National signing day, one of the milestones on the college football calendar, has arrived.
The top high school players in the country will sit down and sign national letters of intent today, restocking programs with newcomers in the universities’ hope they will lead them to success.
In a lot of ways, North Texas will be no different. There are a host of high school players across the state who are set to sign with the Mean Green.
What could be even more important — both to the short- and long-term prospects of the program — is how UNT’s plunge into the secondary market for talent turns out.
Quarterback Brock Berglund (Kansas), wide receiver Darius Terrell (Texas) and running back Reggie Pegram (Purdue) will receive a second chance to tap into their potential after transferring to UNT, while Snow College offensive lineman Justin Manu and Eastern Arizona defensive end Quenton Brown are among four junior college players expected to join the Mean Green’s 2013 class.
Those transfers won’t be on UNT’s roster for four or five years like a lot of the high school players who will sign letters of intent today. What they offer is a quick fix and a big risk for UNT.
If they pan out, UNT’s secondary-market players could help the Mean Green snap a string of eight consecutive losing seasons during their short stays at the school.
If they don’t produce, UNT will still have voids in its lineup and fewer underclassmen to develop long-term to fill them.
“When we get this program going, I would like to be at 99 percent Texas high school kids,” UNT coach Dan McCarney said this week. “We want to have more competition. However we get the players to make that happen until we get to that point is not as important as what they can do on the field and what kind of people they are off the field.”
There is a chance that UNT’s 2013 season and the program’s trajectory over the next few years could hinge on the way the key player among the Mean Green’s secondary-market signees develops. Former Kansas quarterback Berglund enrolled at UNT in the fall after a brief stay at Scottsdale Community College and immediately made a positive impression on his coaches and teammates.
“This is a special place, and I am very excited for what the future holds,” Berglund said when he enrolled at UNT.
Rivals.com rated Berglund No. 15 on its list of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the class of 2011 — one spot behind Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and one spot in front of Everett Golson, who led Notre Dame to the national title game.
Derek Thompson has started for UNT the last two seasons, is back for his senior year and certainly isn’t going to hand his spot over, but there is little doubt that there are high expectations for Berglund.
The former Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian standout seems certain to take over at quarterback for UNT, whether it’s next season or later on.
“Brock has a cannon for an arm and he’s smart,” Scottsdale coach Doug Madoski said. “He’s a Division I football player, there’s no question.”
The same can be said of Pegram, who played at Purdue before transferring to UNT and sitting out last season. Pegram rushed for 109 yards for the Boilermakers in 2011.
Pegram’s cousins Erric Pegram and Brandon Kennedy played for UNT and are members of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Erric Pegram led UNT in rushing yards in 1989 and 1990, while Kennedy was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 2002 and 2003.
Most of UNT’s secondary-market players won’t be around as long as Erric Pegram or Kennedy were. The question is how big of an impact will they make in the short term. And just like high school signees, there are no guarantees.
Some of the greatest players in recent UNT history came from the secondary market.
Running back Kevin Galbreath transferred to UNT from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, rushed for 2,417 yards in two seasons from 2001-02 and capped his career by being named the MVP of UNT’s win over Cincinnati in the 2002 New Orleans Bowl.
Safety Aaron Weathers was a two-time All-Sun Belt selection in 2005 and 2006 after he transferred to UNT from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.
While UNT has enjoyed some success with secondary-market players, it has had several of those players wash out before contributing.
UNT had 10 junior college players among 22 signees in its 2010 class. Three of those players never made it to campus. The other seven were contributors, but none earned a spot on the All-Sun Belt team during their UNT careers.
UNT is looking for players to fill key spots in its lineup.
K.C. Obi led UNT in sacks (5 1/2) and tackles for loss (10 1/2) as a senior last season. UNT added Brown to potentially fill his spot.
“The coaches told me that they needed someone to make plays on the ball from the defensive front,” Brown said. “It all starts on the defensive line.”
Trinity Valley Community College center Shawn McKinney is a potential replacement for Aaron Fortenberry, who was UNT’s only first-team All-Sun Belt selection last season.
Pegram likely will join UNT’s running back rotation that was highly effective with Brandin Byrd, Antoinne Jimmerson and Jeremy Brown last season, when the three combined to rush for 1,904 yards. Jeremy Brown was the only senior among the group.
While it won’t necessarily hurt UNT if one or two of its secondary-market players do not produce, there is little doubt the program’s future will be brighter if the group — and particularly Berglund — pan out overall.
UNT has not had an all-conference quarterback since Scott Hall completed his career in 2004 by leading the Mean Green to its fourth straight New Orleans Bowl.
UNT did not sign a quarterback in its 2012 class, and while the Mean Green signed three in 2011, only one is still with the program as a quarterback. JUCO transfer Brent Osborn graduated, while Cooper Jones moved to tight end.
That leaves Andrew McNulty as the only quarterback from UNT’s last two classes still playing the position for the Mean Green. UNT will sign Pflugerville Connally’s Dajon Williams today and try to develop him over the next few years.
Williams gives UNT another option, but with Thompson entering his senior year, it appears as if the Mean Green’s future at quarterback could be tied largely to a secondary-market player in Berglund.
After UNT signs several players with similar backgrounds today, the same could be said of the whole program.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-395-3987. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
The following is a list of players who have committed to become members of North Texas’ 2013 signing class:
Valor Christian (Colo.)
Eastern Arizona College
Fort Bend Bush
Fort Bend Elkins
Snow College (Utah)
Trinity Valley Community College
Wichita Falls Rider
Fort Bend Austin
* Transfer already enrolled at UNT