Quarterback Competition Continues Into Second Fall Scrimmage
Canales, Quarterbacks Talk 'Healthy Competition'
DENTON — On the eve of the second scrimmage of fall camp, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Canales has been generally pleased with the offense, and it starts with the play of his quarterbacks.
“I’m looking for them to be great decision-makers,” Canales said. “They did that last Saturday, executing the offense, throwing good passes, making good reads and moving the chains. We had a great flow and great tempo.”
And when talking about the quarterbacks, a four-horse race with the addition of junior college transfer DaMarcus Smith, it starts with senior signal-caller Andrew McNulty. The most experienced quarterback on the roster, McNulty started the last six games last season and has taken a majority of snaps with the first-team offense this fall.
“I feel like I know more as far as offensive scheme and defensive scheme and what we’re trying to do as an offense and taking care of the football,” McNulty said. ”All of the experience that I have in the past has now propelled me forward and has helped me. It makes me feel more comfortable and relaxed. The game is slower. Hopefully, I can use all that experience on Saturdays this fall.”
“Mac has taken his game to a whole different level,” Canales said. “It’s almost like (Derek Thompson) with the confidence he had going into his senior year. He’s making all the right decisions and doing a great job of managing the offense. The guys are looking to him for leadership. They believe in him and they trust him that he’s going to put them in the right position to be successful.”
The Mean Green also return junior Josh Greer, who started the first three games last season, and freshman Connor Means, who redshirted last season. For Greer, it’s the first time in his college career that he has been in the same offensive system in consecutive years, having spent seasons at UAB and Navarro JC, before arriving at North Texas.
“When you first learn a new system and you’re out there, you have to think about everything that’s going, from where players line up, to signals, and then turning the signals into the play call, and then turning the play call into actually running the play,” Greer said. “Now, it’s second nature, so you can go out there and just play.”
“He has shown great toughness and great grit in the pocket now,” Canales said. “He understands the importance of staying in there and taking a shot, finding his indicators and making the right reads. He has shown good toughness. That’s what we wanted him to show, to build that trust with his teammates and coaches, and he’s definitely done that. He has that trust back.”
The newest addition to the quarterback competition is junior college transfer DaMarcus Smith, who arrived in January after stops at Central Florida, Western Kentucky, and most recently, Butler CC, but was ineligible to participate in spring practice with the Mean Green.
“It was disappointing for me,” Smith said. “It was a tough process to get through. I have been around a lot, so I have experience the ups and downs this level, so I was able to get through it, but it was pretty tough to go out there and watch them practice, knowing that I couldn’t be out there to get better.”
Like his fellow quarterbacks, he worked with his receivers during the summer, but fall camp has been his first opportunity to play with the offense in live situations. He has worked mostly with the second-team and third-team offense, but like Greer, he has also taken some snaps with the first-team offense.
“The biggest challenge for me is training my mind to be patient,” Smith said. “Even though I look at myself as a veteran and I wanted to come in and know everything and be comfortable and used to things, I had to understand that I’m still new and these other guys have been here, been through the fire and have worked in the offense for a year, or years in some cases.”
“I wish DaMarcus was a little bit further ahead, but let’s be honest, he missed 25 days of football in the spring, meeting time and practice time,” Canales said. “He’s behind. He’s grasping it, but it’s going out there and effectively doing it with the different looks. If it’s happening too fast, we got to get him to slow it down. We’re trying to keep it simple and gradually bring him along, so that he can go in there and start competing. He’s competing, but he’s not where he needs to be. He understands that. He’s not ready yet, but he’s coming and that’s what he needs to do.”
The competition is nothing new for the quarterbacks, particularly for McNulty, who played behind Derek Thompson for three seasons, but certainly the addition of Smith has added to the mix, from splitting reps in practice, to pushing for playing time in games this fall.
“It’s a healthy competition because every day that you come out here, there are other guys behind you pushing for that spot, and it’s been the same way since I have been here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” McNulty said.
“Everything is being evaluated,” Canales said. “I grade them on everything, and they know where they are, they know what their stats are, they know what their completion percentages are, they know where they are, so there’s no hidden agenda. It’s all black and white. The best player will play.”
Every day, Canales and the offensive staff are evaluating the play of the quarterback, from the time they walk on the field, through the various individual and team drills, to the live situations, and Saturday’s scrimmage, the second of the fall, will be no different.
“The big thing for me this camp is putting our offense in the best position to score and helping the defense by taking care of the football,” McNulty said. “Also, I have worked to move the chains the way that we want to as an offense and not hurting ourselves, by making the right read, getting us out of a bad play and getting us into a good play and put our playmakers in position to make plays.”
“If we go out tomorrow and it’s all about making great decisions, getting the ball in our players’ hands and let the playmakers make plays, executing this offense and playing fast. If we play fast, play smart and be great decision-makers, we will have a great day.”