Jameel Moore thought his recruiting process had come to a close in August when he committed to Rice.
The Cedar Hill cornerback’s plans changed quickly in the last few weeks due to an unexpected academic issue that led Moore to commit to North Texas over the weekend.
Moore was set to sign with the Owls before finding out at the last minute he would not meet the academic standards to be admitted UNT quickly moved in and added Moore to its class following his weekend visit to the school.
“At first, it was disappointing and hectic with signing day less than a month away,” Moore said. “It was a rush, but UNT is a good fit, especially with all the new coaches.
“I like what the school has to offer. I saw an opportunity to grow. I feel like I can help them and they can help me.”
UNT also picked up a commitment from North Dakota State College of Science linebacker Ejodamen Ejiya on Monday. Ejiya was an honorable mention NJCAA All-American last season.
Oral commitments are non-binding. National signing day is Wednesday.
Moore (5-10, 160) was a second-team All-District 8-6A selection in 2015. Texas State, Stephen F. Austin and Northern Colorado also offered Moore a scholarship.
New UNT cornerbacks coach Nate Brown recruited Moore.
Moore said UNT’s coaches talked with him about blueshirting, a practice that would have him join the team in the fall as a walk-on and then accepting a scholarship later in his career. Moore said UNT’s coaches elected to give him a spot in its 2016 class when another prospect decided to sign with another school.
Moore said he quickly developed a relationship with UNT’s coaches after they began recruiting him over the past few weeks and is confident about the direction of the program.
Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire said he believes UNT is getting a potential impact player in Moore.
“He is a big corner and has good speed,” McGuire said. “He has started the last few years and been a really good football player for us.”
Ejiya (6-3, 215) could be an immediate contributor for UNT, which is expected to move to a 4-2-5 defense under new coordinator Mike Ekeler this season.
“The coaches’ plan is for me to play middle linebacker, outside linebacker or the nickel, depending on how my body develops,” Ejiya said shortly after his visit to UNT. “When he described the defense, it was exactly like what we play, and we played a 4-2-5.”
Ejiya visited Northern Iowa over the weekend before deciding to commit to UNT. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Ekeler recruited Ejiya, who visited UNT late last month.
“I had a good vibe with the coaches,” Ejiya said. “I had a good time on my visit and talked to coach Ekeler about it. It felt like the right decision.”
UNT also picked up a commitment from Locust Grove (Oklahoma) wide receiver Jason Pirtle, who will join the Mean Green as a preferred walk-on.
Pirtle was committed to Emporia State, a Division II school in Kansas, before backing out of that pledge to play for the Mean Green.
Pirtle finished with 249 passes for 4,843 yards and 59 touchdowns during his high school career. He is a teammate of quarterback Mason Fine, who will also continue his career at UNT. Both were recruited by smaller schools but had long dreamed of playing at the major college level.
“I thought it was a good fit for me,” Pirtle said of UNT. “I like the coaches. They are all young and a lot of have energy.
“I decided to chase my dream.”
Johnson will not
return to UNT
Tre Johnson, the tiny return man who emerged as a key weapon for North Texas last season, has left the program.
Johnson returned 11 punts for 139 yards and a touchdown in his only season at UNT after transferring from Cisco College. He also returned nine kickoffs for 252 yards.
Johnson said Monday afternoon he couldn’t afford to come back to school for the spring semester. He has since returned to San Antonio. Johnson came to UNT as a walk-on.
“I told the coaches that I might try to come back later,” Johnson said. “It’s disappointing any time I can’t play. I couldn’t come up with the money to come back.”
Johnson returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown and finished with 102 return yards in UNT’s season-ending loss to UTEP. He burst on to the scene at UNT when he returned four kickoffs and a punt for 168 total yards in a loss to Louisiana Tech in the Mean Green’s ninth game of the year.
UNT settled on Johnson as its primary return man late in the season after struggling to find a spark in the return game earlier in the year.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.