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North Texas football sifting through quarterback options as spring practice begins

North Texas football sifting through quarterback options as spring practice begins

March 30
22:03 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceWaddell15

The quarterback carousel at North Texas will continue for the foreseeable future.

After using three different signal callers in 2015 and having one of the worst offenses in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the quarterback position was an issue the Mean Green knew they would have to address in the off-season.

Despite bringing in graduate transfer Alec Morris from the University of Alabama and luring Mason Fine from Locust Grove High School in Oklahoma, North Texas does not appear to be any closer to solving its quarterback dilemma. Last week, at the first spring practice, head coach Seth Littrell declared the starting quarterback job an open one with no front-runner.

“There’s not a [favorite] right this second,” Littrell said. “With the new scheme and new offense, everybody has a fresh start. Once we get to fall camp, we don’t have to name anyone until then.”

One of the quarterbacks the Mean Green rolled out last season was junior DaMarcus Smith. A transfer from Butler Community College, Smith played in the team’s final seven games in 2015 and started six of them.

But two weeks before spring practice began, Smith and the Mean Green mutually parted ways, leaving North Texas with nobody who has started a game under center in Denton.

“Change is hard,” Littrell said. “If you’re a guy who doesn’t believe in those core concepts and our core beliefs, you’re probably not going to like me very much and you’re not going to be here very long.”

Smith was slated to compete for the starting job along with Morris and Fine, but a turbulent career ultimately resulted with his exit. With Smith out of the picture, the race to be North Texas’ next starting quarterback seems to be totally up for grabs – something that is fine by Morris.

“Obviously whoever steps up and is able to be the person that this team needs to win, they should be the person taking the snaps,” Morris said. “You can’t tell who’s going to play football without playing football.”

Morris attended Allen High School and was rated the 37th  best quarterback in his senior class by Rivals.com. Heavily recruited out of high school, Morris signed with Alabama University and redshirted his freshman year.

Even though he did not see much action with the Crimson Tide, Morris was on teams that won national championships in 2012 and 2015. Currently in his final season of collegiate eligibility, Morris brings a familiarity with the “Air Raid” offense Littrell is implementing at North Texas.

“It’s what my offense was back in high school,” Morris said. “It was definitely fun to get to throw the ball around the field.”

Morris and the coaching staff aren’t the only ones excited about the new offense. Under former head coach Dan McCarney, North Texas ran a pro-style offense, where wide receivers were almost equally as focused on blocking as running routes and catching passes.

With Littrell at the helm, the Mean Green will spread the field and air it out, giving receivers ample opportunities to make plays and showcase their abilities.

“I love this offense,” sophomore wide receiver Tee Goree said. “This is basically what receivers come to college football to play in. I’m excited to get going in this offense so we can go back to bowl games and championships. We have the pieces. We just got to put them together as players.”

Another key cog who has experience throwing the ball around is offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. The former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback was one of the first quarterbacks to run an exclusive “Air Raid” offense at Texas Tech University under then head coach Mike Leach.

Harrell hopes his knowledge of the system and the quarterback position will ease some of the growing pains associated with executing a new offense.

“I’ve stood right where they’ve stood and seen exactly what they’re seeing,” Harrell said. “It’s going to help and hopefully I can speed up their development because of that.”

With only a few practices under their belts, it remains unclear which quarterback will rise to the top and orchestrate the offense Saturday, September, 3 when North Texas hosts Southern Methodist University.

But no matter who lines up under center opening day, the Mean Green have something they lacked in 2015.

“[The quarterbacks] have a lot more leadership than what the quarterbacks last year had,” Goree said. “Alec, if you don’t know what you’re doing, he’s going to get on you. He’s got a bunch of leadership. I like Alec.”

Featured Image: Junior quarterback Damarcus Smith left the program giving other quarterbacks a chance to compete for the spot with fifth year senior Alec Morris. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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