By Steven Bartolotta, March 23, 2011, 4:16 p.m.
Spring football is finally here. Yes anticipation is high it always is when a new coach starts his first year. No doubt everyone will analyze every position and player to death this spring. How big are the lineman? Who's the punt returner going to be? What color will the helmets be next year? Will Diet Coke boy return to the sidelines?
No offense to the other 21 positions out there, but there is only one thing I want to see taken care of this spring. Quarterback. Since Scott Hall departed after the 2004 season, the quarterback position at North Texas has been in constant flux, enough so to make Dr. Emmett Brown jealous.
One of the big draws of Todd Dodge in 2006 was his ability to develop superstar quarterbacks. In 2007 if you would have told me heading into his fourth season that his starting QB would be a former walk-on from the Darrell Dickey era I would have asked you when you had your lobotomy surgery. It was shocking, but further proof that since the days of Hall, North Texas hasn't had a steady force at the QB position.
Let's go over some numbers, shall we. From 2001 to 2004 Hall or Andrew Smith threw for 6,614 yards of passing. The total number of passing yards during that time was 6,923. Those two combined threw for 95.5 percent of the passing yards. That's stability at the most important position. Oh by the way, North Texas happened to win four straight conference titles.
Since then, the revolving door at QB has looked like this. Daniel Meager, Matt Phillips, Woody Wilson, Giovanni Vizza, Nathan Tune, Riley Dodge, Derek Thompson, and Chase Baine. Throw in the ill-fated adventures of Joey Byerly in the spring of '05 and that makes nine different quarterbacks in six seasons.
From 2001-04 either Hall or Smith accounted for no less than 88.8 percent of the total passing yards in a season.
NT Passing Yards Leader From 2001-04
2001- Hall 93.2 percent of total passing yards
2002- Smith- 90.8 percent of total passing yards
2003- Hall- 88.8 percent of total passing yards
2004- Hall- 96.1 percent of total passing yards
Only once since 2004 has a North Texas quarterback passed for more than 75 percent of the total passing yards in a season. That was in 2008 with Vizza.
NT Passing Yards Leader From 2005-10
2005- Meager- 66.1 percent of total passing yards
2006- Wilson- 38.2 percent of total passing yards
2007- Vizza- 68.6 percent of total passing yards
2008- Vizza- 97.5 percent of total passing yards
2009- Dodge- 73.6 percent of total passing yards
2010- Dodge- 58.3 percent of total passing yards
No wonder North Texas hasn't had a two-game winning streak since 2004. Yeah I know North Texas was a running based offense from 2001-06, but the point is to illustrate stability at the QB position.
That is what North Texas must accomplish this spring. More times than not, the QB by defacto is the leader of a team, and guess what, this team hasn't really had one since 2004.
Think of the recent success by TCU, Boise State, MTSU, and Troy. I bet every one of you can name their QB's during the last few years.
Coach McCarney has a huge overhaul project in front of him in a lot of areas, but it has to start at the QB position. It's really going to be a two-pony race this spring even though the roster has five (Derek Thompson, Brent Osborn, Chase Baine, and walk-on's John Dodson and Reagan Wood). Thompson or Osborn, which one will take control of the QB position leaving the spring and heading into the fall.
Coach Mac said he's looking for two guys he can trust at that position. I agree, and considering the amount of injuries this team suffered last year, that number might need to be three, just in case. But somebody has to be THE guy. Bottom line, name the best duo of rotating QB's to ever lead a team to a conference title? There isn't one. Like the old saying goes... "When you have two quarterbacks (or three, or four), you don't have one."
Even in 2003 when Hall was back after his knee injury and Smith fresh off a New Orleans Bowl win, the rotation of the two didn't work. Hall eventually took control and the team followed him back to another New Orleans Bowl.
A lot has changed since the days of Scott Hall and Andrew Smith and finding the right QB isn't easy. After six seasons of a turnstile at QB, now more than ever North Texas has to find some stability. And that's all I'm looking for this spring.