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.
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 recruit 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.