UNT quarterback blog art

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 be among the players competing to take over for Mason Fine during spring practice.

North Texas will open spring practice next month when the Mean Green will try to bounce back from a disappointing 4-8 season.

Over the next few weeks, we'll go over UNT's roster in our annual position-by-position rundown.

We kick off this year's series today by examining UNT's quarterback situation:

Key returnees: Jason Bean, sophomore; Austin Aune, sophomore; Kason Martin, sophomore; Will Kuehne, redshirt freshman; Cole Johnson, redshirt freshman

Key losses: Mason Fine

Newcomers: None

Biggest unanswered question: There's no question about it, the biggest issue UNT faces heading into the 2020 season is finding a replacement for Fine. The Oklahoma native rewrote the program's record book on his way to throwing for 12,505 yards and 93 touchdowns, totals that place him among the statistical leaders in college football history.

Why 2020 production could be better: Fine threw for 3,088 yards and 29 touchdowns with just nine interceptions as a senior. The chances of UNT improving on those totals seem remote at best, especially after the Mean Green lost several other key playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.

UNT's best hope is that the program can land a late transfer who excels with head coach Seth Littrell calling plays on a full-time basis. Littrell is expected to take over as UNT's play-caller in the fall.

Why 2020 production could be worse: Fine isn't the type of player programs just replace. He went down as one of the best players in program history.

UNT also doesn't have an obvious candidate to step in. Bean and Aune have barely played and didn't inspire a lot of confidence when they saw the field last season. Aune was a highly regarded player coming out of Argyle but spent six seasons in the New York Yankees' minor league system. Kuehne is an intriguing prospect but is coming off a redshirt year and might not be ready.

UNT appeared as if it would have another option in 2019 Stephenville product Kade Renfo. He was committed to UNT before flipping and signing with Ole Miss.

The chances one of the players UNT actually landed playing at the same level as one of the best players in program history this fall seems remote at best.

Overall outlook: The main storyline in spring practice will be how UNT's quarterbacks fair. UNT struggled for years after Derek Thompson graduated following the Mean Green's win in the Heart of Dallas Bowl after the 2013 season.

The question now is if UNT is headed down the same road. The departure of offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell before last season isn't going to help matters. Harrell did a terrific job of developing Fine, who wasn't the same without him.

The task of tutoring UNT's quarterbacks falls to former Baylor assistant and SMU quarterback Tate Wallis, who joined the staff in the offseason.

Wallis has some players to work with and will face the gargantuan task of finding one to step into Fine's shoes. 

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

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