North Texas Daily

With starting job in hand, Fine aims for sophomore surge

With starting job in hand, Fine aims for sophomore surge

Freshman quarterback Mason Fine (6) throws to the outside late in the game against MTSU. Fine finished with 303 yards and a touchdown. Colin Mitchell

With starting job in hand, Fine aims for sophomore surge
August 29
17:48 2017

The first-team reps over the past few weeks were indicators pointing toward sophomore quarterback Mason Fine, but it’s finally official. Head coach Seth Littrell announced Tuesday Fine will start the season opener against Lamar at his first press conference of the year.

“I think [Fine] has had an unbelievable camp,” Littrell said. “His leadership has gotten better, and he far and away has had the best fall camp [of the quarterbacks].”

The decision wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but Littrell and the rest of the coaching staff insisted redshirt junior Quinn Shanbour was competing for the starting job and looked good throughout the spring and early parts of the fall. Fine started to get a feel for which way Littrell was leaning as his share of snaps with the first-team offense became more dominant throughout August.

“It feels good,” Fine said. “It shows that your hard work has paid off, I think I had a decent fall camp and you could kind of tell by the reps going out.”

After a shoulder injury last season knocked him out of the last three games in 2016, Fine needed a strong comeback. It took some time for him to regain his footing, and when he returned to practice he found himself in a competition with one of his closest friends.

Fine and Shanbour hangout outside of football almost every day. But during media day on Aug. 21, Fine displayed his competitive nature while also showing a willingness to improve.

“It’s a competition, and me and Quinn understand that,” Fine said. “We handle that very well and both of us push each other. It’s just good competition, we don’t get nasty about it but we have to win a job.”

The competition ended up benefiting both Fine and Shanbour. Littrell said he expects Shanbour to have a role on this team as a leader and added he is comfortable with Shanbour taking over the offense if Fine were to go down with an injury.

The shoulder injury that forced Fine off the field last season is almost an afterthought for the young quarterback heading into the new season, but Fine admitted it made him put a lot of work in to get to this point in the days leading up to the opener.

“I felt like it was a long offseason,” Fine said. “There’s a lot of time between when I had my injury and this first game, [but] I felt like I gave 100 percent rehabbing it. I kind of had a slow spring but I bounced back in this fall camp and I’m ready to be out there. I’m ready to be back.”

A year ago, Fine was thrown into the fire as a freshman and his best attribute appeared to be his legs. Now, especially after his recent injury, Fine will lean on the running backs to handle the bulk of the carries offensively.

With a full year under his belt and a better handle on the offense, Fine can now focus more on being a leader – a task he conceded is tough with his quiet personality.

Redshirt sophomore Jalen Guyton has been impressed with his quarterback’s ability to captain the offense both with his arm and his actions as a leader.

“Mason knows how to conduct our offense,” Guyton said. “Just like a quarterback should, he comes in poised, keeps his composure and knows what he’s doing in the offense. Mason’s not really a vocal leader, he’s a lead by example guy.”

Guyton, who caught 45 passes for 968 yards and 12 touchdowns last year at Trinity Valley Junior College, is one of the receivers Fine will be able to rely on to make plays throughout the season. The receiving corps has developed a rhythm with Fine as August has progressed, despite the majority of the key players being new to the starting lineup.

“[Our chemistry] is good,” Guyton said. “His chemistry with receivers goes as far as chemistry with his whole offense. He’s comfortable with every single one of us and I feel like he’s comfortable dropping back and giving it to [any] of us.”

After showing some freshman growing pains a few times last season, Fine is expected to be more polished this season.

Now that he’s firmly locked in as the team’s starter, all eyes are going to be on the second-year quarterback from Oklahoma to take the next step forward.

“I don’t feel a whole lot of pressure,” Fine said. “I’m just going to go out there and do what I do.”

Featured Image: Freshman quarterback Mason Fine (6) throws to the outside late in the game against MTSU last season. Fine finished with 303 yards and a touchdown. Colin Mitchell

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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