Spring Scouting Report: Quarterbacks
Six Signal-Callers Open Spring Ball With Something To Prove
DENTON - The Mean Green opened spring practice earlier this week following a successful turnaround season in year one of the Seth Littrell era. North Texas has its fair share of new faces, as most programs do this time of year, both on the field, and on the coaching staff. The quarterback position is no different. Two new quarterbacks are on the roster this spring, and one key component of the 2016 team has graduated, in Alec Morris.
MeanGreenSports.com will take a look at the quarterback position as a whole, as the jockeying for positions commences.
Littrell has maintained that the players who earn the time will play, and quarterback is no different, regardless of seniority or any other factors.
First, here’s what we know. Only two of the six quarterbacks currently on the roster have taken a snap at this level, sophomore Mason Fine and redshirt senior Quinn Shanbour. Returning from a year ago are senior Devin O’Hara, who missed the 2016 season due to injury, and redshirt freshman Mitch Cason. Two new faces are also in the fold, and both have intriguing upside in their own right, as redshirt junior Devlin Isadore and true freshman Cade Pearson arrive in Denton.
Mason Fine – SO – 5’11” – 173
Fine burst onto the scene in fall camp in 2016, shredding any plans of a potential redshirt through his work both on the field and in the meeting room. Though Morris, a graduate transfer from Alabama, was named the team’s starter for the opening game against SMU, Fine’s performance on the practice field earned him some time in the fourth quarter on Sept. 3. The freshman did not disappoint, leading an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive where he completed 8-of-11 passes for 74 yards. Fast forward to the next week and he was the first true freshman to start at quarterback for the Mean Green since Giovanni Vizza did so in 2007.
Fine appeared in 10 games, nine of which were starts, completing 155-of-261 passes for 1,572 yards and six touchdowns with five interceptions. He also added 118 yards on the ground to go along with two more touchdowns on his way to All-Freshman recognition from Conference USA. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury at Western Kentucky in November and is a full participant this spring.
The Locust Grove, Oklahoma, native has the most in-game experience of the group, has a full season of offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s offense under his belt, and despite questions about his size, showed a lot of toughness throughout a season where he took a pounding. His mobility at the position adds a dynamic that is certainly a plus, and a commitment to continuing to improve his accuracy (59.4 percent) should put him in a good spot in his quest to remain the starter.
Quinn Shanbour – Redshirt SR – 6’0” – 194
Shanbour is the only other quarterback besides Fine on the roster to have taken a snap against Football Bowl Subdivision competition, having made his collegiate debut at Western Kentucky on November 12, 2016. He attempted just one pass, an incompletion, and had one carry for no gain. The former Heritage Hall High School (Oklahoma City) standout was key for the Mean Green in 2016, leading the scout team on several occasions.
Like Fine, Shanbour has the capability to escape the pocket at times, and has also spent a full season in the offensive system, which gives him a leg up on some of the new faces in Denton.
Devin O’Hara – SR – 6’5” – 210
O’Hara transferred to North Texas following two successful seasons at the College of DuPage in his native Illinois, but missed the entire 2016 season due to injury. Still limited in practice, the 6’5” senior was ranked in the top three nationally in the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) in completion percentage as a sophomore. He had a strong start to fall camp last season, but at this point, especially still coming back from injury, is a bit of an unknown commodity.
Mitch Cason – Redshirt FR – 6’2” – 191
Cason redshirted during the 2016 season in Denton. A first-team all-district honoree as a senior at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Cason threw for over 2,200 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has seen a fair amount of action early on in the spring practices, getting some reps during the team portion of the practices.
Devlin Isadore – Redshirt JR – 6’4” – 228
Isadore was rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports, and joins the Mean Green after spending two seasons at Navarro College in Corsicana. Isadore is working his way back from a knee injury suffered during his sophomore season with the Bulldogs, and has been limited a bit in the early stages of the spring.
When healthy, Isadore completed 211-of-378 passes for 2,942 yards and 26 touchdowns at Navarro, with 12 interceptions over two seasons. The bulk of that came as a freshman, where he garnered attention from several power five suitors. He played just three games in 2016 prior to his injury.
In the early-going in Denton, he has showcased his arm-strength, routinely hitting his receivers in stride on deep balls. Assuming he continues to progress health-wise, Isadore should be in the mix to play a significant role with the Mean Green this coming fall. The potential is certainly evident out on the practice field.
Cade Pearson – FR – 6’3” – 205
Pearson is an early enrollee, who joins North Texas after a standout career at Texas High School (Texarkana) that saw him start each of his final three seasons. As a senior this past fall, Pearson led his team to a 10-1 record and playoff appearance, completing 63.7 percent of his passes (149-of-234) for 2,400 yards with 24 touchdowns to only three interceptions.
The freshman appeared to acclimate himself well to spring ball, seeming very comfortable early on the field. At 6’3”, Pearson possesses the height necessary to see over the line, and his accuracy is a major-plus. He also has a lot of experience in a similar system to what the Mean Green run, so he is facing less of a learning curve than someone coming from a different background. He doesn’t have top-end speed, but is mobile enough to get out of trouble and keep defenders honest. As he continues to put weight on through the strength and conditioning program, he should be able to continue to improve his arm-strength.
Confidence will not be a problem with Pearson, following signing day, he said:
“They’re going to pass it a whole lot, and that’s something I want to be around, and after I win the job, I’m going to pursue the next level.”
Pearson will have a good opportunity to prove himself this spring, and is looking to compete not just for a spot on the depth chart, but a chance to be on the field this fall.
The Mean Green have a lot of intrigue at the quarterback position, and we will revisit the state of the group ahead of the Green-White Scrimmage on April 8. In the meantime, as the group matures and develops, it should be a fun few weeks.