Kelvin Smith breakout

North Texas tight end Kelvin Smith (87) fights off tackles near the end zone during the Mean Green's loss to Utah State in the New Mexico Bowl last season at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque New Mexico.

A few weeks ago, we looked at five breakout candidates for the North Texas football team.

That list ran in the early stages of spring practice.

A lot has transpired since then, including the rise of a few players over the course of spring.

We also didn't include any incoming freshmen on that list.

We'll take another look at the Mean Green's best prospects for a breakout year today, this time under a different set of parameters. Incoming freshmen are eligible this time around.

We will also have the advantage of having seen everything that transpired over the course of the spring drills.

Those factors have elevated a couple of players on our list and dropped a few others.

Here's our top five heading into the summer:

1. Kelvin Smith, tight end

One of the big storylines heading into the spring was the idea that UNT would make the tight end a bigger part of its offense.

UNT added a tight ends coach in Adrian Mayes and brought in Bodie Reeder as its new offensive coordinator after Graham Harrell left for Southern Cal.

What transpired in the spring made it apparent that UNT will follow through with the plan to make tight ends a bigger part of the scheme. The Mean Green will play at a higher tempo, put a tight end on the field and substitute less.

That approach will offer Smith an opportunity to make his senior season memorable. He was highly productive last season while catching 29 passes for 269 yards. 

Smith could make a run at 50 catches this season.

2. D'Andre Plantin, offensive lineman

There might not be a more sure bet among UNT's newcomers to start in 2019 than Plantin, an offensive lineman who transferred in from Virginia Tech.

Plantin played both guard and tackle at Virginia Tech but never carved out a major role. He hit the graduate transfer market looking for a place to land where he could start in his final year.

Plantin and the Mean Green were a perfect match from the start. UNT lost two of the three tackles who started over the course of last season to graduation.

Plantin stepped in at left tackle and ended the spring atop the depth chart.

3. Greg White, wide receiver

UNT lost three of the five players on its depth chart at its two outside receiver spots after last season.

Jalen Guyton declared for the draft and signed with the Cowboys as a free agent. Cudjoe Young and Quinetin Jackson both graduated. 

The Mean Green have Rico Bussey Jr. coming back off a standout season that saw him lead the team in catches (68), receiving yards (1,017) and receiving touchdowns (12) while playing on the outside.

White caught seven passes for 87 yards and will have a chance to step into a much larger role. He was listed as a starter on the side opposite Bussey on UNT's depth chart following spring practice.

4. DeShawn Gaddie, cornerback

UNT had two cornerback jobs open heading into spring practice after Nate Brooks and Kemon Hall graduated and signed with the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Chargers, respectively. 

Keelan Crosby looked terrific early in spring practice before fading a bit. Cam Johnson came on late while Jordan Roberts and Quinn Whitlock also had their moments.

When it was all said and done, UNT had Roberts and Crosby listed as co-starters on one side with Johnson and Whitlock as co-starters on the other.

In other words, no one won a job.

Gaddie is one of the top recruits to sign with UNT in recent years. UNT coach Seth Littrell talked about how excited he is about some of his incoming freshmen, including Gaddie. 

It's a matter of if the Arlington Lamar product is ready physically. 

The safe bet is that he is.

5. Taylor Jacobs, linebacker

Jacobs is No. 5 on our list but he is in line to help UNT address its biggest concern -- the linebacker spot.

UNT lost two terrific linebackers in E.J. Ejiya and Brandon Garner to graduation.

The way the Mean Green put together their 2019 recruiting class was an indication of how big of a concern replacing that pair is.

UNT signed four linebackers for the second straight year and moved nickel back Tyreke Davis to linebacker as well.

Career backup Mike Linehan came out of spring as the starter on the weakside, where Ejiya thrived last season. William LeMasters, another career backup, was listed atop the depth chart at middle linebacker where he is a co-starter with KD Davis and Tyreke Davis.

It's the same story as the cornerback spots. No one won the job in the spring.

Jacobs was offered by Texas Tech and plays the inside linebacker spot, where UNT needs to replace Garner.

Outside linebackers Gabriel and Grayson Murphy of Bishop Lynch and inside linebacker Kevin Wood of Converse Judson will also have a chance to compete for starting jobs in their freshman seasons. 

Jacobs seems like the best bet to grab a starting job and break out in the fall.

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

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