Now that we’re two-weeks removed from the conclusion of the 2014 football season, recruiting season is officially upon us. Coaches will work relentlessly in order to sign their top targets on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 — National Signing Day.
However, before NSD there is a much less-hyped, yet more immediately impactful signing day taking place this Wednesday, December 17th, 2014. That day is for Junior College (JUCO) signees who are set to become mid-term enrollees and enroll in the spring semester. That allows them to participate in the crucial spring practices.
Heading into this offseason our coaches are tasked with replacing twelve players who started at least six games (six on each side of the ball). Among these twelve seniors were all three of our all-conference players. Combine these personnel losses with actual loss-column losses — a 4-8 season1 in which we struggled to legitimately compete against the few .500 or better teams we faced — and you’ve got a good recipe for a busy JUCO recruiting season.
During the year, as some panic was beginning to set in, we saw some JUCO offers going out at new positions and we’ve seen more since the season has ended. We’ve also hosted quite a few JUCO visitors in Denton. Here’s a look at what JUCO positions we are looking at filling and who the recruits/candidates are. I’ve listed the positions in order of likelihood that we’ll sign a JUCO player in that position. I’m also not listing every JUCO offer we have out, since some have already committed elsewhere or have eliminated us from contention.
Just the realistic options.
Losing four of five starters, this is an obvious need. We’ve already received a commitment from JUCO interior lineman Brian Ochs, but offensive tackle is the position to look out for here. Not only do we lose both starting tackles, but none of the young guys were able to emerge and take the right tackle spot in fall camp, prompting the coaches to move Cyril Lemon from guard to tackle. Those young guys still could claim a spot this year and end up being good players, but taking a JUCO OT or two is almost a necessary insurance policy.
- OT Justin Sandifer (visited 12/5/14), listed offers from Louisville, Georgia, Florida, and Miss State.2
OT Preston Brooksby (visited 12/5/14), listed offers from UTSA, Old Dominion, Georgia State, and Weber State.
OT James Works, listed offers from East Carolina, Marshall, Georgia State, Idaho, Utah State, UAB3
Another obvious position of need, with 3 of 4 starters graduating. Losing two safeties makes that an obvious spot to potentially add a JUCO. Additionally, losing second-team all CUSA cornerback James Jones is huge. Jones has played a crucial role for the UNT defense the past two years; being tasked with covering the boundary side of the field and usually matching up with the opposing team’s best receiver.
- CB Quinton Lane (visited 12/5/14), listed offers from South Alabama, Louisiana Lafayette, Troy, Hawaii, Southern Miss, Jackson State, Jacksonville State
Safety James Scott (visited 12/10/14), listed offers from Kansas[^4], Southern Miss, South Alabama
CB Wesley Bailey, listed offers from Indiana, MTSU, Idaho, Utah State, Georgia State
2014 saw a noticeable, yet inevitable dropoff in production at linebacker following the loss of NFL’er Zach Orr and fellow starter Will Wright. In addition to still trying to fill the shoes of those players, we now have to replace our one consistent linebacker from last year in first-team all CUSA linebacker Derek Akunne. Akunne was also our only linebacker with the legitimate size you look for in a SAM (strongside) linebacker. The JUCOs we are recruiting seem to be bulkier, inside linebacker types who may both be given the chance to fill Akunne’s spot at SAM or compete to replace Fred Scott and Anthony Wallace at middle linebacker if they don’t pick things up and have a good spring.
- LB Antreon Bennett (visited 12/5/14), listed offers from Charleston Southern, SE Louisiana
LB AJ Hotchkins, listed offers from Bowling Green, Southern Miss, Texas State, Georgia State, Idaho
LB Jamal Lucas, listed offers from Texas State and UAB
The position that is most highly debated going forward. Many fans want a JUCO QB who can come in and immediately jumpstart our offense, but most fans also agree our success with JUCO QBs under McCarney has been poor. The coaches have said we will be signing a guy here. I believe if we don’t sign a JUCO QB to come in and be a mid-term transfer then that may be a good indication we’ll look to add a graduate transfer QB sometime before next season.
NOTE: we have not offered these two qbs as of yet, but have expressed interest.
- QB Damarcus Smith (visited 12/5/14), not seeing much info on him. Highly recruited out of high school.
QB Jake Hubenak, offer from San Diego State