the staff obviously likes him also. The next question to be answered is in recruiting. Choice can now go out and sell the program to the youth of America.

This last half-class was solid, and there is still time for Choice to make a little noise in the upcoming contact period beginning on Jan 12th. Choice has not been able to do any of the in-person recruiting up to this point, obviously. It will be interesting to see what impact — if any — he can have in the three weeks of contact period available to him.

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2018 NSD – December Signing Day

The first part of National Signing Day is more or less complete. There were no real surprises on this day, and that is generally a good thing. North Texas did try to flip a couple of commits from other CUSA schools and failed, and Illinois tried to flip Kevyon ‘KD’ Davis late in the game. He stayed committed to North Texas.

That is the type of win that this staff can build on. There has been discussion and concern about Seth Littrell’s ability to win those battles. This class has some direct wins over lower-level P5s and G5 peers like La Tech. This is important to note as Tech just agreed to a home-and-home series with SMU beginning in 2020. Tech already visits the Metroplex biannually and is looking to increase their time in DFW with a home-and-home with SMU.

Let’s look at Littrell’s stated goals and compare them so far:

OL: “Big area for us, even if we get a grad-transfer or a JC kid”
QB: “You have to get quarterbacks.”
RB / WR: “Numbers are good at RB, but we will have to get one more. We need at least two WRs”
Defense: “linebackers are a big need for us. We are signing more safeties. Looking for some JC guys (along the DL).”

Well, let us look at the 14 signees:

Jason Bean – QB 6’3” 180 from Mansfield (Lake Ridge HS)
Jaxon Gibbs – S 5’11” 196 from The Colony (The Colony HS)
Kevyon “KD” Davis – LB 5’11” 200 out of Ennis (Ennis HS)
Reggie Williams – S 5’10 180 from Grand Prairie (Grand Prairie HS)
DeAndre Torrey – RB – 5’7” 189 from Gautier, MS (Gulf Coast JC)

The above are all three-star rated athletes by 247 Sports, and will get the most attention for that reason. Jason Bean is listed as a Pro-Style QB but he has wheels in his highlight film. He’s tall, and that is generally good for the position although not necessary if you are a tough guy like Mason Fine. The trio of Jaxon Gibbs, Kevyon Davis, and Reggie Williams had fans thinking of a trio of freshman safeties to play along side current starter Khairi Muhammad. Davis mentioned he was told he was eyed as an outside LB.

Wherever he plays, the versatility is what is attractive about him. Last year’s freshman Tyreke Davis played LB and Safety in HS and spent time as the Nick in relief of Ashton Preston. Expect both Davis kids to bring versatility and speed to Reffett’s group.

Gibbs and Williams are more obviously built like DBs, and will look to build on the new tradition of quality safety play at North Texas — Marcus Trice, Lairamie Lee, KiShawn McClain, and now Khairi Muhammad.

DeAndre Torrey is slight of build but makes big plays to make up for it. He amassed 1200+ yards this season and will be a nice addition to a quality stable of backs. Nic Smith and Evan Johnson are the obvious front-runners to fill the top two spots in the depth chart but Torrey should push them to improve or take their spots outright. This is by design.

Jordan Hunt – LB 6’2” 215 from Wylie (Wylie HS)
Larry Nixon III – LB 6’0” 210 from North Richland Hills (Richland HS)
Josh Sa’afi – LB – 6’3” 272 from Euless (Mt. San Antonio College)
Dayton LeBlanc – DL 6’1” 265 from Lexington, Kentucky (Frederick Douglass HS)
Darrian McMillan – DL 6’2” 251 from Mobile, Alabama (Butler CC)

Jordan Hunt, Larry Nixon III, and Josh Sa’afi are three linebackers with good size. Nixon is listed as 6’0” here and 6’2” on 247. Hunt and Nixon look like they can fill in the MLB spot or be converted into pass rushing stand-up ends. Getting them into the weight room and seeing them on the field will ultimately determine their fate on the field. Sa’afi is listed as a LB on the MGS site, but as a DL on the card. He played both in JUCO and that — again — versatility is intriguing. He’s big — listed as 272 lbs — so the thinking is obviously that he would be a replacement for some of the outgoing DL guys.

Dayton LeBlanc is the son of NT coach Derrick LeBlanc and has the size and quickness that is needed. More importantly, he has the technique. When your dad is the DL coach, you better have the technique.

McMillan is the Josh Wheeler replacement with prototypical edge rusher size.

So NT signed three LBs any way you count things — either with KD Davis as a LB and Sa’afi as a DL or with Davis as a safety and Sa’afi as a LB. The star ratings aren’t amazing, but there is talent here. The defensive line found the replacements for Wheeler and Flusche in at least spots. We will see if they will replace the production.

