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North Texas yet to name starting QB as position battle heats up

North Texas yet to name starting QB as position battle heats up

Freshman quarterback Mason Fine throws the ball during a scrimmage. Fine had a total of 1572 yards in 10 games last season.

North Texas yet to name starting QB as position battle heats up
August 18
16:22 2017

Quinn Shanbour isn’t going down without a fight.

Despite the veteran quarterback seeing action in just one game throughout four seasons at North Texas, Seth Littrell and the rest of the Mean Green coaching staff insist he is making a run for the starting job this fall.

All signs appear to point to sophomore Mason Fine getting the nod in the season opener against Lamar on Sept. 2 after he started nine games and threw for 1,572 yards and six touchdowns as a true freshman last season. But heading into the third scrimmage of fall camp Saturday, Littrell has yet to name a starter.

“Quinn has really come along,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “I think Quinn had the best spring of any quarterback we had. It’s been great competition [between Fine and Shanbour], and they’ve got to make sure they focus every day and manage the offense.”

Redshirt junior quarterback Quinn Shanbour (19) looks for a wide receiver downfield to pass to during the North Texas spring game. File

In the team’s most recent scrimmage on Aug. 12, Fine had one of his best performances of the month when he completed 9 of 12 passes for two touchdowns early on. But without the job firmly in hand, the sophomore is focused on continuing to improve.

Fine certainly has the edge in experience and first-team reps throughout his short career, but he understands the starting spot is not something he has locked up yet.

“Everyday it’s a battle,” Fine said. “The way I look at it is you just have to focus on you, if you’re executing, if you’re doing what the coaches are asking, then that’s all you can do. I’m just focusing on me and letting the coaches evaluate.”

The players’ similarities on the field are apparent when watching them in practice. Both execute the read-option well out of the shotgun and both have some mobility, giving them the ability to extend plays for the offense.

When it comes to throwing the ball, Fine has a more fluid set of mechanics. But Shanbour has a bigger frame, allowing him to more consistently absorb contact.

Fine, who is listed at 5-11, 180 lbs., missed the final three games of last season after taking a hit against Western Kentucky that sent him to the sidelines with a shoulder injury.

“They’re really similar players,” offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said. “Quinn’s a little bigger and stronger in the run game just because he can take more of a hit, but [Fine] can run too. [Fine] is more of a natural passer but both have very strong arms.”

By not naming a starter three weeks into practices, Littrell and the coaching staff are able to let the competition play itself out. Littrell preaches the value of competition and uses it as fuel for the team each day, and this quarterback jostling is what he wants to see from his team early in the season.

While Shanbour has been around the team for a while, his most impressive performances have come in each of the last two spring games. This year, he led all quarterbacks while throwing for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

Shanbour appeared to be battling for the starting job with Alec Morris prior to last season, and Littrell didn’t announce Morris as the starter until just a few days prior to the team’s opening game against SMU.

“[The competition] has been great this year,” Shanbour said. “Honesty, in year’s past there’s been malintent towards other people, but it doesn’t feel like that this fall camp. Mason is my best friend, I’m still over at his house every day, so between me and him it’s same old same old, and that’s the biggest difference in this year’s competition.”

While Fine holds an edge based on his game experience and upside as a sophomore, the team is doing just what Littrell wants – feeding off the competition. Both quarterbacks are aiming for the keys to the Mean Green offense, and Fine and Shanbour’s hard work has made an impact on the rest of the team.

“Everyone gets better through competition at every position,” senior wide receiver Turner Smiley said. “To see both of them competing, because both of them want to play and only one can play, that’s impressive to me. I’ll be just as surprised to see who wins the job as anyone else.”

While only one will enter the season as the starter, Harrell and Littrell believe both players will be important pieces for this year’s offense. A decision to declare the starter feels distant to the coaches despite the first game being just two weeks away.

Littrell insisted the indecision does no harm to the offense and Harrell echoed the sentiment while adding both will be ready when the time is right.

“They both have to prepare like they’re the guy every time,” Harrell said. “I don’t think it matters which one we say starts – the other will be ready to play.”

For now, Fine is presumably the frontrunner. But the quarterback position is still officially up in the air as the clock ticks down to kickoff on Sept. 2.

“We’ll announce [the starter] when the time is right,” Littrell said. “There’s still a lot of competition and practices left, so we’re just going to continue to see where we are once we finish out fall camp.”

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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