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North Texas Mean Green Unit Preview: Backfield

While UNT has its star back at QB, the Mean Green have to find a new leading rusher.

NCAA Football: New Orleans Bowl-Troy vs North Texas
Mason Fine returns at QB for UNT this season.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback

Mason Fine - JR - 14 games, 324/511 for 4,052 yards and 31 TDs, 1 rushing TD

Quinn Shanbour - RSr - 14 games, 4/6 for 34 yards, 6 rushes for 53 yards

There’s no question who will lead the Mean Green at quarterback this season with reigning C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Mason Fine returning. Fine, a junior, is the general of North Texas’ potent passing game, the strongest aspect of the Mean Green’s offense.

Fine set nearly all of UNT’s single-season passing records last year, including completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. The season boosted Fine to sixth all-time on the Mean Green’s passing list for career passing yards and touchdowns. Not to mention, he also has the school’s most 300-yard games and best passer efficiency rating. The only knock on Fine last season were his 15 interceptions, however, he didn’t throw an interception on 55 attempts in UNT’s two fall scrimmages this preseason. That was compared to five touchdowns, including a four-score performance in the first scrimmage.

Fine is projected to have just as stellar of a junior season, starting the campaign on four major award watch lists, including the Walter Camp and Maxwell awards for college football’s offensive player of the year, as well as the Davey O’Brien and Manning awards, both given to the nation’s top quarterback.

As for Fine’s backup, five other quarterbacks have been in the mix during fall scrimmages. Redshirt-senior Quinn Shanbour has the most experience of the group and has been the most impressive so far. Shanbour’s legs have been what has impressed most in the Mean Green’s scrimmages, running for a touchdown of over 50 yards in both.

Running back

Anthony Wyche - RSJr - redshirted last season

Loren Easly - RSJr - did not play last season

Nic Smith - RSSo - 14 games, 138 rushes for 684 yards and 6 TDs

Evan Johnson - SO - 14 games, 43 rushes, 239 yards, 3 TD

Opposite of the quarterback position, UNT has to replace its standout at running back.

With Jeffrey Wilson now at the next level trying to earn a spot with the San Francisco 49ers, the Mean Green have to find a new leading rusher for 2018. Anthony Wyche, who redshirted last season, has been the Mean Green’s go-to for short-yardage situations during fall scrimmages with four touchdowns. He scored three times in UNT’s first scrimmage, all within 3 yards of the goal line.

Loren Easly and Evan Johnson haven’t made as much noise at fall scrimmages but have still been noticed. Easly, who sat out last season because of the NCAA’s transfer rule, was a standout at Stephen F. Austin, his previous school. He notched 497 yards and seven touchdowns on 87 carries in 2016, his last season at SFA. He left SFA as one of 28 running backs to tally over 1,000 career yards and held three of the Lumberjacks’ 10 longest runs in program history.

Of the three running backs mentioned, Johnson was the only one to see the field last season. However, Johnson isn’t the only running back on the depth chart with recent playing time, as Nic Smith more than doubled Johnson’s carry total last season.

In conclusion, expect UNT to rely on a running-back-by-committee approach in 2018, which is needed in such a quick-paced offense, with Wyche leading the bunch in touchdowns.

Projected depth chart

QB- Fine/Shanbour

RB- Wyche/Easly/Johnson/Smith