Cole Brown – OL 6’4” 250 from Conroe (Conroe HS)
Keelan Crosby – S 6’1” 175 from Anna (Anna HS)
Austin Ogunmakin – WR 6’3” 179 Alief (Hastings HS)
Kason Martin – QB 6’3” 200 from Manvel (Manvel HS)

Elsewhere Cole Brown is depth along the OL. NT tried to steal a MTSU commit but did not land one. At least one expected commit did not sign — yet. Dec 20 is the first of the three day window, and there will be another in February (the traditional one) and so this class is not complete by any measure. Littrell has signed some pre-camp guys to fill in the roster as needed in both offseason so expect that to happen as well.

Keelan Crosby is another safety who is a bit on the slight side, and will benefit from time as a redshirt and in the weight program. He played QB and safety in HS and made all-district at both positions. If he does not redshirt he would make an excellent special teams player his first year.

Austin Ogunmakin is the prototypical outside receiver in height and frame. He also will benefit from a college weight program to allow him to beat CUSA DBs and create space for himself.

Finally we have Kason Martin. Among followers of NT recruiting, he is a known quantity. He’s accurate, tall, and a good QB. While he may “only” be a two-star QB this system has a way of transforming those type of guys into Heisman candidates. Mason Fine was “only” a two-star QB and he is now the reigning CUSA Offensive Player of the Year.

Good programs recruit good talent to push the existing guys to be better, and to perhaps take their jobs.

Takeaways

This is a good class and it is not complete. North Texas is going to finish about middle of the pack in the league rankings and that is nothing to get crazy about in either direction. Marshall ‘won’ recruiting a couple of years ago but lost a bunch of those players to transfer, while FAU won recruiting and then won the league with 10-straight wins. It really depends on how your transform the inputs into production.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that the on-field performance is not the only measure of a player’s value to the program. Take MGN favorite Quinn Shanbour for example. He contributed exactly 1 TD pass to the campaign but was an invaluable part of making the NT locker room a better place to be, and making the NT program better as a result.

Winning helps morale, of course, but a good locker room makes it easier to prepare to win.

Seth Littrell and his staff still lost a few notable battles for their preferred targets and that is an improvement area. Still, overall we can be content with this class and — yes — even excited. There is more to come as this cycle is not complete. Stay tuned for February, when we watch this staff navigate the second part of this new normal in recruiting.

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2018 Signing Day Part 1

National Signing Day is early and no one really loves it whole-heartedly. The old February day still exists and has its own issues but all the coaches understood those issues and had a plan for working to mitigate them. This December date has teams scrambling and splitting time between bowl prep and recruiting.

The North Texas staff spent one weekend of the three available out recruiting and the other two preparing for post season games. Seth Littrell told the school’s website he would not trade the postseason games for more recruiting time.

“It’s a positive and a negative,” Littrell said of the early signing period. “You’re playing a championship game that first week of recruiting and you come back and get one week, and if you have an early bowl, you pretty much get one weekend before signing day.
“You’re still trying to prep for a bowl and recruit,” Littrell added. “But, they set the rules and we live by them. I can’t sit and worry about it. Do I love it? No. But would I trade it for playing in championship game and a great bowl? Not a chance.”

That is, of course, what we expect him to say. Still, it is good he said that.

Meanwhile teams like La Tech and SMU, perennial opponents for NT, have to ink the next class right before playing a bowl game.

This whole thing is pretty terrible, all things considered.

The idea was to ease the recruiting burden on coaches and the athletes by letting those who had made their decision sign early. Instead, it is putting pressure on the athletes to make a decision they are not necessarily comfortable with.

There will be recruiting winners, as some enterprising coach finds the best way to game these new rules, just as there were coaches who figured out the best strategy under the old ones.

Some teams liked to poach recruits late, and made a living doing so. That will not be as viable and option this time. Or will it? Really, the best recruits have the most leverage no matter the system. Coaches can threaten to keep close up recruiting and fill their class, but most will leave one or two spots open just in case that 5-star guy decides to wear their colors.

As always, the other guys will hurt.

North Texas has the benefit of being in Year Two of Littrell’s coaching era and having a longer period to identify and contact recruits. The key will be in winning battles that otherwise had not happened previously.

The good news is that at least one talented player announced publicly and others are hinting extra heavily. The general expectation is that NT will have three three-star safeties to fill in for the departing KiShawn McClain and other senior DBs.

Still, that position was a strength for NT the last couple of years, and Seth Littrell was able to find some late additions in Eric Jenkins and Kemon Hall who have contributed really well. The real hit will be in the DT/DL/ILB positions.

You might also think of that as right through the middle.

Elsewhere, Seth Littrell will add more QBs, as he has promised to do every year. Jason Bean and Kason Martin are expected to join, providing some depth behind Mason Fine, Cade Pearson, and Quinn Shanbour (RS JR).

WR Austin Ogunmakin is expected to sign. NT is losing Turner Smiley at that position. At RB, Deandre Torrey is the most recent splash. He’s a guy that has speed and quickness. His signing indicates North Texas does not prefer the big, Troy-like backs, but the undersized ones with shimmy.

This is often the case with Air Raid teams.

Overall, this class is not so far behind the rest of the league. FAU is clearly the best team in the conference and no haul is going to put NT on par with that team overnight, but getting one recruiting class better is the goal.

MGN will be posting all throughout NSD – December edition.