Austin Aune is the starting QB for the UTEP game opener in about nine days. This is not bad, but certainly not *wanted*. The dude had an awful season last year, as his wideouts were injured and the offense relied on the run game to damn-near exclusivity. Aune will be starting his first opener, the previous seasons going to Jace Ruder and Jason Bean. (Oh, it is pronounced AW-NEE).
A couple of seasons ago he combined with Bean to throw to Jaelon Darden for lots of yards and be the combined statistical leader in the league. Last year he had the yips, and was primarily started because he could run from danger, knew the offense, and threw the ball in-bounds.
Ruder has been demoted to third place in the pecking order, with new transfer Grant Gunnell in. The message-boarders and twitter-ers were all looking forward to some *new*, but instead we are getting the old. This, when put through a competent, rational brain is unsurprising and sensible. Aune knows the offense, has built the relationships, and has played lots of games. Grant Gunnell has talent, but we do not know what he will be like under the lights. North Texas has had a few too many seasons of sheer awful starting QB play to get punched in the mouth with a possible Gunnell interception, and so I can see the vision.
So it is Aune. I appreciate there not being a “competition” and instead giving the starter every opportunity to succeed. That, from my perspective on my cozy couch in MGN HQ, is a big difference from the last couple of seasons. Seth Littrell had been loud about his willingness to play two quarterbacks, seemingly teaching some lessons through the media. I can see how that can motivate and keep guys on their toes. We’ve also seen the reverse side of that, where guys feel unprepared and susceptible to being yanked off the field for a bad play.
Aune is not perfect, but if you sat me down and bought me a whiskey (MACALLAN 12 DOUBLE CASK, if you please) and told me a tale of a guy that just needed some reps and had all the maturity and other things needed to win in this league, I could buy that. I could. Especially if you got me another whiskey and possible a cigar (do they let us smoke in here?)
The fact is that UTEP *shouldn’t* be difficult to offense. That is to say, the first game is about getting a conference win on the road in a tough environment, and moving on to the next thing. It will be good for everyone and having someone with some actual Mean Green Football experience taking the snaps has a lot of value.
They can always pull him for Gunnell vs SMU or something. After all, that is how Mason Fine got his first action.