AAC doesn’t name a preseason all-league team, but here are UNT players who would have been worthy

Jul 24, 2023
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American Athletic Conference media days began Monday, marking another milestone as the 2023 season closes in.
Each league handles the preseason differently outside of some form of a poll that projects how the teams will finish.
Some leagues select a preseason all-conference team. Others put out a watch list of the top players in the league entering the season.
The American forgoes preseason recognition for players entirely. There is some sense in that. Preseason all-league teams are essentially a guess based on what players have done in the past.
But which North Texas players would be candidates for a preseason All-American Athletic Conference team?
Here are several …
Ridge Texada, cornerback
Texada put up huge numbers last season when he broke up 15 passes and intercepted three more.
The 5-foot-8 junior got plenty of opportunities to make plays after being targeted early and often. He capitalized on several occasions and was the biggest reason UNT beat Florida Atlantic last season.
Texada intercepted two passes, returned one 58 yards for a touchdown and brought another back 60 yards to the FAU 1-yard line.
Teams did connect on a few key passes with Texada in coverage last season, which makes him something of a tough player to gauge.
Pro Football Focus has him as a third-team All-American Athletic Conference pick, while HERO Sports has Texada as a second-team All-American at the Group of Five level.
While where Texada ranks among players at the G5 level is something of a debate, the fact he’s among the most accomplished corners in the American isn’t.
Ayo Adeyi, running back
For years, UNT has benefited from having one of the best running back coaches at the Group of Five level in Patrick Cobbs.
The UNT Hall of Famer brings in one good running back after another to follow in his footsteps. When they get to UNT, they are almost all productive.
That can be the problem when it comes to having one of them recognized among the best players in league like the American.
Carries and the stats are typically spread out among multiple players at UNT. The Mean Green had three running backs finish with at least 580 rushing yards last season.
Adeyi certainly has the pedigree that would merit being included. He rushed for 807 yards and four touchdowns in 2022.
What really stands out about Adeyi, though, is that he averaged 7.2 yards per carry.
Febechi Nwaiwu, offensive line
Nwaiwu came out of nowhere last season to be named to multiple freshman All-American teams after starting nearly the entire season at guard.
UNT moved Nwaiwu to tackle in spring practice. He will have to prove that he can handle playing on the edge but still would have been a candidate to land on a preseason All-American Athletic Conference team.
Mazin Richards, defensive end
Preseason all-conference teams are all about stats, and Richards put up impressive totals last season.
The Eastern New Mexico transfer finished with 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2022.
Richards will move to defensive end in coordinator Matt Caponi’s 3-3-5 scheme this fall. The change could make it tougher for Richards to be a playmaker for the Mean Green. He’ll be taking on offensive tackles and multiple blockers this fall.
He has the talent to make the adjustment and the numbers that would have made him a candidate to land on a preseason all-conference team of players from the American.
Like Texada, Richards was a second-team selection on HERO Sports G5 All-American team.
Kaylon Horton, kick returner
Horton is another player who burst onto the scene for UNT last year.
The Mean Green were looking for someone to return kicks and plucked Horton off the transfer market from Tarleton State.
He returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown at UNLV and ended up ranking second in CUSA with an average of 25.9 yards per return.
Horton was a first-team All-CUSA selection last season and will be among the top kick returners in the American this season.
There are several other players UNT has returning who have impressive resumes, including offensive lineman Gabe Blair and running back Ikaika Ragsdale.
It would have been interesting to see if any of them would have made a Preseason All-American Athletic Conference team selected by the league’s coaches.
We’ll never know, but each will have a chance to prove themselves and make the All-American Athletic Conference team at the end of the season.

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