Derek Thompson will begin his senior season at North Texas the same way he spent the last two — as the Mean Green’s starting quarterback.
Thompson, who faced an offseason of doubt, officially emerged as the winner of a heated quarterback competition on Monday, when head coach Dan McCarney named him UNT’s starter for its season opener Saturday against Idaho.
“We feel good about the improvement and the consistency Derek has shown in camp,” McCarney said. “I’m really proud of what he has done the last few weeks.”
Thompson ranks sixth in UNT history with 4,551 passing yards. He threw for 2,649 yards as a junior last season, a total that ranks fourth in school history.
Those yards didn’t translate into points and wins often enough for UNT, which finished 4-8 last year while averaging 20.9 points a game.
Thompson threw as many interceptions as touchdowns — 14.
Those struggles led McCarney to open up competition for the starting job heading into spring practice when Thompson competed with backup Andrew McNulty.
Brock Berglund, a Kansas transfer who missed most of spring practice with a hamstring injury, and freshman Dajon Williams joined the competition for the starting job in the fall.
“I never lost confidence in myself,” Thompson said before the beginning of fall practice. “That might not be the case in the public’s eye, but I know that I have done enough this offseason to be ready to start this year.”
Thompson showed that was the case during fall workouts.
McCarney and several of UNT’s offensive players praised Thompson’s performance at different points of fall camp.
McCarney called Thompson’s outing in the Mean Green’s second scrimmage of fall practice on Aug. 17 his best of the preseason.
Thompson essentially wrapped up the starting role for UNT’s season opener a week later in the Mean Green’s annual mock game, a final tuneup for the first game of the season.
“Derek has handled it really well,” McCarney said of the offseason competition. “He is a grown man and has acted that way. He is mature and is a good leader for our football team.”
The approach helped Thompson build on his junior-year performance.
“Derek will be the first one to tell you that he didn’t play well enough in 2012 for our team, or specifically our offense,” McCarney said. “When you throw as many interceptions as touchdowns, that is not good enough.
“He needed to make some tremendous improvement. That is what we hoped he would do and he has.”
McCarney credited Thompson’s improvement largely to the performance of his other quarterbacks, who he said would rotate with the second team as UNT continues to prepare for its opener.
McCarney said during the early stages of fall practice that he didn’t plan on redshirting Williams, a former Pflugerville Connally standout.
“Derek has faced some real competition and has gotten better,” McCarney said. “He had to. If he brought his B or C or D game, he was going to get beat out. He has been very consistent and deserves to start Saturday night.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.