January 4, 2011

After two seasons, Dodge looking to FCS for next stage

Saying his father being the former head coach had nothing to do with the decision, North Texas quarterback Riley Dodge said Tuesday he had been released from his scholarship and would be transferring to another school.

Dodge called new UNT coach Dan McCarney last week and said he wanted to leave. He was granted the official release on Tuesday morning and was headed by car to the first of two official visits by mid-afternoon.

Dodge said he has three scholarship offers from FCS schools but wouldn't reveal which ones. He could take a third visit next week.

McCarney and associate head coach Mike Canales both wanted him to stay, Dodge said. Both wanted him to remain at quarterback and compete for the starting job despite the addition of junior-college QB Brent Osborn and the return of sophomore Derek Thompson from a broken leg.

"It's tough leaving my buddies," Dodge said, adding McCarney and Canales had no plans - at least that he knew of - to move him to receiver or phase him out at quarterback. "Coach McCarney was very understanding. He didn't want me to leave. He's been good to me ever since he got here. He's very encouraging and complimentary, and so is coach Canales. He understands my situation. He didn't want me to leave, but he wants what's best for me. This isn't something where out of the blue I decided to transfer because of a rough season or something like that."

Dodge said "circumstances" that are unlike other players' decisions to transfer are at the root of his decision. He said they have nothing to do with UNT's decision to fire his father, Todd Dodge, seven games into the 2010 season after a 1-6 start. It has nothing to do with McCarney or any of his assistant coaches nor any of his teammates.

"There's other circumstances I won't get into," Dodge said. "I'm not leaving because my dad got fired. I've been fortunate to play for him. It's been fun, but wherever I'm going, now I'm not playing for someone else. [The firing] sucked at the time, but that's not the reason. Coach McCarney is a great man, and he'll do great things at UNT. It's not about any of my teammates, either."

Dodge said he was ready to return for the spring semester until a gut feeling and considerable prayer told him he needed a fresh start and a "clean slate."

"I'm not running away," he said. "These are different circumstances. It's the hand I've been dealt."

Dodge said injuries aren't to blame either. His past two seasons have ended with a concussion (2010) and broken arm (2009), respectively. He missed time with a broken wrist and took a medical redshirt after suffering a concussion as a true freshman receiver. He has two years of eligibility left.

Dodge threw for 3,187 yards and 20 TDs in two seasons and ran for 716 yards and six TDs. He threw 19 interceptions but completed 65 percent of his 479 passes.

"He has good friends and was looking forward being part of the new stadium, but it was just a gut feeling when he got back [for Christmas holidays]," Todd Dodge said. "I asked him if he really had a passion to play, had any of this taken away his passion. He said absolutely not. If anything, he said the last six or seven games had rejuvenated him. He had every intention of going back."

Todd Dodge said his son had asked McCarney and Canales the "hard question" about his status as a quarterback going forward, and there was "no problem."

At some point, other circumstances gave Dodge reason to consider leaving, and he made the decision last week.

"It's time to go," he said. "It's just best for me to play those last two years somewhere else. I'm not afraid of competition at all. Some people think them bringing in a JUCO kid is the reason for me wanting to get out. It's not that at all. If anything, I had the upper hand going into next year. I've had my ups and downs at UNT. I was all ready to be there next year, but everything kept leading me to take my last two years somewhere else."

Dodge said he has already resumed a full weekly throwing regimen. His arm feels as good as it has in years, despite Dodge once considering Tommy John surgery for a stretched elbow ligament.

Dodge said he's looking for an FCS program that gives him the best chance to win and play as soon as possible. Playoff team Stephen F. Austin (9-2) finished No. 2 in the final FCS regular-season rankings and graduated senior all-American Jeremy Moses. McNeese State (6-5) might be an option, as the Cowboys had a platoon quarterback situation with a freshman and a now-departed fifth-year graduate student.

Dodge mentioned Eastern Washington quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who transferred from SMU, as an FBS-to-FCS success story. Mitchell will start for EWU in the FCS title game against Delaware on Friday in Frisco. Earlier this decade, Sam Houston State thrived on transfer quarterbacks from FBS programs.

"Bo Levi turned his career around," Dodge said. "I'd love for that to happen to me. I'm looking for that, looking for a team that needs a quarterback. I'm not afraid to compete for a job, but I want to be somewhere that needs me."

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