When Dan McCarney arrived at North Texas, he said that he would focus on bringing the best high school talent in the state to Denton.
UNT spent nine scholarships on transfers and junior-college signees when it put together its class for 2013, but that does not mean that UNT’s head coach is at all discouraged by the reception he and his staff experienced while recruiting high schools across the state.
“Our reception has been sensational,” McCarney said. “I feel the high school coaches in this state are really pulling for North Texas. They appreciate what we are doing in trying to take a program that has been a great academic choice for many, many years, but in football has not been a good choice and something of a last resort and turning it around. You sense that when you get out there.”
UNT signed 14 high school players, all from within the state, including Guyer defensive back John Schilleci, one of the few players from the Denton Independent School District to sign with the Mean Green in recent years.
The effort UNT’s coaches made while putting together their 2013 class and the way they have started to turn the Mean Green’s program around made an impression on Schilleci.
“He’s done a lot obviously,” Schilleci of McCarney. “The program has turned around quite a bit, grades-wise, especially. They really stressed that to us. I think 30 or so kids have above a 3.0 GPA now and that was insane to think about before he got there. This is his first official recruiting class where it’s all his guys, so I think we should have a big season next year.”
McCarney is confident the all-Texas high school signing class UNT put together will make an impact, largely because of the rapport his staff developed with those players.
“Almost every high school player we signed today was in our camps, so we watched junior practice, we watched junior tape, we watched spring practice, we watched senior practice, we watched senior tape and had them in camp,” McCarney said. “That cuts down on the chances of us making a mistake.”
UNT loses a few late
UNT had hoped to make a push late before national signing day and land a few top-level high school prospects, but lost a few players late in the process.
Louisiana defensive back/wide receiver Jermaine Antoine committed to UNT on Jan. 23, but backed out of that pledge to sign with TCU.
UNT also hosted Sherman linebacker Kahlee Woods, who later decided to sign with Texas Tech.
Woods and Antoine are both rated as three-star prospects by Rivals.com.
Those losses opened up spots in UNT’s class, one of which was filled by Van defensive tackle Sydrick Moore.
UNT had hoped to talk Port Arthur Memorial’s Darius Lemora into backing out of his commitment to Washington State, but saw the safety sign with the Cougars.
Linebacker Sergio Medina was another Louisiana product who had committed to UNT, but he later backed out to sign with Tulane.
“Even though we lost some guys to Big 12 schools and Pac-12 schools in the last few days, we are in the hunt, we are in the battle,” McCarney said. “We are not in there throwing up a white flag and saying that we can’t get them here. We will recruit them. We have a great thing to sell here. We have an administration that is so supportive and people around this football program who want us to succeed. We will [lead] this football program to success.”
UNT will evaluate how it is selling those assets to recruits in the next few weeks, just like McCarney’s staff has done throughout his time at the school.
“Losing one is one too many, losing three or four is too many, but on days like this I talk about the guys we got,” McCarney said. “I feel so good about it. I always feel like you always could have done more when you lose a young man. We will go back and rehash. We self-evaluate all the time.”
Low ratings don’t bother McCarney
UNT’s recruiting class was rated among the bottom 10 in the country by both Rivals.com and Scout.com.
UNT tied with Akron for 114th out of 123 teams nationally in the Rivals.com rankings and came in at 123rd out of 125 teams in the Scout.com rankings.
Those finishes were due in part to the low number of high school signees and a high number of transfers who were not counted toward UNT’s point total in the services’ scoring system.
UNT did not sign a member of The Dallas Morning News’ Area or State Top 100 list, but did see Fort Bend Bush cornerback Chad Davis land a spot in the Houston Chronicle’s State Top 100 rankings.
Seeing his team come in near the bottom of the recruiting rankings didn’t bother McCarney.
“I don’t pay too much attention to rankings and ratings,” McCarney said. “You have a guy up the road in Manhattan, Kan., who has never had a class that has been ranked very high in Bill Snyder and all he does is win and win with class and win with dignity and have one of the great programs in the country that is respected by everyone.”
Strong connection led Zed to UNT
Former Louisville defensive back and Seagoville standout Zed Evans said he transferred to UNT largely to find a school where he could play a larger role.
Evans played primarily on special teams for the Cardinals and will have one year of eligibility remaining at UNT.
“I feel like it’s a good fit,” Evans said. “It’s closer to home and when I met Mac, I developed a good relationship with him.”
Evans will play safety and return kicks for UNT.
His younger brother, Erick Evans, a former Air Force signee, has joined UNT’s program as a walk-on defensive back.
Terrell dropping weight quickly
Texas transfer Darius Terrell is dropping weight quickly in anticipation of moving back to wide receiver at UNT.
Terrell was a standout wide receiver at DeSoto and signed with the Longhorns, who planned to move him to tight end. Terrell pushed his weight as high as 244 pounds in an effort to make the transition, but has since worked his way back down to 215 pounds.
“I was at 240 when I first got here,” Terrell said. “I feel like myself again.”
Pegram keeping it in the family
Purdue transfer Reggie Pegram’s family has a long — and successful — history at UNT.
Erric Pegram and Brandon Kennedy, two of his cousins, are members of the UNT Athletic Hall of Fame.
Kennedy was the 2002 and 2003 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, while Erric Pegram led UNT in rushing in both the 1989 and 1990 seasons with 513 and 957 yards, respectively.
“I’m keeping it all in the family by coming here,” Reggie Pegram said. “My family can come and support me and watch me play. I talked to both of them [Erric Pegram and Kennedy] recently. I talked to Erric around Christmas. He told me to come in and work hard.
“Hopefully, I can come in and have a good career like he did.”
Tucker making move to safety
Former Tyler Chapel Hill running back/linebacker Andrew Tucker will make the move to safety after arriving at UNT at the semester break as a grayshirt.
Tucker said he is confident he can make the transition.
“I’m an athlete,” Tucker said. “I will play wherever they need me. I played linebacker in high school. It’s not that much different, you still have to hit.”
While not all of UNT’s recruits have qualified academically at this point, McCarney said he is confident every member of the class will meet NCAA standards in the next few months. … McCarney said that UNT has filled all 85 of its scholarships for next season. … Christian Hines, a wide receiver from Corsicana who was expected to grayshirt following signing day a year ago, has joined UNT’s program as a walk-on.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com .