2019 Conference USA QB Preview: North Texas
Over the past few years, North Texas fans have watched their quarterback re-write the passing record books at their school. They have watched their quarterback become the all-time career leader in passing yards, passing yards in a single season, passing touchdowns in a single season, and pass completions in a single season, just to name a few. They have also watched their quarterback earn back to back Conference USA Offensive Player of The Year awards. The best part for North Texas fans, is their quarterback is back for his senior season, which he will break every important passing record there is left to break as long as he is injury free. For fans who do not know who I am referring to, which would most likely be fans who only pay attention to big Power 5 programs, North Texas’ quarterbacks name is Mason Fine.
If you have not seen Fine play, you need to do yourself a favor and make time to watch him play this year. Any fan of the quarterback position should already know who Fine is and should have already been keeping up with him, but if for some reason you haven’t, make it a priority. Fine is heading into his senior year for the Mean Green and will be on every quarterback award watch list heading into the season. Fine and the Mean Green lost in the CUSA championship in 2017 and fell just short of making the championship game last year in 2018. With Fine under center, North Texas will again be in the running for a CUSA championship title. Fine will also be looking to show NFL scouts his game can translate to the next level. With all that said, I want to spend the majority of this preview looking at film of Fine and talking about what makes him such a great quarterback. We will briefly look at the depth behind him as well. As we saw in the bowl game last year against Utah State, having quality depth behind Fine is important.
2018 QB Performance
- Fine- 3,793 passing yards, 64.6CMP%, 27 passing touchdowns, 5 interceptions. Also added 2 scores on the ground
- 3rd in conference in QB Rating with 149.4
- 1st in conference in passing yards
- 2nd in conference in passing touchdowns
- Best TD to INT ratio in conference, better than a 5:1 ratio
- Two 400 plus passing games
- Every game had at least 240 passing yards besides the bowl game (when he got hurt early in 2nd quarter) and the game against Liberty, who they blew out and beat 47-7
- Kason Martin, Quinn Shanbour, and Cade Pearson also had completions last year, but none had more than 8
2019 QB Preview
It is no secret to anyone that watches North Texas football that the UNT offense goes as far as Fine takes them. Anyone doubting how good and effective Fine is, go turn on the bowl game tape against Utah State and see the offense with and without Fine. It is evident Fine is the center of the offense, which is what you want when you have a star quarterback. Fine is an elite distributor of the football, similar to an all-star point guard in basketball. As a coach that is exactly what you want your quarterback to do, distribute the ball efficiently. The better you are at getting the ball out and getting it into the hands of your team’s playmakers, the more likely you are to score points, which North Texas’ offense does a lot of.
I view being called an elite distributor as a huge compliment for a quarterback, and Fine has several qualities that make him such an effective distributor. It is evident that Fine is well prepared against each team that North Texas faces based on his ability to find the match up he wants. He also demonstrates great anticipation of what his receiver is going to do, when he is going to break off his route, and so on. When you can combine Fines anticipation and ability to find or create the match up he wants, you have a formula for being able to distribute the football to your playmakers. However, that is not all that makes Fine a great quarterback. As any North Texas fan will tell you, Fine is tough as nails. He does a good job standing in the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield and not at the pass rush, even though that usually leads to him taking a big hit. He has a much better arm than what people would assume, and he is athletic enough to escape the pocket and use his legs when he needs to. Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment for Fine from 2017-2018 was his improvement in taking care of the ball. He cut his interceptions down from 15 to 5 and improved his touchdown to interception ratio from right over to 2:1 to right over 5:1. The fact he still put up huge numbers in 2018 and every defense had to center their game plan around stopping Fine, and He still dropped his interceptions by 10 and showed his ability to improve his game, as he has done each year now. The one knock in a high-powered offense like North Texas is that at times you have to rely on the big play, blown coverage by the defense, or a missed assignment for a touchdown. UNT can put up a lot of yards and drive between the 20’s, but if the defense has a “bend but don’t break mentality”, they can hold UNT from touchdowns. The main time you saw North Texas drive between the 20’s, but unable to punch it in was the 2nd half against UAB. While that didn’t happen often to North Texas’ offense, it is still worth mentioning. With all that said, let’s look at some clips of Fine that demonstrate the qualities we just mentioned above.
*Below, Fine demonstrates several qualities in one play that make him so successful. He escapes the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield, and throws nearly a 60-yard bomb for a touchdown.
*Below is a clip of Fine standing in the pocket, taking a hit, and delivering an accurate ball down the middle of the field. Good pre-snap read and anticipation here.
*I love this play below. This is a great example of finding the match up he wants, knowing what to do with the ball, and having an accurate pre-snap read. The defense is in Cover 1 Man Under. There is only one up top safety who is cheating towards top of the screen. Fine does a good jump to briefly look his way and hold the safety there, before delivering an accurate ball on a seam by his slot receiver. Match ups matter, if you can find the right match up, you have a chance at a good play.
*Below shows Fine’s ability to scramble and move the chains with his legs when he needs to.
*Last clip here of Fine is an example of doing a bunch of little things right. Keeps his eyes downfield, avoid the rush in the pocket, and hits his check down route. This may not seem like a big deal, but a one yard pass ended up being a 1st down and over a 10-yard gain.
It is important for North Texas to develop quality depth behind Fine. Obviously so they can have someone they trust to put in if something happened to Fine, but to develop for the 2020 season as well when Fine leaves. Kason Martin, who had a touchdown in the New Mexico Bowl, will be competing for the back-up spot along with Jason Bean and incoming freshman Will Kuehne. Austin Aune is also on the roster and will be competing as well. He spent several years in the New York Yankees organization.
Honestly, there isn’t much to takeaway here besides what every North Texas and CUSA fan knows. Fine is the top quarterback in the conference. He has a chance to win his third straight CUSA Offensive Player of The Year award, He is looking to build his stock for the next level, He will have every UNT passing record, and is looking to lead North Texas to a CUSA title.