The 50 most important college players in Texas in 2017 — No. 6: North Texas’ Mason Fine

AS THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON EDGES CLOSER, WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE MOST PIVOTAL PLAYERS FOR EACH PROGRAM'S RESPECTIVE SUCCESS.

The importance of a player is not always defined by their skill level. The most important player on a team or in a unit is not always the best player on a team. This list is designed to breakdown the 50 most important players in Texas college football for the 2017 season. It is not a ranking of the 50 best college football players in the state. Importance can be defined by position, need, skill or leadership. We’ll count down the list through the summer, all the way to No. 1.

Previously:
50 – Lamar DE Daniel Crosley / 49 – TCU WR KaVontae Turpin / 48 – UTEP QB Ryan Metz
47 – UMHB RB Markeith Miller / 46 – Sam Houston State DE PJ Hall / 45 – Baylor WR Blake Lynch
44 – Texas Tech WR Jonathan Giles (transferred) / 43 – Texas Tech RB Justin Stockton
42 – PVAMU WR Joshua Simmons / 41 – Rice RB Samuel Stewart / 40 – UNT WR Jalen Guyton
39 – Texas RB Chris Warren / 38 – Rice OL Trey Martin / 37 – Texas A&M Commerce QB Luis Perez
36 – Baylor DL K.J. Smith / 35 – Texas State LB Gabe Loyd / 34 – Texas State WR Thurman Morbley
33 – Houston DB Khalil Williams / 32 – Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks / 31 – SFA DL John Franklin
30 – SMU DE Justin Lawler / 29 – Texas State QB Damian Williams / 28 – ACU QB Dallas Sealey
27 – UTSA QB Dalton Sturm / 26 – Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams / 25 – UTSA WR Josh Stewart
24 – TCU LB Travin Howard / 23 – Texas Tech OL Travis Bruffy / 22 – Rice LB Emmanuel Ellerbee
21 – UNT DT Bryce English / 20 – TCU LB Ty Summers / 19 – UTEP LB Alvin Jones
18 – The Baylor QB / 17 – UTSA LB Josiah Tauaefa / 16 – Texas A&M OL Koda Martin
15 – Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek / 14 – Texas LB Malik Jefferson / 13 – TexasA&M WR Christian Kirk
12 – Houston QB Kyle Allen / 11 – SMU WR Courtland Sutton / 10 – SHSU QB Jeremiah Briscoe
9 – Texas QB Shane Buechele / 8 – UTEP OL Will Hernandez / 7 – Baylor RB Terence Williams

The History

In Oklahoma, Mason Fine is one of the better-known quarterbacks in recent memory. As the only player to win the Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year in consecutive seasons, Fine put up video game numbers at Locust Grove High School. He finished his career with a 42-8 record and set Oklahoma high school career records with 13,081 passing yards and 166 touchdowns.

But, even with the big numbers, Fine stands at just 5-11, 175 lbs. His size scared away the bigger schools, and North Texas was the only Division I program to offer a scholarship shortly after Seth Littrell took over last year.

His first season in Denton was full of up-and-downs, but Fine exceeded expectations as the program’s first true freshman to start under center at since 2007. He beat out Alabama graduate transfer Alec Morris for the starting job after the first game of the season and made nine starts before suffering a shoulder injury late in the season. He threw for 1,572 yards and six touchdowns while adding two more scores on the ground, playing an integral role in the Mean Green bouncing back from a 1-11 campaign in 2015 to a 5-7 record and a bowl appearance last year.

The Skillset

Fine is a competitor. He is certainly not the biggest guy on the field, but he isn’t scared to lower his shoulder and pick up extra yards when he tucks the ball to run. At times, it pays off – but Fine’s late-season shoulder injury is an indication that he may not be able to run the ball with such reckless abandon this season. As a passer, he has a good feel for the offense but struggles to make throws down the field. He completed just two passes of more than 40 yards all season, and averaged just 10.14 yards per completion. Fine has the ability to escape the pocket with his feet, but did take 36 sacks last year and made poor decisions under pressure at times.

The Impact

Fine will never pass the eye test compared to the best quarterbacks in Texas, but his success is pivotal for the Mean Green in Littrell’s second season. According to the coaching staff, the team’s personnel better fits the Air Raid system heading into this season, which should help Fine show some improvement. Behind Fine, the Mean Green have Quinn Shanbour – who has thrown just one pass in four years with the program – and freshman Cade Pearson out of Texas High School. Fine is the only North Texas quarterback on the roster with any real collegiate experience, which is one of the main reasons he lands just outside the top 5 on our countdown.

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Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.

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