North Texas coaches won’t have all the answers when spring practice ends Saturday on how to replace key pieces lost off the Mean Green’s bowl-winning team, but two frontrunners have emerged in the race to replace Derek Thompson at quarterback.
Coach Dan McCarney said Tuesday that junior Andrew McNulty or sophomore transfer Josh Greer of Arlington are the favorites to be the starter when the season opens Aug. 30 at Texas.
Redshirt freshman Dajon Williams was the No. 3 quarterback before an ankle injury limited his opportunities, McCarney said.
“I’d be surprised if we named a starter by the end of spring ball,” McCarney said. “Both have good mobility, escapability.
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“I like the toughness of both of them, and both have done a good job of protecting the football.”
They’re also students of the game, spending extra time watching tape. “You have to chase them out of the building,” McCarney said.
McNulty, from Iowa City, Iowa, enjoys the advantage of having the most experience in the offense.
As a redshirt sophomore, he saw time in eight games a season ago, including at No. 9 Georgia. He didn’t play in 2012 because of an injury, but as a freshman he passed for 352 yards and a touchdown in limited game time as a first-year player.
Greer was recruited by North Texas as a senior at Arlington High, but chose Alabama-Birmingham. He left there for Navarro Junior College, where he passed for 1,205 yards and eight touchdowns in six games.
Coaches like his presence in the pocket, leadership and judgment.
Most impressive to McCarney has been how fast he’s learned the offense. “It’s to his credit that it’s a good race right now.”
One or the other will be asked to replace Thompson, the Heart of Dallas Most Valuable Player who passed for 2,896 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013.
The evaluation will continue into the fall.
“Those guys have pulled away,” McCarney said. “Is it over? No, of course not.”
McCarney called offensive linemen Ryan Rentfro and Micah Thompson among the most improved players in the spring.
Those two, along with Shawn McKinney, are vying to replace tackle LaChris Anyiam at tackle and join four returning starters on the offensive line.
The coach also heaped praise on defensive lineman Malik Dilonga, one candidate to replace four lost senior starters.
“He’s really turned into a playmaker,” McCarney said.
Erick Evans will leave spring camp No. 2 on the depth chart at running back behind Antoinne Jimmerson.
Wide receivers Darius Terrell and walk-on John Chelf, a high school teammate of McNulty who transferred from Iowa, also earned the coach’s approval.
“You look at him and think ‘there’s nothing impressive about this guy,’ ” McCarney said. “But he just keeps making plays.”