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Littrell, vet Smiley like what they see from young skill players in scrimmage

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

The hope for North Texas heading into its second major scrimmage of fall practice was that it would show a little more pep in its step offensively.

That is just what transpired Saturday during a workout that lasted about 100 plays at Apogee Stadium, thanks in large part to some key additions.

Starting quarterback Mason Fine hit Jalen Guyton for a 25-yard touchdown and connected with Greg White from 19 yards out. Seeing Guyton and White come through was a positive sign for UNT, which will depend on the pair of newcomers and several other recent additions this fall.

UNT coach Seth Littrell said the scrimmage was much better overall compared to their its scrimmage of fall drills. He particularly was pleased with the offense, which took a significant step forward.

"This has been our best week offensively," Littrell said. "We put together three or four good practices and finished it off with a good scrimmage."

UNT knew it would need some time to settle in offensively this fall. The team lost three of its top four wide receivers from last year and had to get Fine back up to speed. 

The Oklahoma native missed the final three games of 2016 with a shoulder injury. He resumed practice during the spring but just now appears to be getting back to the form that made him a member of Conference USA's All-Freshman Team.

Fine took most of the reps with UNT's first-team offense during the scrimmage. That extended playing time allowed him to continue to developing chemistry with Guyton, White and a host of other receivers he will rely on in his sophomore season.

Guyton arrived at UNT from Trinity Valley Community College at the midterm break. White is a freshman.

"The plays being made is just competition and the result of coming out here every day working with a good mentality and a positive attitude," Guyton said. "I push everyone around me to be better when they step off the field than when they stepped on it."

That improvement has been particularly evident with some of UNT's freshmen and newcomers.

Few people on UNT's roster have a better perspective on how those players are developing than Turner Smiley. The senior has been a key playmaker for UNT over the past three years. He caught 33 passes for 389 yards and two touchdowns last season and is the team's leading returning wide receiver.

The question for UNT is whether it has the players to complement one of its top returning playmakers.

Smiley expressed confidence UNT has those players following Saturday's workout.

"The new guys are coming on," Smiley said. "This is the best wide receiver corps we have had since I have been here. Jalen Guyton is a talent, Greg White is really athletic. We also have Rico Bussey, O'Keeron [Rutherford] and Kam Duhon. We have a bunch of guys who can play at this level."

Littrell said he also has been impressed with Jaelon Darden in practice and hopes to get the speedy freshman slot receiver more involved.

Darden and White barely have had time to adjust to playing on the college level. Seeing both making plays in practice and in Saturday's scrimmage impressed Guyton.

"They have a lot going on mentally with learning the offense and adjusting to the college game," Guyton said. "If they are making plays now, they have nowhere to go but up."

Littrell excited about adding Brewer

UNT added former Lake Dallas standout and Kansas wide receiver Keegan Brewer to its roster late this week.

Littrell confirmed Saturday that Brewer will sit out the upcoming season to fulfill NCAA transfer rules, despite the fact he was a walk-on at Kansas. 

Brewer caught 15 passes for 86 yards last season as a freshman with the Jayhawks. 

The addition of Brewer is one Littrell is excited about.

"We are always looking to find good players," Littrell said. "He is coming back home and understands what we are trying to get accomplished here."

McDonald continues to impress

West Texas A&M transfer Colton McDonald continued to see time with UNT's first-team defense during Saturday's scrimmage. 

McDonald has fit in well with UNT's first-team unit and has made an impression in the process.

"McDonald has done some good things since he got here in the spring," Littrell said. "He is a smart kid and has put together some good days. He can help us."

Brammer coming on at right tackle

Jacob Brammer is among a few young offensive linemen who have made an impression on UNT's staff in the early part of fall practice.

The Richmond Foster product is seeing time with UNT's second team at right tackle.

"Some of our young offensively linemen are coming along," Littrell said. "Brammer is settling on the right side. All of those freshmen offensive linemen have a chance to be good."

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.