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Competition still brewing: How two North Texas QB’s have continued competing for the starting job

Competition still brewing: How two North Texas QB’s have continued competing for the starting job

Competition still brewing: How two North Texas QB’s have continued competing for the starting job
November 13
18:38 2020

North Texas football throughout its 2020 season has stuck to a dual-quarterback offense between sophomores Austin Aune and Jason Bean, where the two continue to establish themselves as the full-time starter.

Following behind the footsteps of two-time former Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in Mason Fine, the two quarterbacks have carried the tradition this season leading the Mean Green offense to top offensive rankings within C-USA. Throughout five games played, the two quarterbacks combined for 19 touchdowns and 1,903 yards of total offense.

“It’s definitely not a bad problem for the program having two quarterbacks that can help us win because we knew we’d need them both to win games,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “As young players they’ll have some ups and downs, they’re going to have to fight through adversity. That’s where they come to the sidelines for a couple of [offensive] series to make improvements.”

In 2019, both quarterbacks played in limited action during mop-up duty, neither starting in a single game.

The first two games between Houston Baptist and SMU were game-time decisions on who would be the starter.

Aune emerged as the first official starter on the depth chart heading into Week 5 after throwing three touchdowns and producing 294 yards of offense against SMU. Bean did not take a snap in the first two C-USA matchups against Southern Miss and Charlotte.

Aune later lost the starting job to Bean after the offense committed three turnovers and trailed 28-14 against Middle Tennessee in the first half.

Bean completed the game with five touchdowns and 350 yards of total offense in a 52-35 comeback win and leading the offense to a record-breaking performance with 768 total yards. The Week 7 performance awarded Bean the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week and Earl Campbell Tyler Rose National Player of the Week.

“With things not really going well recently it felt really good getting to leave [the Middle Tennessee game] with a win and the team got to ride home happy,” Bean said in a post-game press conference. “I give credit to the coaching staff and my teammates on keeping me locked in whether I was in the game or not. That’s something they continue to tell us is to be ready every single day.”

As of the Week 11 start, North Texas ranks No. 1 in C-USA in total passing yards at 338.6 yards per game.

The focus of both quarterbacks in the offensive strategy is to consult each other during games and practices on what opposing defenses show. No hard feelings are taken between either quarterback of who gets the starting repetitions, the quarterbacks said. Whoever has the sideline view uses it as an opportunity for a coaching moment.

“The approach we both take is to slow the game down and get good looks on what the defenses are showing us,” Aune said. “We communicate with each other on what works and you build those kinds of relationships by being on the same page. When all of that comes together you’re not just a better offense, but overall you […] become a much better team.”

Routinely before and after practices, the two quarterbacks work with receivers on building chemistry. Both position groups agree communication and chemistry play a role in completing the routine passes on offense.

“A lot of people don’t know the designated plays [Aune and Bean] run are something all of us work on when the coaches or anyone else is not around,” senior receiver Jaelon Darden said. “Those throws they complete to me on my routes that you see in the game are just a simple pitch and catch routine we do on a daily basis. It doesn’t shock me for how well they’re playing this year.”

Letting two quarterbacks share starting reps is not the most common system in college football. The strategy offensively by the coaching staff is to rally behind experienced skilled players and the offensive line.

Running backs DeAndre Torrey and Tre Siggers each at one point rushed for over 850 yards in a single season.
Darden currently leads the NCAA FBS with 10 touchdown receptions, and sophomore Deonte Simpson is second on the team in touchdown receptions (three) and receiving yards (328).

“There’s not much focus to me for whoever is in at the quarterback position because everyone still has their job to do,” co-offensive coordinator Tommy Mainord said. “The way [co-offensive coordinator Mike Bloesch] and I see it is we will continually support [Littrell’s] decision of who takes the snaps. Those quarterbacks compete really hard and continue to impress us by improving each day and having the desire to win.”

Since the performance against Middle Tennessee, Littrell placed Bean as the starter each week on the depth chart despite two straight football games being postponed.

The possibility of Aune regaining his starting position is a possibility after Littrell said he bounced back in the following weeks of practice after being replaced.

“Both [Aune and Bean] have had some great games so far and struggled at some points but this is an opportunity for them to continue to get better,” Littrell said. “They’re both still young with their playing experience so there’s going to be some bumps in the road. Bean did a great job [against Middle Tennessee] so we’ll have to get him to build upon that performance by getting the guys around him to trust him and each man doing their job.”

Featured Images: Austin Aune (left) and Jason Bean (right) by Zachary Thomas

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Preston Rios

Preston Rios

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