North Texas Daily

Football making strides as spring practice nears its close

Football making strides as spring practice nears its close

Football making strides as spring practice nears its close
April 07
13:00 2022

Two scrimmages and 10 practices are in the books as the football team approaches the end of spring practice and its Aug. 27 season opener inches closer.

North Texas (6-7, 5-3 Conference USA last season) is looking to continue building on the momentum gained late in the 2021 season. It rattled off five consecutive wins to reach bowl eligibility before falling 27-14 to Miami University  (Ohio) in the Frisco Football Classic. Newcomers and returners alike have been competing for individual roles and to collectively improve on last season’s results as the spring progresses.

“You always want the good back-and-forth,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “You never want it to be one-sided. I’ve seen it before and that’s never a good sign. I like the back-and-forth.”

Offensively, the team is looking to replace a trio of departed starters in former right tackle Jacob Brammer (transferred), former running back DeAndre Torrey (out of eligibility) and former tight end Jason Pirtle (out of eligibility). Returners look poised to fill each of those spots at this point with sophomore offensive lineman Jett Duncan, sophomore running back Ikaika Ragsdale and sophomore tight end Jake Roberts each seeing substantial time at the spots this spring.

Then on the defensive side, the Mean Green have lost six of 11 starters from a unit which allowed 27.5 points per game in 2021, a 15.5-point improvement from two seasons ago. Four of those lost starters came along the defensive line either due to graduation or transfer, opening up an opportunity for newcomers and returners alike to fill the gaps.

“Spring has been going really well,” junior cornerback John Davis said. “Our young guys are really, really stepping up. I like the way they’re looking. Then the transfers are looking really good. I think we’re making a lot of progress. If we can compete with this offense, we can compete with anybody.”

One player to carve out an increased role this spring is redshirt-freshman linebacker Sifa Leota at the “Devil” position, a hybrid between defensive lineman and linebacker. The 6-foot-2, 217-pounder appeared in one game last season as a walk-on from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas.

“We’ve gotten better this spring, there’s no doubt about it,” defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said. “[Leota has] really played well. He played four games his senior year of high school and was unanimous district MVP. He has play skills – he’s only 220 but I don’t worry about his weight. He’s fast, does what you ask him to do and plays under control.”

Sophomore wide receiver Dorian Morris is one offensive returner who Littrell said has been impactful throughout spring practice. Now heading into his fourth season on campus, Morris has seen playing time with the receivers this spring after shifting to the position from a defensive back role last fall. He has primarily appeared on special teams over his time at North Texas with six kickoff returns for 131 yards last season.

“[Morris is] really stretching the field, running fast,” Littrell said. “He’s way more comfortable transitioning over to receiver ball skill-wise, catching the football. I think he’s doing some really good things. He’s got a chance to be explosive.”

It remains to be seen whether these players are significant factors when fall rolls around, but they certainly seem to have made an impression on Bennett and Littrell. The Mean Green’s last major event of spring practice is the April 9 Spring Showcase, providing an early look at where the team stands exactly 20 weeks before its 2022 slate kicks off.

“Overall, the progress has been good,” Littrell said. “There’s definitely been improvement. I’m excited about where we’re at. If we can just stay healthy, we have a chance to have a really good football team.”

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John Fields

John Fields

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