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North Texas coach Seth Littrell leads his team out of the locker room before a game against Rice last season. UNT will announce its early signing class tomorrow.

North Texas coach Seth Littrell and his players waited on pins and needles earlier this week before receiving some good news in the form of a berth in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.

Whether UNT would receive a bowl bid was a 50-50 proposition just a few days ago due to its 4-5 record. The Mean Green are now set to face Appalachian State on Monday and will look to build on the momentum that news provided Wednesday, the opening day of the NCAA’s early signing period.

The Mean Green are expected to announce a group of players who have signed their national letters of intent and will become the foundation for UNT’s 2021 recruiting class.

UNT enters national signing day with 14 players committed. The group ranks No. 4 among programs in Conference USA heading into national signing day according to 247Sports in what has been a highly unusual recruiting year.

The coronavirus pandemic forced schools to adjust their recruiting strategy. The NCAA granted players across the country an additional season of eligibility.

Seniors will be able to return for an additional year, and that is just one way the pandemic has changed recruiting.

Players were also limited in terms of visiting schools that were shut down for a large portion of the year.

Littrell has been pleased with the way Luke Walerius and his staff have handled those challenges. The UNT football program’s chief of staff manages the Mean Green’s recruiting operations.

“It’s always evolving,” Littrell said of recruiting earlier this year. “You are always looking to fill the holes on your roster. Luke does a great job along with his staff.”

UNT has several promising prospects among the 14 players it has committed and recently added highly regarded Guyer offensive lineman Gabe Blair. Houston Dekaney tight end Var’Keyes Gumms is UNT’s top-rated recruit heading into national signing day.

Blair was planning on signing with Colorado before the Buffaloes ran out of spots in their recruiting class for offensive linemen. He quickly turned to UNT when he started looking for a new destination.

“North Texas has started to turn it around the last couple of years,” Blair said when he committed. “That made me consider them more.”

UNT could add a few more prospects on the opening day of the early signing period as it looks to rebuild after a few players in its class backed out of their commitments. Lubbock Estacado wide receiver TJ Steele became the fifth player in the Class of 2021 to back out of his commitment to UNT late last month.

Steele committed to TCU and is among three players who were committed to UNT who have backed out and landed at Power Five programs. Pottsboro offensive lineman Silas Barr committed to Oklahoma State, while Haslet Eaton defensive end Jayden Gray committed to Iowa State.

There is a long way to go before Feb. 3, the date the traditional signing day falls on this year, rolls around and classes are solidified.

UNT will reach a key milestone along the way with the opening of the early signing period on Wednesday.

The Mean Green have momentum heading into the opening of the early period after grabbing a bowl bid for the fourth time in five seasons under Littrell.

UNT will look to build on that momentum Wednesday.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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