North Texas Daily

Five observations: The spring game offered first real look at what can get better

Five observations: The spring game offered first real look at what can get better

April 08
17:03 2017

The sun was shining down on Apogee Stadium for the annual Green and White scrimmage for North Texas football. It was a perfect spring day for a spring game.

The Mean Green did not just go through the motions on Saturday, as they provided the first decent look at the 2017 squad. Here are five observations from what the Mean Green showed on Saturday.

1.) Wide-receiver corps is getting better.

One key area in which North Texas struggled last season was out wide. But if Saturday was any indication, things are looking much brighter. Sophomore Rico Bussey had eight catches for 146 yards and a touchdown to go with senior Turner Smiley’s four catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.

The Mean Green never quite had the threat of two receivers who could be explosive last year, but these two are primed. Add in former Notre Dame sophomore Jalen Guyton, who had four catches for 25 yards, and North Texas could finally have the depth it’s been looking for.

2.) Quarterback controversy?

Probably not, but sophomore Mason Fine struggled compared to the other two fighting for the starting job. Junior Quinn Shanbour and freshman Cade Pearson both looked good, and after the game head coach Seth Littrell did say that the best person would win the job. He also said that as of now, Shanbour and Fine are the top two candidates.

Fine finished 14-for-25 for 116 yards with an interception and a touchdown, while Shanbour finished 13-for-22 with two touchdowns and 253 yards. Pearson did just a hair better than Fine with a 13-for-18 day with a touchdown on 148 yards.

3.) Offensive line struggles continue.

The Mean Green struggled with offensive line depth last year and it could be the same problem yet again this season. The quarterbacks were constantly on the move leading to a couple of pass break-ups forced by linemen.

The defense also forced two turnovers and sacked the quarterbacks six times. Littrell said they dominated the offensive line at times, bringing me to my next point.

4.) Defense continues to be the team’s strongpoint. 

The defense dominated the first half of the game, forcing a fumble and picking Fine off. Junior linebacker Brandon Garner shined with nine tackles and two for loss. Senior corner Eric Jenkins had the lone pick. In his first real action with the Mean Green, sophomore tackle Bryce English picked up two sacks.

Senior linebacker Calvin Minor also looked good with three tackles and two sacks. The linebacker corps as a whole, which had a lot of question marks entering the game, forced a lot of pressure with blitzes. The defense picked up where it left off last season.

5.) Eric Keena may be sorely missed.

While it is tough to judge special teams in a scrimmage mainly because there was no pressure on the punter, Freshman punter Blake Patterson could not quite replicate the ability of now graduated punter Eric Keena.

Keena could always seem to flip the field when he was called upon, but with the wind, and a few other factors in play, Patterson never boomed a kick. Keena was a big reason why the defense was so strong last year. Teams faced a long field in front of them and, hopefully with time, Patterson will get there.

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Clay Massey

Clay Massey

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