We are nearing National Signing Day. North Texas has had quite the busy two months since hiring highly touted Seth Littrell as the 19th Head Coach in school history (full and interim combined. I speculated about what his initial class would look like come Feb 3rd and it is time to compare speculation with (about as close to) fact as we can get tonight.
So let us begin:
Areas Which Require Attention
What I said:
I’d expect Seth Littrell to dig deep in his binder and find a JUCO guy he missed on, maybe grab a graduate transfer he believes in, and pick up a HS guy if he can with the time remaining.
We signed Alabama transfer Alec Morris as a mid-term signee. He’s the odds-on favorite to be the starter considering his experience and talent. Oh and we signed HS Mason Fine, QB out of Oklahoma. I’ll go ahead and say I was right on.
What I said:
Quick, shifty, undersized slot guys aren’t extremely hard to find. The ones that run crisp routes and make tough catches over the middle are a bit more rare but I don’t expect this will be difficult.
The outside WR positions usually require more size (rangy 6’4″ guys). We have one or two of those guys but I imagine this class will include one or two players with size to push the current roster. Size on the outside is great for fade routes and blocking outside. We tried this a bunch the last couple of years with Darius Terrell, Marcus Smith, and Chris Loving.
Well, it wasn’t to difficult to find undersized, quick, shifty guys. NT received commitments from Rico Bussey, Tyler Wilson, and Deion Hair-Griffin. I doubt Littrell and company will get the size they (likely) want, but there is still time.
What I said:
For a ‘run-first’ team this OL did a lot of pass protecting. McNulty and Smith threw the ball a ton. We were 8th in attempts in a pass-happy conference.
I’m not sure how much Littrell differs from a Mike Leach style offense in his blocking assignments, but I know that Leach likes his OL to win match ups man-to-man, especially in the pass protection game.
TJ Henson singed from Trinity Vally as a JUCO player. He’s got some size. Also Chandler Anthony from Oklahoma. That’s some size. (I did say I wasn’t an OL guru, right?)
What I said:
When Mike Canales talked about lacking size and strength I have to believe he meant here. After all, he made that comment after the Louisiana Tech game that saw Kenneth Dixon scorch his guys for 195 and 6 TDs, largely through the middle.
The starters were and are undersized. Flusche, Orr, and Tauaalo are all 250-ish lbs. Only Sir Calvin Wallace passed 300 and just barely . . . If Littrell wants any kind of improvement immediately, he will have to bolster the DT spots. I expect the young guys that were thrown to the fire to get bigger and stronger and learn from their season getting gashed, but this position group is as important as the QB spot and should be addressed.
NT already lost RS FR DT DeMikal Harrison to transfer, so this spot is in dire need of some size. One or two 350+ lbs guy would be ideal. Obviously, those types of players are highly coveted so it will not be easy.
Much will depend on the defensive coordinator Seth Littrell brings along with him, and I wouldn’t hate it if we dropped the 4-3 base we use now, and use a 4-2-5. UTSA has had some success with it the last few years, and Southern Miss has used it successfully recently.
A fancy scheme won’t make up completely for talent, but it can use talent more effectively. No matter what NT runs they’ll need to control the line or the defense might be setting the wrong kinds of records next season.
Well it looks like we will be running 4-2-5. This wasn’t much of a surprise and probably a good idea considering the dearth of LB depth. As of this writing Bryce English is the only signee and he’s only 5′ 11″, 295. Josh Wheeler and Joseph Ozougwu are both in the 230-240 range as DEs, which isn’t terrible but the fact that we still don’t have much size on the DL is concerning. Again, we are hoping the DTs put on some weight and added to their strength in the offseason.
I also wrote this:
A look at the game film will show the DL getting pushed 5 yards back often. The Worst Defense In NT History got that way because pretty much every team could run through the A gap at will. As a whole, the defensive line was okay when pass-rushing, but never could get into defensive third and longs, because of the porous run defense.
This defense doesn’t need to be the college Carolina Panthers, or even the hallowed 2013 NT Defense, but it needs to stop the run and get off the field. The 2015 version wasn’t up to the task largely because it could be gashed through the middle. Thus far the signing class doesn’t look like it will bring the defensive line Savior that we all would like, so the burden of responsibility will be on the current players to improve greatly. But we all knew that was going to be the case.
See you on Wednesday where Yours Truly took the day off from Daily Toil to cover this thing. It should be fun.