North Texas Ready For Early Signing Day
Littrell, Staff To Begin Inking 2018 Recruiting Class On Wednesday
DENTON -- At this time a year ago, Seth Littrell and his staff were in the home stretch of a busy recruiting season coming off a bowl appearance in their first season and completing a turnaround from a 1-11 season in 2015.
With the advent of a new early signing period this year, the push to Wednesday's signing day -- more than a month earlier than previous years -- was accelerated to a break-neck pace with the timing of the Mean Green's appearance in last Saturday's New Orleans Bowl.
The appearance in the Conference USA championship game on Dec. 2, essentially gave the Mean Green's staff one weekend to devote to recruiting, and they made the most of it.
"It's a positive and a negative," Littrell said of the early signing period. "You're playing a championship game that first week of recruiting and you come back and get one week, and if you have an early bowl, you pretty much get one weekend before signing day.
"You're still trying to prep for a bowl and recruit," Littrell added. "But, they set the rules and we live by them. I can't sit and worry about it. Do I love it? No. But would I trade it for playing in championship game and a great bowl? Not a chance."
To follow all of the signings, check MeanGreenSports.com throughout Wednesday. We will have a special page, MeanGreenSports.com/signingday, dedicated this year's recruiting class.
Coming off two consecutive bowl appearances in Littrell's first two seasons, the Mean Green have seen an uptick in interest from recruits, especially on the heels of this season's West Division title and winning nine regular-season games -- the most for UNT since 2003.
The success has led to several positives for UNT in recruiting -- more early commitments and pledges from more highly touted recruits.
Director of recruiting David Stenklyft said last year's signing class included only a pair of commitments as late as August 2016. By August of this year, that number quadrupled. Seeing true freshmen like Jaelon Darden and Tyreke Davis contribute and junior-college transfers like Jalen Guyton and Kemon Hall excel has garnered more interest in the program.
"We've doubled our numbers in amount of kids coming to our home games," Stenklyft said. "When you're winning, and especially going undefeated at home, that creates a buzz around here. Kids are interested in the program and we had a bunch of early commits. Part of the jump in early commitments is the early signing period and part is us performing well and having a whole year and a half to develop relationships with the [high school] coaches. Our guys have done a great job getting out on the road and flying our colors and getting guys here on visits to see what we're all about."
247Sports Midlands region recruiting analyst Gabe Brooks said he has noticed a change in the quality of high school players who are showing interest in North Texas. Brooks said the Mean Green's offensive success under Littrell and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell -- something Littrell stressed when taking the job in December 2015 -- has increased interest.
"I know that I hear more kids mention North Texas than in the past, particularly when talking to players who will eventually be FBS-offered prospects who may not yet have offers," Brooks said. "That tells me North Texas is scouting and evaluating earlier than the previous staff did. The caliber of prospect I hear talking about North Texas has gradually gotten better in the past two years. Making the most of a (banner season) on the recruiting trail should reflect in the level of prospect and class, as a whole, that you see once the cycle concludes on National Signing Day (in February)."
The turnaround from 1-11 before Littrell arrived to two bowl appearances and in two short years has given the coaching staff plenty to sell to potential recruits. Littrell said the selling points have not changed since he arrived, but the ease of pitching them has increased because of tangible evidence.
"Getting them to understand, when you get here, we're going to compete for championships, a lot of that had to do with blind faith on their part when I got here," he said. "Now, I can look them in the face and say that. We've done it the last two years and we're going to continue to do it year in and year out. We're setting this up for continued success, not just a one-hit wonder.
"Plus, look at what we have to offer outside of football -- Tier 1 university, top 100 education in the country, great people and administration that will do everything necessary to take care of our student athletes. Everything we do is to make sure they're taken care of," Littrell added.
Stenklyft said with the Mean Green staff heading into its third season in Denton, expectations have changed and that attitude will be instilled in the new class, which will begin coming together Wednesday.
"Coach (Littrell) has talked about it. We want people to be upset if we're not back in conference championship next year," Stenklyft said. "That's our benchmark -- competing for championships, being undefeated at home and winning our bowl game. Those are our standards and the legacy these guys want to set. We have to live up to it. It's easy when you've never done it. Now's the hard part, doing it consistently because now that's what people expect out of you. You want that. You don't want people to be okay with being 6-6."
Littrell talked about what he is looking for in this year's recruiting class:
"Every year is different, depending on what you had and how the season went, it's ever-changing. I thought we signed a really good O-line class last year but we still were thin in some spots and I think that'll be a big area for us, even if we get a grad-transfer or a JC kid."
"Year in and year out, you have to get quarterbacks. I'm one of those guys that believes, I'm never going to have too many of those guys. Those guys will help you win and lose football games. You'll always have one transfer too, so you have to make your numbers are good there."
Running backs and wide receivers
"Our numbers are good at running back with young guys but we still have to get one more. We need at least two wide receivers, and I'd love an H-back, which we're probably going to hold until January if we don't get the one we want."
"Defensively, linebackers are a big need for us. I don't think our depth is great there right now. We took some kids this past year in the secondary, but we're signing more safeties. Defensive line, we're losing a couple of guys so we're really looking for some JC guys there, maybe a high school kid too depending on what's best available."