Football team changing format for annual spring game this weekend

Football team changing format for annual spring game this weekend

Football team changing format for annual spring game this weekend
April 19
20:24 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceWaddell15

As the month of April winds down, many college football programs across the country begin to prepare for their annual spring game – an intra-squad scrimmage that pits members of the same team against one another.

In the past, North Texas has split its roster into two teams, green and white, and played the game like any regular contest by keeping score, having a clock, and even having referees throwing flags for penalties.

That will not be the case in 2016.

First-year head coach Seth Littrell has different plans for the Mean Green’s spring game, which will be held on Saturday, April 23 at 2 p.m. inside Apogee Stadium. Instead of the traditional format, Littrell intends on dividing his roster into first and second strings and scrimmaging for around 100 snaps. There will be no running clock, except for time-sensitive situational work.

“Right now we don’t have enough depth to truly play a game,” Littrell said. “It will be a good scrimmage, a lot of live work obviously. We’re not going to thin out our team. The last thing I want to do is wear them down enough to where they get injury prone. It’s not worth it to me to have a true spring game.”

With 80 players on its roster, North Texas does not have the manpower needed to fill out a green and white team. Just down the road at Southern Methodist University, the Mustangs have over 110 players on its roster for its spring game last Saturday.

But Littrell is far from concerned with North Texas not playing a run-of-the-mill spring game. Rather, Littrell wants his team get beneficial practice time that will carry the Mean Green into the summer.

“[The spring game] has the same value as any spring practice,” Littrell said. “I think spring games are –they’re fun for the fans to get out and kind of get to see everybody and what you’re doing. But for me, and I think for all coaches around the country, we’d rather do away from the spring game and have a spring practice.”

Some UNT students are not echoing Littrell’s sentiment, though. With an almost entirely new coaching staff and many new faces, there has been an anticipation around campus to see what the new-look Mean Green has to offer.

One of those students is media arts sophomore Andrew Rolf, who frequents both UNT football and basketball games. Usually donning some shade of green, Rolf is an avid athletics supporter despite the recent struggles in football and basketball. Rolf was surprised when he learned North Texas did not have the necessary depth to make up the usual green and white teams.

“It’s a little embarrassing with how big our school is,” Rolf said. “I think it’s kind of ridiculous. It seems like college football tradition to have spring games.”

Despite Littrell and the coaching staff planning for an unconventional scrimmage, North Texas players are anxious to get back on the field after a dismal 1-11 mark last year that tied for the worst record in school history.

“I’m super stoked,” senior offensive lineman Sam Rice said. “That’s why I play the game – to hit people. We’re all good friends, and best friends hurt each other. It will be a good time.”

After nearly a month of practice that included implementing a brand-new offense and getting acclimated to a new head coach, the Mean Green is excited to get back inside Apogee and play in front of fans – even if it won’t be an actual game.

“It’s fun having a little grudge match at the end, because you’re a little ticked off after four weeks of hitting the same person,” Rice said. “The spring game is kind of the finale where everyone can get their desserts.”

Desserts, however, may be off the table for Rice. With the new up-tempo, high-octane offense, Rice said he’s had to make a few changes to his diet this spring to accommodate the team’s new style of play.

“I don’t get to be as fat, which isn’t fun,” Rice said. “But that’s alright. It’s a good time. I think we’ll gash some good defenses with [our offense].”

One of the players hoping to do the gashing is junior quarterback Quinn Shanbour. For the past four weeks, Shanbour has competed alongside graduate Alec Morris and others for the starting quarterback job.

Although Littrell has yet to name a de-facto starter, Shanbour said one quarterback in particular has been getting the most looks with the starters.

“Alec has kind of taken the reins,” Shanbour said. “He’s been running with the ones more.”

Even though Morris appears to be the favorite to win the job, he has made some mistakes along the way. As the team lined up for its end-of-practice scrimmage last week, Morris threw a pick-six on the offense’s first play, prompting Shanbour to say one side of the ball is currently ahead of the other.

“I think defense is a little in front of [the offense],” Shanbour said. “It’s more instinctual, more natural to be doing downhill.”

Despite not playing its annual green/white game, Littrell is still eager to coach in front of students and fans for the first time in Denton. But when it’s all said and done, Littrell is really only focused on one thing.

“I’m excited for these guys to get out in front of fans. It’s an exciting time,” Littrell said. “But at the same time, we have a lot of work to do and we have to make sure we’re smart with how we do it.”

Featured Image: Junior quarterback DaMarcus Smith (10) looks left after the snap before he threw a touchdown pass to Carlos Smith against WKU. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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