The four-way battle for North Carolina's starting quarterback job continues
In order for precipitation to occur, tiny water droplets must first condense around a smaller, single piece of dust.
Through its first five days of camp and after a full installment of head coach Larry Fedora’s offensive system, the fact that the North Carolina football team has not seen any of its quarterbacks emerge as a front runner for the starting job means one thing: the Tar Heels have a ways to go before they see a raindrop.
North Carolina currently has four players with viable chances to start under center come its first game on Sep. 2 against California. Each one is getting the same amount of reps, Fedora said on Monday.
Fedora also said that he is “pleased with all four” candidates vying for the starting job at this point, but nobody has separated themselves from the pack — which can largely be due to the fact that the first scrimmage won’t take place until Tuesday.
“I’d like to know as soon as possible, really,” Fedora said of a timetable for selecting a starting quarterback. “The sooner the better because then that guy can zero in on leading the team. Right now, they’re all competing, trying to earn a job and it’s hard to just take over the team when it’s not your team yet.”
The competition for the offense’s top dog is between graduate transfer Brandon Harris, redshirt sophomore Nathan Elliott and redshirt first-years Chazz Surratt and Logan Byrd. Each one brings something different to the table.
Brandon Harris (No. 6)
Brandon Harris reached out to the Tar Heel football staff after his junior season at Louisiana State left him wanting more. After losing his starting job in the middle of the second game of his junior season — and not playing another snap after that — Harris had a decision to make.
Months later, Harris deduced that Chapel Hill was one of the most attractive landing spots in the country — mainly because he thought Fedora’s run-and-gun offense fit his style of play and Mitchell Trubisky’s early departure to the NFL left the possibility for an open starting role — and chose to graduate early from LSU and spend his final year of collegiate eligibility as a Tar Heel.
By all indications, Harris is well-equipped and ready to seize the reins come the Tar Heels’ first game. In terms of physical capabilities, the Bossier City, La., native has the most tools in the toolbox. His strong arm allows him to make “every throw there is,” Fedora said. Not to mention, his accuracy has been solid throughout camp. That is, when he sets his feet properly.
“I think the thing for me is continuing to learn our footwork that we take here because it is totally different than what I did at LSU,” Harris said. “Out of the spread and under the center is totally different.”
When it comes to playbook comprehension, Harris and Fedora agreed that the graduate transfer isn’t at a point where he is completely comfortable.
“Right now, he’s having to think about every detail that’s happening on the field,” Fedora said. “And that tends to make you play a little bit slower.”
Nathan Elliott (No. 11)
It’s cliché, but it's true: what Nathan Elliott doesn’t have in his physical intangibles, he compensates for in his general intellect about the game and knowledge of the system he has already spent three years in.
Elliott thinks his familiarity with the offense is one of his biggest strengths as a candidate for the starting job — especially considering the fact that he’s learned from two of North Carolina’s most talented quarterbacks in program history, Trubisky and Marquise Williams.
He also says that because he is not the strongest or fastest, his efficiency and reliability is what sets him apart. That said, he made sure to note that helping the team trumps any of his desires to obtain the starting role.
“I have to be able to help the other guys if they have any problems,” he said. “Because ultimately it’s whatever is best for our team. That’s what you got to keep in mind.”
Chazz Surratt (No. 12)
No matter if Surratt spends the season on the sidelines or between the hash marks, the redshirt first-year from Denver, N.C., is a Tar Heel investment for the future.
As the former Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of North Carolina and holder of numerous state football records, Surratt is arguably the most talented player in his recruiting class. He did not speak to reporters on Monday, but — if he proves he can be a versatile threat, moving the ball effectively with his arm and legs during the scrimmages this week — this first-year could very well sidestep into the spotlight.
Logan Byrd (No. 14)
Two years ago, Byrd was a four-star recruit, rated a top-10 high school pocket passer in the country. Today, he’s in a four-way battle for the starting spot.
Even though the reps are even across the board right now, the redshirt first-year will most likely have to make the biggest impression on the Tar Heel coaching staff if he wants to run the offense come Sep. 2.
On Monday, gray clouds covered the North Carolina blue sky — which dangles the poetic parallel. In order for North Carolina to reveal its true colors, it will have to rain.
And the rain will come once Fedora announces a quarterback.