Tar Heels spend spring looking for Trubisky’s successor
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina was supposed to be settled at quarterback with Mitch Trubisky entering his second season as a starter while younger passers prepared in the background.
Instead, the Tar Heels are sorting through their depth chart as they exit spring practices.
Trubisky declared for this month’s NFL draft after just one season as the starter. And that left young quarterbacks like sophomore Nathan Elliott, and redshirt freshmen Chazz Surratt and Logan Byrd to get heavy work through spring drills, ending with Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage.
Coach Larry Fedora said none of them are ready to lead the offense in a game yet.
“I’d say that they’ve made a lot of progress but I wouldn’t say anybody has separated themselves,” Fedora said. “We’ll get into the summer and get into fall camp and if somebody separates at that time, we’ll make a decision. I know we have to put somebody out there in the first game, so we’ll do that. But I’m not anywhere close to making a decision.”
Elliott, a Celina, Texas native who saw backup reps behind Trubisky, had the best day by completing 8 of 12 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns — including a 65-yard scoring strike to veteran receiver Austin Proehl.
Surratt, the 2015 Associated Press state offensive player of the year from Denver, North Carolina, got the first snap but completed just 5 of 14 passes for 90 yards while directing one TD drive.
Byrd, from Warner Robins, Georgia, completed 12 of 21 passes for 120 yards and a score. Meanwhile, junior Manny Miles — the son of former LSU coach Les Miles — saw the fewest drives but did threw a late TD pass.
The quarterbacks combined to miss on 12 of their first 15 passes, a reminder of how much work is ahead. They were not available for interviews afterward.
“They’ve got to grow quickly,” Fedora said. “Again, that’s going to be reps and how much time they spend in it, how much time they want to study and how much time they want to actually put into it.”
This wasn’t where UNC was supposed to be entering Fedora’s sixth season. But Trubisky went from guy who had never started a college game to being discussed as a potential top-10 pick in a matter of months, leading to his decision to skip his final season.
That leaves the youngsters battling for a job leading an offense with losses of key personnel — receivers Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins, and tailback Elijah Hood chief among them — throughout the high-scoring unit.
“We have to set the tone up front,” offensive tackle Bentley Spain said. “If we’re not doing our job, those guys can’t do what they need to do. So we really need to be able to give them the space to do what they can do and then open up other things for other guys too.”
The school is expected to add some help to the roster by the fall. LSU’s Brandon Harris announced last month on his Facebook page that he would enroll at UNC as a graduate transfer. Harris started 12 games as a sophomore, but was pulled after a struggle-filled day in a season-opening loss to Wisconsin followed by a bad start against Jacksonville State in Week 2.
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