Jason Bean breakout player

North Texas quarterback Jason Bean carries the ball during the Mean Green's loss to Utah State in the 2018 New Mexico Bowl. Bean will have the chance to take over for Mason Fine next season and could be a breakout player for the Mean Green.

North Texas is normally in the midst of working through spring practice in May.

It's usually one of the more interesting points of the calendar year at UNT. One can get a bit of an idea of which players will move into larger roles once the season kicks off.

UNT called off spring before it began this year due to the spread of the coronavirus, but that doesn't mean we are skipping out on our annual rundown of potential breakout candidates for the Mean Green.

We'll look at five today based on what we saw last season and where UNT needs help.

1. Jason Bean, quarterback

Quick point here — someone is going to have to play quarterback for UNT.

Who that will be following the departure of Mason Fine is very much up in the air. The two clear-cut candidates are Jason Bean and Austin Aune. 

Bean was a highly regarded prospect at Mansfield Lake Ridge just a couple of years ago and is a redshirt sophomore. Austin Aune was a highly regarded prospect at Argyle in 2011-12 when the Carly Rae Jepsen was famously told us to Call Me Maybe and is also a redshirt sophomore.

Could Aune, who spent six years playing minor league baseball, be the answer? Maybe.

What we do know is that whoever wins the job will go from being a bit player to holding the fate of the Mean Green in their hands.

Neither Bean nor Aune inspired a whole lot of confidence last season when they filled in for Fine.

Bean was the first player off  the bench and threw for 176 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions after completing 22 of his 35 attempts. Aune threw for 136 yards and a touchdown.

We'll take guess that Bean wins the job and emerges to to throw for over 2,000 yards.

2. DaVonte McCrae, defensive end

McCrae played for Miami Northwestern, one of the powerhouse programs in the country, and began his college career at North Carolina State.

McCrae eventually transferred to East Mississippi Community College, where he was ranked among the top 50 junior college prospects in the country. McCrae could have signed with another Power Five program but decided to go a different route the second time around and signed with UNT.

UNT lost both of its starting defensive ends after last season, including standout LaDarius Hamilton.

McCrae has high-end talent and will have plenty of opportunity to show it next season.

3. Deonte Simpson, wide receiver

There is one thing we can be sure of when it comes to UNT under Seth Littrell. The Mean Green are going to throw the ball.

Fine threw for 12,505 yards in his career.

Someone is going to have to catch all those passes next season. Several will go to the familiar players who are set to return, including Jaelon Darden and Jyaire Shorter.

The departure of Michael Lawrence and Kelvin Smith will leave plenty of opportunities for new players to emerge, though.

Deonte Simpson seems like as good a bet as anyone to break out. UNT planned to redshirt Simpson last fall before Rico Bussey Jr. went down with a season-ending knee injury.

UNT decided to play Simpson at that point and saw him catch 18 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in nine games. He was at the top of the depth chart at one outside receiver spot by the end of the year.

4. Jaxon Gibbs, safety

Jaxon Gibbs emerged as a starter at nickel late last season and started three of UNT's last four games. 

Gibbs posted 12 tackles combined in losses to Louisiana Tech and Rice late in the year. There is no telling where Gibbs will line up in UNT's new defense next season, but he was a highly regarded prospect coming out of The Colony and is entering the prime of his career as a redshirt sophomore.

Gibbs should far surpass the 20 tackles he posted last season.

5. DeShawn Gaddie, cornerback

DeShawn Gaddie is one of the more highly regarded recruits UNT has signed in recent years.

UNT threw Gaddie to the fire in his freshman season last year and saw him show flashes of his talent. He blocked a punt and finished with three tackles.

The Mean Green lost Nick Harvey to graduation but does have fellow starting cornerback Cam Johnson returning.

Gaddie will have a chance to win a starting job next season and could be an impact player.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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