North Texas had a much flashier brochure to help sell its football program to potential recruits in 2014.
Nine victories, a bowl triumph, attendance on the rise and renewed opportunities to be on television all aid the recruiting process.
“This program really permeates with character,” coach Dan McCarney said. “We could have used all the things that hadn’t been happening in years past and used it as an excuse. Or we could have taken all those things and made it our story. … We made it our story.
“And it’s a beautiful story.”
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So with those additional talking points, North Texas went out seeking to fortify a defense hit with a mass exodus of key senior performers.
The Mean Green signed 19 players Wednesday, including 10 who received up-close evaluations at North Texas’ summer camp last year.
North Texas’ template for defensive players is physical, relentless guys on the defensive front and speed at linebacker.
“You got to have some cats who can fly,” McCarney said. “I think we’ve addressed that and done a good job of that with this class.”
McCarney believes the program scored with Round Rock McNeil defensive lineman Tillman Johnson, a 6-foot-1, 243-pounder who had committed to Texas State but changed late.
“He was one of our favorites in our summer camps,” McCarney said. “We were not about to give up on this kid. He was one of the most impressive guys I saw.”
Tillman and T.J. Tauaalo, a 6-foot-2, 288-pound defensive tackle from Keller Central, were the program’s only defensive linemen signed.
The Mean Green also signed four receivers, including three-star recruit Fonzale Davis of Dallas South Oak Cliff and Tee Goree and O’Keeron Rutherford, both plucked off the roster of Class 3A state champion Carthage.
All three, plus Jalen Adams of Moore Southmoore, Okla., exemplify the speed and athleticism North Texas seeks. Rutherford is big with a long reach at 6-foot-4.
“We felt like Fonzale was one of the best we had seen at our camp and in the state of Texas,” McCarney said.
Some of these guys will be with the team when spring practice begins in March, while others won’t arrive until the summer.
They’ll all get a look, said McCarney, including two quarterback recruits, Navarro College transfer Josh Greer — an Arlington High graduate — and true freshman Connor Means of Deer Park.
There are no returning stars from North Texas’ breakthrough season that ended with a victory in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Everybody will compete for a position. The best will be in the lineup when North Texas takes the field for its first game at Texas.
“We don’t talk about redshirting anyone,” McCarney said. “Get ready to play in the Texas game. If you are ready, God bless you. If you’re not, we’re not mad at you; we’ll get you ready for next season.”