The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday December 5th

Previewing UNC's quarterback depth after two passers transfer out of Chapel Hill

<p>UNC true first-year quarterback Jace Ruder looks to throw a pass during the team's 38-28 loss to Georgia Tech on Nov. 3.</p>
Buy Photos UNC quarterback Jace Ruder looks to throw a pass during the team's game against Georgia Tech on Nov. 3, 2018. Ruder's experience with Coach Mack Brown and the Tar Heels make him a likely choice for the role of Sam Howell's backup.

North Carolina wide receiver Emery Simmons told reporters last week that "Coach Brown is looking for depth in all positions."

At the quarterback position, UNC football head coach Mack Brown's search for a list of proven signal callers hit a couple of speed bumps in the last two weeks.

Former QB Donovan Brewington took to Twitter on Aug. 4 to announce that he would be transferring to Saint Augustine's University. Inside Carolina reported last week that Vincent Amendola, who made his debut last season, has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.


This leaves the Tar Heels with four quarterbacks listed on the official roster less than a month ahead of their new season-opener against Syracuse.

If UNC fans learned anything from the 2019 season, it's that then-first-year passer Sam Howell has the potential to skyrocket into the Heisman trophy conversation if his team can win enough games. But looking past the vaunted sophomore, the Tar Heels have plenty of question marks in terms of who could line up under center.

Jace Ruder

Aside from Howell, Ruder is the only other quarterback on UNC's roster to record a down in college football, and he's only attempted seven passes in two seasons with the team.

Ruder's only action in 2018 came in a 38-28 loss to Georgia Tech at a time when he and Nathan Elliott were competing for playing time in the pocket. The first-year completed four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown against the Yellow Jackets before a season-ending collarbone injury derailed his year.

Ruder followed his brief 2018 campaign with a 2019 season that also came to an early halt when he suffered a broken leg against Appalachian State that sidelined him just four games into the year.

Entering his third year with the team, Ruder has proven he can be called on to serve as a decent game manager, if necessary, and his experience in Brown's system makes him the likely candidate for the role of Howell's backup.

Jacolby Criswell

Criswell, an early-enrollee at UNC, is one of two first-years on the squad, but that didn't stop him from raking in a mountain of accolades in his three years of high school football.

The 247Sports Composite ranked Criswell as a four-star prospect and the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in his class after he amassed 5,925 passing yards and 58 touchdowns, while rushing for 2,568 yards and 41 scores over his three-year prep career. The Morrilton, Arkansas native was also Arkansas' Gatorade Football Player of the Year in his senior season.

Jefferson Boaz

Boaz's road to UNC's quarterback room is one of the strangest paths an athlete can have.

At the start of August, Boaz checked in at just under 6-foot-7 and weighed 245 pounds, making him a perfect candidate to line up as a tight end — a position he played at for a good chunk of his high school career — for the Tar Heels. But a breakout senior season at QB led to UNC officially listing the first-year as a quarterback heading into the 2020 season.

In a full season under center last year, Boaz managed to set an NCHSAA single-season record with 82 touchdowns responsible for, while throwing for 4,615 yards and 65 touchdowns. He also led East Surry High School to a 56-28 victory in the 1AA state championship game by connecting for seven passing touchdowns.

It's still unclear how much time he'll spend in the pocket versus at tight end for the Tar Heels, but Brown and his staff shouldn't have a problem finding a role for Boaz's athletic frame.

@McMastersJ

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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