In Mack Brown’s second stint in Chapel Hill, he has transformed the Tar Heels from one of the worst teams in the ACC to a budding collegiate power, finishing No. 18 in the final AP poll in 2020.
An indispensable component of that success has been Sam Howell, one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and a Heisman favorite. He has thrived in the past two seasons operating under the system of offensive coordinator Phil Longo.
To continue their present upward trajectory, the Tar Heels will have to continue recruiting top quarterback prospects and developing them well. Howell has been the picture of consistency during his two years in Chapel Hill, never suffering from a major injury and playing 952 of 997 offensive snaps in 2020. That consistency, though, has left his talented-yet-inexperienced backups with little playing time.
Coming into the season as the most experienced backup on the team, Criswell was the favorite to secure the second spot behind Howell. A 247 Sports four-star recruit and Arkansas' second-highest prospect, Criswell was a standout player in high school, throwing for 2,869 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior in high school.
At 6 feet and 220 pounds, Criswell’s build and play style has drawn comparisons to Howell, resulting in offers from Auburn and Arkansas University before committing to UNC. Criswell has shown himself to be a talented runner and has excellent improvisational skills that shine through when plays break down.
As a true first-year in 2020, Criswell had four passing attempts for three completions and 16 yards and one interception. He added nine rush attempts for 26 yards as well. Criswell will be key as the backup with the most experience with the offense, should Howell be sidelined. He also holds natural gifts to be the starter in an emergency situation.
Though he is a true first-year, Maye could be the most important player in the depth chart as Chapel Hill begins to look for an heir apparent to Howell for next season. As a junior in high school, Maye threw for over 3,500 yards and 50 touchdowns and only two interceptions en route to a 12-1 record.