UNT has lost more than 20 players to the transfer portal — here’s why
University of North Texas football coach Eric Morris was speaking about what was to come in the days leading up to the Mean Green’s recent season finale against Alabama-Birmingham when he turned his attention to recruiting as well as name, image and likeness opportunities for players.
Morris started out as a player and coach in the days when high school football standouts signed with colleges and typically played four years at one school in exchange for a scholarship.
Those days are long gone now.
“Things have changed and changed extremely fast with the transfer portal and NIL,” Morris said. “Any time the pendulum swings so fast and we go from saying players can’t transfer at all to opening the floodgates, and from not being able to pay them at all to opening the floodgates there, too, you’re going to have chaos.”
That is exactly what UNT experienced this week after the NCAA transfer portal opened.
The Mean Green lost a host of star players, including wide receiver Ja’Mori Maclin, running back Ayo Adeyi and offensive lineman Febechi Nwaiwu. Quarterback Chandler Rogers followed a short time later after throwing for 3,383 yards in his debut season at UNT.
By the time the weekend rolled around, more than 20 UNT players had hit the transfer portal, one of the top totals among Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country.
How did UNT end up there?
There’s no simple answer, but there are a host of factors that helped land UNT in a less-than-ideal spot.
UNT has a handful of elite portal targets
Teams at the top of the college football world are looking for a specific type of player when they gaze down from on high at teams like UNT that compete at the Group of Five level.
They want players who are proven commodities and are interested in proving themselves at a higher level.
Rogers was arguably the best quarterback in the American Athletic Conference this season. Nwaiwu and center Ethan Miner are among the top offensive linemen on the transfer market.
Maclin is another elite talent. The scholarship offers those players have picked up since they entered the portal show just how sought after they are.
Miner is visiting Mississippi State this weekend. Nwaiwu has been offered by Oklahoma and Maclin by Louisiana State.
UNT is always going to have a hard time holding on to elite players who have the chance to move on and play in the Southeastern Conference.
UNT was bound to remake the roster
UNT lost a number of players it was certainly not excited to see depart, but it’s not a surprise that some of the players deeper down the depth chart have moved on.
Morris and UNT’s staff didn’t arrive until late last year and lacked the time necessary to rework the roster to fit their needs. They recruited only a handful of players in their first recruiting class.
UNT also installed a new 3-3-5 defensive scheme. Morris talked all season about how the Mean Green didn’t have the players they needed on that side of the ball.
The NCAA also put in a two-year moratorium on the 25-player limit per signing class in the spring of 2022.
Morris and his staff have the unique opportunity to remake UNT’s roster in the next few weeks. The only limit in place is the 85-man scholarship limit.
There was no question that UNT would look to capitalize after a 5-7 season. The Mean Green’s staff pointed to spots in their lineup where they saw talent deficiencies all season.
UNT was also bound to have at least a few players who did not connect with a new staff and decided to move on. Those factors only added to the turnover UNT is experiencing.
UNT doesn’t have the NIL assets to compete
A group of UNT boosters turned over management of the Light the Tower Collective to TheLinkU over the summer. The group that is run by a group of Houston alumni is in the process of launching a campaign to support NIL opportunities for UNT’s football program.
The group has made some headway and began its campaign with $110,000 in funding after partnering with a pair of local businesses.
UNT just doesn’t have the NIL backing to compete with some of the programs looking to poach its players.
UNT athletic director Jared Mosley pointed to the importance of NIL this fall.
“NIL is extremely important in the college landscape today, and it’s here to stay,” Mosley said in a video UNT posted to its social media accounts. “It’s important to continue supporting our student-athletes and providing them opportunities while they are here at UNT.”
The Mean Green don’t have those assets in place yet in support their football program. Morris pointed that out this fall, saying UNT needs to grow in that regard.
Morris told us that the next few weeks in college football were going to be wild. That has certainly been the case at UNT.
The challenge now for the Mean Green is to find a way to emerge from what was a hectic week by making significant progress on a roster rebuild that is now clearly underway.
“Just keep #hUNTing,” UNT director of recruiting Justin Owens posted to his X account. “That’s all we can do.”