CHAPEL HILL — For the first time in three seasons, there’s no quarterback controversy in Chapel Hill.
Unlike the last two seasons when he’s waited until the fall to announce his starter, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora officially named Mitch Trubisky the starting quarterback Friday morning.
“I thought Mitch did a good job this spring and didn’t just assume he was going to be the starter. He worked extremely hard and earned it,” Fedora said in a release. “We always want to have competition at every position. Mitch is the QB with the most experience returning, but he worked hard this spring, competed every day and deserves to be the starter.”
The reality of UNC’s situation became pretty apparent after presumed second-stringer Caleb Henderson threw three interceptions in last week’s spring game. Considering Trubisky completed 13-of-22 passes for 148 yards, one touchdown and one interception, it was pretty unlikely he’d be anywhere other than top spot on the depth chart when the season opens against Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game on Sept. 3 in Atlanta.
Despite the lengthy path to the job, Trubisky has been Fedora’s guy all along. Graduating early from Mentor (OH) to enroll at UNC in January 2013 as a part of Fedora’s second recruiting class, Trubisky was handpicked to run the coach’s uptempo offense.
But with Williams’ talent and support from the locker room, Fedora was forced to keep Trubisky in the wings until Williams exhausted his eligibility.
Though this year’s quarterback competition was very much contrived, it’s not the first quarterback controversy Trubisky’s been part of. He and Williams engaged in a very real battle during Trubisky’s redshirt freshman preseason. Fedora refused to tap a starter until Sept. 1, 2014, an ‘or’ appearing between Williams’ and Trubisky’s names on the depth chart until after both quarterbacks played in UNC’s season-opening wallop of Liberty.
Williams, who replaced injured Bryn Renner as the starter midway through the previous season, earned the nod, but Trubisky still appeared in 10 games during his first season.
Trubisky was often inserted for the third offensive series of games during the 2014 season, and he completed 42-of-78 passes for 459 yards.
Last year, Fedora halted the third series rotation, and Trubisky’s
playing time became more irregular. Fedora benched Williams in favor of
Trubisky in the second quarter of an early season game against Delaware,
because he apparently just enjoys creating controversy at the position.
But two days later, Fedora reaffirmed his commitment to Williams and kept Trubisky in a reserve role for the rest of the season. (Williams and the UNC offense shredding through the ACC schedule didn’t hurt matters.)
Trubisky made appearances in nine of 14 games last season, but he became more efficient and completed 40-of-47 passes for 555 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 101 yards on the ground and scored three rushing touchdowns.
“I learned a lot,” Trubisky said of his time as backup. “I think mostly just patience, being patient for my opportunity and just doing my role to help the team. It’s all about the team, and just executing and doing what I’ve got to do for the team, just being a team player. It’s not about me or my playing time, it’s about the success of the Tar Heels, and that’s what I’m about.”
With Williams exhausting his eligibility, it was in the team’s best interest to hand the keys over to Trubisky.
Though he’s never started a game, by playing in 19 games during the first two seasons of his career, Trubisky is far from a rookie stepping into a new role.
“We don’t feel that he’s a newcomer by any means,” wideout Ryan Switzer said. “Mitch has been one of the leaders since he stepped on campus. That’s just his personality. It’s not any different for us when we step out on the field. Everybody has their full faith and confidence in him and not that we’re trying to put any pressure on him, but we believe that he can get it done. He’s shown that he can so we definitely feel like he’s mentally and physically prepared as well.”
Switzer, who’s also Trubisky’s roommate, says underneath all the humble team-first talk is a confident quarterback who’s ready to take the reins.
“He’s always been a team-first guy,” Switzer said after the spring game. “I think that with that being said, he does believe that he is the best option for us going forward. I feel like he thinks this is long over-due and he’s ready to take the reins of this team.”