Dead period ends art

The NCAA lifted its ban on in-person recruiting on Tuesday, allowing colleges across the country to host recruits. The end of the ban that was put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to provide a boost for UNT, which has not been able to show off its facilities, including the Lovelace & McNatt Families Practice Facility, during the ban.

North Texas landed what might end up being its most important recruit of the 2021 cycle in college football in about as unconventional manner as possible.

North Carolina transfer quarterback Jace Ruder never set foot on campus before he committed to continue his career at UNT. He couldn’t due to the NCAA’s ban on in-person recruiting that was put into place on March 13, 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like most of UNT’s other 2021 recruits, Ruder talked to UNT coach Seth Littrell and his assistants on the phone and over Zoom in addition to researching the Mean Green’s program.

“Ultimately I was really comfortable with coming to Denton and working with coach Littrell,” Ruder said after he committed.

Ruder wasn’t the only recruit who felt that way. UNT landed Conference USA’s second-ranked class, according to 247Sports, largely because of the work Littrell and his staff put in.

The question then was what UNT could accomplish if it had a chance to host players on campus for visits and take advantage of some of its biggest selling points as a program.

The Mean Green are about to find out.

The NCAA lifted its ban on in-person recruiting on Tuesday, setting up what is expected to be one of the wildest periods for football recruiting in recent memory for programs across the country, including UNT.

The Mean Green have two players committed thus far, Guyer defensive end Vincent Paige and Skyline running back Qualon Farrar. That’s a great start for the Mean Green.

Both Paige and Farrar are ranked among the top 150 players in the state. Farrar is rated No. 34 on The Dallas Morning News‘ list of the top 50 players in the area.

UNT will look to build on that foundation while selling what it has to offer after significantly upgrading its facilities over the last few years.

UNT included a recruiting lounge in the Lovelace & McNatt Families Practice Facility that opened in fall of 2019. The NCAA instituted a recruiting dead period a short time later on March 13, 2020.

UNT has been looking forward to showing off its new venue ever since. The members of the Mean Green’s 2021 moved in over the weekend, clearing the way for UNT to focus on its 2022 class.

“Moved in our new guys this weekend and tomorrow we get to start welcoming some future Mean Green Family members to campus!,” Mackenzie Morris, UNT’s recruiting operations coordinator, wrote on her Twitter account. “It’s been a good couple of days. The wait is finally over!!”

The challenge for UNT now is building on the momentum it established in recruiting while putting together its 2021 class. Littrell credited UNT’s success largely to his staff when the school announced its early signing class last year.

“Our coaches have done a great job of building relationships and getting to know these kids and their families,” Littrell said. “That’s been the most important thing.”

UNT’s staff will have an opportunity to build those relationships in a much more conventional manner in addition to going out to see players at camps and events now that the ban on in-person recruiting is over.

Littrell will host his annual coaches clinic on June 10, giving him and his staff a chance to connect with high school coaches from across the state.

UNT has quite a story to sell to those coaches and their players thanks to the progress the Mean Green have made on and off the field. UNT played in a bowl game for the fourth time in five seasons last fall, when the Mean Green fell to Appalachian State in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.

UNT’s coaches now have the chance to talk to the players they hope will help them build on that history of success in person after the NCAA lifted its recruiting ban.

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

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