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Saturday May 21st

Quarterbacks show talent in UNC football spring game

First-year quarterback Jace Ruder (10) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the spring football game in Kenan Memorial Stadium on April 13, 2019.
Buy Photos First-year quarterback Jace Ruder (10) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the spring football game in Kenan Memorial Stadium on April 13, 2019.

It is no secret that the quarterbacks were the center of attention at the North Carolina football team’s spring game on Saturday.

In terms of the depth chart, nothing was revealed as head coach Mack Brown said they will pick a starter in August. The three that are competing for the starting job rotated every drive and each one showed positives and negatives. 

“I think we have a really good problem,” running back Antonio Williams said. “And that’s three guys that can be the starting quarterback. Any team that has that kind of problem, it should be a good team because if you’ve got a good quarterback, the sky's the limit.”

Although all three quarterbacks impressed at times, they are still learning the team’s new offense under offensive coordinator Phil Longo. Brown said they taught the quarterbacks the offense in four days, then they repeated the process. Brown was concerned with a high number of interceptions early in practice, but put his trust in Longo.

“I think Coach Longo was right,” Brown said. “He said ‘let them learn the offense, let them learn what to do.’”

First-year Sam Howell showed that he learned what to do early in the game. The Tar Heels’ prized recruit was the first quarterback in the game and completed 10 passes on 16 attempts for 131 yards. He was consistent with his accuracy and capped off his performance with a 42-yard touchdown pass.

“Sam did really well today...” Brown said. “He made some throws with a quick release that were really good.”

The other two quarterbacks gained experience last season but also needed to learn the new offense this spring.

Redshirt first-year Jace Ruder completed five passes on seven attempts for 143 yards. A big chunk of those yards came on a 77-yard completion to a wide-open Carl Tucker down the sideline.

Redshirt first-year Cade Fortin did not have the same yardage as the other two, but showed nice touch throughout the game. Fortin completed two passes on six attempts for 39 yards.

However, being a dependable quarterback is not all about statistics. The quarterback that wins the competition will also need to be a leader on offense.

“I think all three quarterbacks have done a tremendous job,” offensive lineman Charlie Heck said. “Each one of them has taken a role that they understand that they have to be a leader on the offense.”

Some of the quarterbacks’ other offensive teammates also had impressive spring games.

The biggest stand out from the spring game was running back Javonte Williams. The third option out of the backfield showed that he is the whole package. Javonte Williams rushed six times for 51 yards and a touchdown.

“He can catch, he can run, he’s 220 pounds, he’s got a low base, he’s really fast and he’s made some of the bigger plays this spring,” Brown said.

Some other players that stood out were catching passes from the quarterbacks. Wide receivers Dazz Newsome and Corey Bell Jr. each totaled just over 65 yards receiving. Bell switched over to receiver from cornerback this spring. The wide receivers will need to be ready to perform with three young quarterbacks vying for the starting job.

The receivers along with the rest of the offense should have no trouble with the new offense. Brown said that the air-raid offense is simple for every player except for the quarterback.

Although spring practice is over, all eyes will still be on the quarterback competition heading into summer. However, the competition won’t get serious until the fall.

“We told the quarterbacks take the pressure off who is going to start, who is going to play, it doesn’t matter,” Brown said. “You’ll have all summer to work on the offense and in the fall we will start figuring out who gets the ball in the end zone the easiest and the fastest.”

Only one quarterback managed to get the ball in the end zone at the spring game but there were many positives to take away from that position battle and from the offense as a whole.

@matt_chilson

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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