Over the course of spring practice I came to what I thought was a pretty obvious conclusion when it comes to North Texas and its quarterback race.
Alabama transfer Alec Morris is UNT’s best option and should take over after the graduation of Andrew McNulty and the departure of DaMarcus Smith. I watched Morris and UNT’s other options throughout the spring, and thought over the course of 15 practices he was the best player and showed the most potential. Quinn Shanbour also had a good spring and will enter the fall second on the depth chart, which is what head coach Seth Littrell indicated after the game.
Seems pretty cut and dried.
Boy, was I wrong. I have since received a few e-mails and been asked how I possibly come to that conclusion. First off, I’m a writer, not a football coach. But I have covered college football for nearly 20 years. Part of the deal is giving your honest opinion.
A few points here …
1. UNT has an honest to goodness legitimate top college QB prospect in Morris
One of the constant complaints at UNT through the years is that the school has struggled to lure top quarterback prospects to Denton.
Morris is the best one UNT has landed in years. The most highly regarded quarterback prospect to agree to come to UNT in the last 15 years other than Morris was Giovanni Vizza, who bolted early in his career when it became obvious he had been duped by Todd Dodge, the worst coach in the history of UNT athletics who convinced him to back out of a commitment to Nevada.
Dodge was a high school coach and is back to being a high school coach
And no, Riley Dodge doesn’t count as a top quarterback prospect.
There is one coach who would have rolled him out there at quarterback early in his career at his size and, again, he’s back in the high school ranks.
Morris was recruited and signed by A-L-A-B-A-M-A and Nick Saban. Maybe you’ve heard about Saban and the Tide. Seems like they know what they are doing.
Morris was rated 26th among pro-style quarterbacks in the Class of 2012.
2. I like Shanbour because he’s a great story and is talented
It’s not that I don’t like Shanbour. He’s a great story, even if he doesn’t start next season. He’s a walk-on who had an offer from Colorado at one point, started out at Oklahoma State, ended up at UNT and has already surpassed a couple of scholarship guys to become the Mean Green’s No. 2 quarterback heading into the fall.
It’s a terrific story.
And Shanbour did look pretty good in UNT’s spring game.
I’m not overlooking what he has accomplished.
3. Don’t read too much into spring games, especially with a whole spring to watch
Speaking of spring games, people always read too much into them. It’s one afternoon, and UNT’s spring game was essentially a controlled scrimmage.
UNT’s quarterbacks were in red jerseys and were not getting hit.
It’s going to look at whole lot different in the fall when the bullets start flying. Morris is 6-4 and a whole lot better built to handle that change, especially behind a shaky offensive line, than Shanbour, who is 6-feet tall, and under 200 pounds.
4. Fifth-year senior transfer quarterbacks have worked before at other schools
The best path to success in college athletics sometimes is to see what has worked other places and follow the same path. Louisiana Tech has won bowl games the last two years behind fifth-year senior transfers Cody Sokol and Jeff Driskel.
Dan McCarney used to say, “Why not North Texas?”
On the other hand, name one walk-on quarterback who has been wildly successful as a starter. Baker Mayfield is one, but he wasn’t a typical walk-on. He had offers from Florida Atlantic, New Mexico and Rice before starting out at Texas Tech and then transferring to Oklahoma.
There might be a few others, but I sure can’t think of one.
5. What is the more likely story?
We mention the success Louisiana Tech had with fifth-year senior transfers at quarterback.
What is the more likely scenario, that UNT brings in a highly regarded guy in Morris, who was tutored for years by arguably the best coaching staff in college football and he puts it all together in one final year and succeeds at UNT? Or that UNT has a walk-on sitting on its bench who was passed over time and again by a team desperate for an upgrade at the position who is suddenly going to come in and change the program’s fortunes?
Yes, UNT does have a new staff. And that new staff has a new system that is a better fit for a passing quarterback.
I have also thought that the old argument fans sometimes roll out there that “our new coaches are better than our old coaches or another team’s coaches” is a little overplayed. It’s kinda like the adult version of “my dad can beat up your dad.”
Coaching matters, but in the end it’s all about the players.
I just don’t buy that Morris isn’t the best player.
6. Isn’t what we’ve seen/heard told us how this is likely to go?
And speaking of the spring game, Morris was the starter and played nearly all the reps with the first team. Littrell wasn’t ready to name a starter after the game, but he did indicate that there was a reason Morris was out there with the first team.
Littrell wants to keep both his guys hungry and working hard into the summer.
It sure looked like Morris will head into the summer as UNT’s starter and will have a great chance to hold on to the job at this point. Louisiana Tech played the same game the last two years with its two transfers and Ryan Higgins, who was a contender, right up until he wasn’t in the fall.
7. Morris has been at UNT for like 5 minutes.
UNT knew when it landed Morris that he has been riding the pine at Alabama for the last four years. He was going to be a bit rusty and he started out with absolutely no rapport with his receivers.
He is going to get a whole lot better.
Morris started out with a distinct disadvantage in the spring and still played pretty well, considering the circumstances.
8. It’s not just me who thinks Morris is going to be the guy.
Listen to some of the other people who watched the majority of spring ball. They are high on Morris as well.
I’m not talking about some fan who parachutes in for one or two afternoons and formulates a staunch opinion based on little to no information, but people who stood there, watched most of what went on and talked to UNT’s coaches.
I certainly didn’t have perfect attendance, but was there quite a bit. Don’t believe me, listen to other people who were there as well. The fact that Morris is the guy has been floated by a whole lot more people other than me who know what they are talking about.
9. UNT has to recruit the DFW area
UNT’s best hope to land top players from DFW likely isn’t by signing them out of high school. History shows that.
What UNT can become is Transfer U for DFW retreads. Marcus Trice worked out great. So did Reggie Pegram. UNT also has high hopes for Kansas State transfer Bryce English. Others have been busts, but that is going to happen.
Morris is the highest profile transfer UNT has landed in a long, long time because he is a quarterback. And he’s from Allen, one of the biggest talent factories in the state.
The DFW football community is going to be watching.
If UNT is going to start anyone other than Morris to begin the season, it had better be damn sure it’s going to be able to sell the fact it made the right decision to the next batch of transfers looking to come home.
UNT might struggle to win four games this season.
You can bet your rear end that if UNT rolls out there and goes 3-9 with Morris sitting on the bench, it’s going to be used against the Mean Green’s coaches in recruiting. It might also give future transfers, DFW quarterbacks and recruits in general a moment of pause.
UNT needs all the help it can get.
That help is staring UNT right in the face with Morris.
UNT has a whole lot riding on the decision it makes at quarterback next season. I’m sure Littrell and the Mean Green will make the obvious call.
UNT’s coaches are smart guys. Morris is their best option.
It’s pretty obvious for a number of reasons, nine to be exact.