North Texas has spent the last few months waiting for a moment when one of its quarterbacks begins to pull away in what has been a razor-tight race for the starting job.
Veteran backup Andrew McNulty and JUCO transfer Josh Greer emerged as the frontrunners during spring practice, but never quite pulled away from redshirt freshman Dajon Williams or freshman Connor Means.
All four entered fall practice in the hunt to take over for Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP Derek Thompson and will have their best opportunity yet to shine today, when the Mean Green will go through the first of two key scrimmages at Apogee Stadium.
UNT is expected to run up to 120 plays beginning at 9:40 a.m. in a closed workout.
“We have a good rotation going,” UNT coach Dan McCarney said. “Dajon has definitely improved from what we saw in the spring, but right now McNulty and Greer have the advantage because that is where they were coming out of spring ball. They have a little better grasp of everything right now.”
The progress all four have made is good news for UNT, which must find a new leader for its offense for the first time in three years. Thompson started 37 games in his career, including all 13 last season.
Experience was one of Thompson’s biggest assets heading into his senior season. To say that experience paid off might be a bit of an understatement.
Thompson wasn’t always spectacular, but he was solid and guided the Mean Green to its first bowl win since 2002, a 36-14 decision over UNLV.
Today’s workout will be an opportunity to get UNT’s quarterbacks a little more of the precious experience they lack, even if it is only in a scrimmage. McNulty has thrown just six passes in the last two seasons combined, while Greer arrived in December after playing six games as a freshman at Navarro College.
Williams played in one game during his first season with the Mean Green, while Means enrolled in December after graduating from high school halfway through his senior year at Deer Park.
UNT’s hope all along was that one of those players would seize the job. The watch will continue today as what could be an extended race reaches a key point.
“We are going to go a good ways into camp before we decide,” McCarney said. “I feel a little better about all four of those cats. They all look better than they did in the spring.
“We are getting a lot of reps and evaluation.”
UNT to resume series with UTA
UNT’s on-again, off-again rivalry with Texas-Arlington in men’s basketball is back on.
The schools announced Friday that their series will resume in the 2015-16 campaign.
UNT will travel to College Park Center in 2015-16 for a game that originally was scheduled for the 2013-14 season. The game was postponed due to a scheduling conflict that season, when UNT was slated to play in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
The schools also agreed to an additional home-and-home series that will begin with the Mean Green hosting the Mavericks in the 2016-17 season. UNT then will play at UTA in 2017-18.
“I’m excited that we extended this rivalry another two years,” UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said in a statement.
UNT and UTA first played in 1925 and were members of the Southland Conference from 1983-96.
UNT leads the all-time series 30-23. The teams have split their last four games, with UTA winning handily in each of the last two meetings. The Mavericks beat the Mean Green 72-59 at the Super Pit in the 2012-13 season, a year after rolling to a 97-64 win in the Mean Green’s final game on the stage at Texas Hall.
“We’re extremely excited to renew our series with North Texas,” UTA athletic director Jim Baker said. “Playing a regional schedule of natural rivals is a positive for our program, our student-athletes and our fans.”
UNT officials say the familiarity the programs and players have with each other will add to the excitement surrounding the series.
“Many of our players have grown up playing with and against each other,” UNT coach Tony Benford said. “We really enjoy creating rivalries with quality local teams that our fans are very familiar with.”
UNT will face Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Stephen F. Austin and Texas Tech in nonconference play this season. Benford said UNT would like to add TCU and SMU to its schedule in the future.
UNT and UTA played every season from 2006-07 to 2012-13.
“North Texas has traditionally been a big rival for UTA fans and students,” Mavericks coach Scott Cross said. “We hope to sell out College Park Center in that first game.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.