Caught up with Todd Dodge and UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal today. Sun Belt Conference preseason media days for football start Monday in New Orleans, so it was time to reconnect a bit.
Some interesting stuff:
1. Defensive end Alonzo Horton (6-4, 260), a transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College, won't be coming to UNT after not completing his associate's degree. Horton was expected to step in immediately next month at one DE spot. His absence and the recent departure of starting DE Eddrick Gilmore for undisclosed reasons are obviously tough blows. Working out In Denton for the past month or so has been Mack Cole, a 6-5, 245-pound end who will officially transfer from Fort Scott (Kan.) CC when he enrolls at UNT in August. Cole hasn't actually signed with UNT; the date for doing so has long passed. He was an honorable-mention All-Jayhawk Conference pick last year, forming a strong DE tandem that received several looks from D-I schools. For whatever reason, Cole and UNT made a match late in the game, and it's good thing for the Mean Green. Ryan Davenport and Sam Owusu-Heming just became very crucial pieces of the puzzle, too.
Dodge mentioned OL Troy Franklin of Celina, 6-5, 270 when he signed, as potentially moving to DT if the need arises. For now, UNT is a little thin on the interior, and apparently Franklin has grown somewhat since February (horizontally, not vertically).
2. Two walk-ons that would have helped UNT have departed. OL Jack Crumes saw time with the first and second teams this spring but won't be back. Thomas Moreland, last year's starting kicker, is gone. UNT had him penciled for mostly extra-point work in 2008. New signee Jeremy Knott took over field goals in the spring and should handle everything now.
3. Dodge continues to rave about new arrivals, in particular DB Kylie Hill, DB/KR James Hamilton, DB Royce Hill, DB Adryan Adams, DB Justin Edwards...see a pattern?
4. If Dodge is right, LB Craig Robertson -- probably this season -- will be UNT's next truly great defensive player. UNT's great one on offense, WR Casey Fitzgerald, has his post-football life already mapped out. He'll finish next season, student teach in the spring and join the high school (or middle school) coaching ranks in 2009. Hey Casey, good luck, but don't rule out playing on some pro level just yet.
5. Last but never least is stadium talk. Villarreal and company are still shooting for a 2010 groundbreaking. The design process continues with UNT's architect, but enough particulars are nailed down that a firm in Colorado has been contracted to market a stadium to potential naming-rights sponsors. Essentially, the firm is "recruiting" companies in -- let's imagine -- the soft-drink, telecomm/technology, energy, food, financial, large retail or other regional industries with the lure of potential exposure (or "hits" as the marketing types call it) of splashing one's name all over scoreboards, concourses, a stadium's exterior, field- or club-level ads, a press box or wherever. Villarreal also said that until a football stadium rises up on the old UNT golf course south of I-35W/I-35E, baseball is on hold.
As for my take (not Villarreal's): If UNT wants a stadium, it needs a naming sponsor. It's the only way UNT will have the necessary seed money to get the stadium off the ground, and the school won't even touch the issue of financing through a student-fee increase until all other private/corporate options are exhausted.