North Texas Daily

New quarterback taking the reins

New quarterback taking the reins

October 23
15:54 2015

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceTapout15

The Mean Green quarterback carousel may be finally coming to an end. At least, that is what newly-appointed interim head coach Mike Canales and junior DaMarcus Smith hope.

North Texas has rolled out four different starting quarterbacks since its Heart of Dallas Bowl victory following the 2013 season, and so far the program has been unable to find an answer. In 2014, former head coach Dan McCarney used three different men under center, but none were able to get the Mean Green offense rolling, with the team scoring 21 points or fewer in seven of its games.

Enter DaMarcus Smith.

“I have to try and not worry about how the quarterback position has been here the last couple of years,” Smith said. “That can kind of mess with you mentally, especially with the struggles that we’ve had. But I know if I play my game and keep it simple, I’ll be fine.”

For Smith, the struggle was simply getting on the field, as the junior missed the entirety of spring practices after the NCAA ruled him ineligible.

Smith committed to North Texas in December of 2014 and officially completed his transfer at the end of the fall semester, taking classes in the spring of 2015 to earn his eligibility back. After being cleared by the NCAA in May, the quarterback was finally able to start taking snaps.

“He missed 15 practices and 25 days of football,” Canales said. “In the progress of his development as it took its shape, as a coach you’re like, ‘God I want to put him out there, but I can’t.’ When I felt like he had earned it and understood it, he really started coming along.”

Smith said he joined North Texas over other universities with the promise of being able to compete for the starting job.

“I understood I didn’t have much time left, and the clock was ticking,” Smith said. “So common sense, just seeing how the quarterback position was here, I said, ‘Hey this could possibly be an opportunity for me to go somewhere and compete to play.”

Before his arrival in Denton, Smith was a four star prospect out of Seneca High School in Louisville, Kentucky. The quarterback was verbally committed to the University of Louisville for much of his senior year before finally signing with the University of Central Florida, despite not playing a game there.

He then transferred to Western Kentucky, where he played behind Hilltoppers’ senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, whom many believe to be a National Football League prospect. After realizing he would have to live in Doughty’s shadow for a few more years, Smith transferred to Butler Junior College for the 2014 season, before finally ending up in Denton.

“[Doughty] and I were roommates, and he told me he wanted to come back. And I didn’t want to stay behind him for another three years,” Smith said. “I respect him. He’s a great quarterback. But I felt like I was ready. I think it was more of just a timing thing and making sure I got in the right system.”

Ironically enough, Smith’s first start in a Mean Green uniform came last Thursday night against Doughty and Western Kentucky. In a 55-28 loss, North Texas’ newest field general accounted for all four Mean Green touchdowns, piling up 350 all-purpose yards.

Junior defensive end Jarrian Roberts said Smith creates numerous problems for opposing defenses and was happy to see the spark Smith gave the offense, which reached its highest point total of the season.

“As pass rushers, you can’t get behind [Smith]. You have to stay in your lanes,” Roberts said. “He’s dangerous when he gets outside the pocket. Very shifty.”

Canales agreed and added that Smith has one of the strongest arms he has ever been around. The statement was validated when the quarterback connected on a 46-yard Hail Mary touchdown to end the first half against Western Kentucky.

“He gives us the ability to really push the ball down the field and take some shots,” Canales said.

Both Canales and Roberts describe Smith as a competitive, assertive player who believes he can win any game he plays in. It’s a stark contrast to the “quiet competitiveness” Canales used to describe senior quarterback Andrew McNulty, who started the first five games of the year.

“He just brings a confidence about him that he truly believes he can win every game,” Canales said. “He hates to lose in drills, and he believes he can will the team to win with his performance.”

Even though North Texas has yet to win a game this season, Smith said he remains focused on taking advantage of his opportunity to play football.

That’s what matters most to Smith, regardless of the school’s national reputation.

“I needed to make sure I would get an opportunity to get on that stage where I could prove myself,” Smith said. “And that’s what made it easy on deciding to come to North Texas.”

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