The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday May 28th

Positional preview: UNC passing offense more than meets the eye

But don’t let your eyes fool you.

At first glance, the UNC passing attack hasn’t changed one bit: still a blur of blue and white gliding down the field, one play at a time.

And for the most part, the passing unit is comprised of many of the same parts — including six of its top-seven pass-catchers from the 2015 season.

“You got all the same guys back, pretty much ...” said junior running back Elijah Hood.

“You’ve just got a different quarterback.”

Enter Mitch Trubisky.

After competing for the starting quarterback spot the past two years, the redshirt junior finally earned his place this offseason. But Trubisky’s promotion isn’t the defining difference in this season’s passing attack.

With one full cycle under Coach Larry Fedora’s system, the UNC passing offense is starting to reap the benefits of the work it has put in — making the unit greater than the sum of its parts.

With a strong core of veterans, chemistry is the staple of the UNC passing offense this season. And while the biggest change has been under center, the unit’s cohesiveness begins with Trubisky.

Since he arrived at UNC in 2013, the quarterback from Mentor, Ohio has put in enough time with the starters to ensure the offense doesn’t miss a beat.

“Mitch was my class quarterback coming in, so we lived together,” senior wide receiver Ryan Switzer said. “There were late nights where we’d go to the indoor and throw. I know Mitch and the ball that he throws just as well as anybody.”

But while the unit’s chemistry started at the quarterback position, it will go as far as UNC’s veteran receiving corps takes it.

As proven veterans Switzer, Mack Hollins and Bug Howard enter their final season, they have all developed into leaders for the offense.

But of the three, one has embraced his role as a vocal leader for the entire team.

“Mack, obviously,” center Lucas Crowley said.

Hollins earned his place, performing at a high level on offense and special teams and setting an example for the rest of the team. And while the senior will be the No. 1 option at receiver this season, Fedora believes he has already started making his biggest contribution to the team.

“Leadership,” Fedora said. “He’s the guy who’s been out there the most. He’s the guy who understands the intensity.”

Despite helping his team to its best offensive season ever in 2015 — when the Tar Heels ranked first in the ACC in scoring offense and third in passing offense — neither Hollins nor his fellow receivers landed a spot on the 90-player Maxwell Award watch list for 2016, awarded to America’s College Player of the Year.

They aren’t on many preseason radars, but UNC’s veterans will lean on chemistry and leadership to try to establish themselves as a top passing attack in the country.

After all, they are more than meets the eye.



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