Key questions of the offseason Part I — How does the QB race play out?

Mason Fine enjoyed a tremendous freshman season at North Texas and will try to hang on to the starting job in spring practice, which is set to begin later this month. (Tomas Gonzalez)

Mason Fine enjoyed a tremendous freshman season at North Texas and will try to hang on to the starting job in spring practice, which is set to begin later this month. (Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas’ season is in the books and the ink has dried on the national letters of intent from signing day.

That can only mean one thing — It’s time for the annual key questions heading into spring practice series here on the blog.

For the record, UNT opens spring ball on Feb. 27 and is coming off a wildly successful 5-8 season under first-year coach Seth Littrell. The Mean Green made a huge jump from a 1-11 finish in 2015 while making the move to a spread offense.

And that brings us to the first question in our series — What happens with UNT’s quarterback situation?

UNT started the season with highly regarded Alabama transfer Alec Morris as its starter before moving on to freshman Mason Fine after a season-opening loss to SMU. Fine enjoyed a solid run before being knocked out for the season due to a shoulder injury he suffered in loss to Western Kentucky in the 10th game of the season.

Morris came back on and started the last two games of the regular season. The senior led UNT to a key win over Southern Miss that got the Mean Green into the postseason and then played the whole way in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Morris was a senior, so he’s out the door.

The questions now are if Fine hangs on to the starting job, who replaces Morris on the depth chart and if the Mean Green can improve at the position.

UNT finished averaging 208.3 passing yards per game with 15 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in 2016. The Mean Green ranked 11th in Conference USA in passing yards per game and 12th in passing efficiency with a rating of 110.7 in the regular season.

The hope is UNT will improve on those totals in Littrell’s second year. The first step is deciding who will be under center when UNT hosts Lamar.

Here are UNT (viable) options and the consequences of starting each player:

1. Stick with Mason Fine

It seems like a foregone conclusion that Fine will open the season as UNT’s starter. He showed moxie throughout his freshman season, didn’t make many mistakes and had a firm grasp of UNT’s offense. He will only get better and better as the years go by.

If UNT sticks with Fine, the backup job becomes vitally important. Fine is listed at 5-11 and 170 pounds. He has already had one season cut short due to injury. He will get a little bigger, but he isn’t going to grow into Ben Roethlisberger.

Chances are, he isn’t going to make it through a season healthy.

If Fine starts, UNT could then look to one of its other viable options for a starter to fill that backup role, including the second player on our list.

2. Start Cade Pearson

UNT signed Texarkana Texas High product Cade Pearson in its 2017 signing class. He enrolled at the midterm break and will participate in spring practice.

Pearson put up impressive numbers in high school and is a good fit for UNT’s offense. He wasn’t particularly highly recruited, but did receive an offer from Wyoming.

The ideal scenario would have Pearson redshirt, but he said on national signing day that he is here to compete for the starting job.

There is a chance that even if he doesn’t beat out Fine, he could end up as UNT’s backup.

3. Turn to Devlin Isadore

The former Navarro JC standout was on his way to a tremendous season when he suffered a torn ACL that knocked him out for the year last fall. Isadore has enrolled at UNT and is expected to participate in spring practice.

Isadore has a big arm and a lot of confidence. It seems like a long shot that he could come in and win the job right off the bat, but it’s a possibility to consider.

He really is the wildcard of the offseason for UNT.

There’s not a bigger decision for UNT to make than settling on a starting quarterback and a backup for the 2017 season.

Fine is the odds-on favorite, but quarterback battles don’t always turn out as expected. Morris seemed like a sure bet at this time a year ago.

The competition will be one of the most interesting to watch this spring.

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