North Texas bolstered the depth and competition in its defensive backfield on Tuesday, when the Mean Green cashed in the scholarship it saved from national signing day by inking Matthew Dash.
The safety spent last season at Pierce College in Los Angeles and will have two years of eligibility remaining at UNT.
“Matthew is a big hitter and will come in and provide us more competition at the safety position,” McCarney said in a prepared statement. “He’s a physical player, and I want him to come in and compete for playing time in the secondary and on special teams.”
McCarney also confirmed Tuesday that former Ryan standout and Texas A&M linebacker Jordan Richmond is no longer with UNT’s program. Richmond spent only a short time with UNT this spring while trying to revive his career.
UNT lost several of the key members of its defense that ranked eighth nationally with an average of 17.8 points allowed per game last season, including starting free safety Marcus Trice.
Starting strong safety Lariamie Lee missed most of spring practice due to injury but is expected to be ready by the start of the season. Converted cornerback Freddie Warner came out of spring practice as the starter at free safety.
Highly regarded Louisville transfer Zed Evans is Lee’s backup, while Austin Peay transfer Sheldon Wade is backing up Warner.
Dash (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) will give UNT another option and a player who could also help fill the considerable void on special teams created when Trice graduated.
The former Willingboro, N.J., standout was named to the All-Southern California Football Association All-Pacific Conference first team last season, when he finished with 45 tackles and two sacks.
Richmond was a two-time honorable mention all-state selection at Ryan and was ranked No. 26 among outside linebackers in the class of 2012 by Rivals.com. He signed with Texas A&M but never found a role with the Aggies. He was suspended in December 2012 after being arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and was not on A&M’s roster in 2013.
Richmond enrolled at UNT early this year and participated in the first few workouts of spring practice when he tried to make the move from outside linebacker to defensive end before leaving the program.
UNT set for C-USA tourney
An impressive performance in the final weekend of the regular season gave UNT a lot of momentum heading into this week’s Conference USA tournament in Boca Raton, Fla.
Winning its last two games also left UNT with the tough task of facing the host school right off the bat in the eight-team, single-elimination tournament.
UNT wound up as the fifth seed and will face Florida Atlantic, the fourth seed, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. UNT has not faced FAU this year.
“I’m not a fan of playing the host, but I am glad we match up with someone we didn’t face this year,” UNT coach Tracey Kee said. “That’s a positive. I like our mindset and our draw. I don’t know a lot about FAU, but from looking at the stats, I think we match up well.”
UNT enters the tournament off a confidence-building performance that saw the Mean Green beat top-seeded and 18th-ranked Tulsa twice in a three-game series. UNT had lost six straight before breaking through to win the final two games of the series, including its regular-season finale when senior Brooke Foster hit a walk-off grand slam.
UNT (30-21) broke the school record for wins in a season with its second victory over Tulsa in its first season in C-USA that was also its first season under Kee.
“We feel really good about where we are after this last weekend with those two big wins we picked up against Tulsa,” pitcher Lauren Poole said. “That gave us a lot of confidence.”
UNT has fared well on the road this season, posting a 12-11 record away from Lovelace Stadium, but did struggle in its last trip to Florida. Florida International swept UNT in a three-game series in April.
UNT rebounded in a big way with two wins over Tulsa, a team it could face in the second round of the tournament.
“This weekend was pivotal,” pitcher Ashley Kirk said. “We will move on from it and carry the momentum with us.”
Track and field
UNT set for C-USA meet
Head coach Carl Sheffield was convinced long before his team competed in the Longhorn Invitational last weekend that the Mean Green had the potential to put together a standout 400-meter relay if it could get the baton around the track smoothly.
The Mean Green found that elusive form over the weekend, just in time for the Conference USA Championships.
Kedron Sowells, Clinton Collins, Caleb Pryor and Collin Heard posted a time of 40.44 seconds to win the event.
“Relay racing is a confidence thing,” Sheffield said. “You really have to trust each other. They weren’t on the same page and couldn’t get the stick around. They were all on the same page on Saturday.”
Finding that form was tough for the group that includes athletes who specialize in both short sprint events like the 100 and longer events like the 400 and rarely train together.
“Now it won’t be an issue,” Sheffield said. “They have run a good race and school is out so they can get together.”
UNT’s performance in the relay was just one of the highlights of the meet for UNT.
Troy Taylor won the 1,500 meters in 3:44.82, while Collins finished fourth in the 400 in 46.74.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.