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Monday December 5th

Analysis: UNC football heads into new era at quarterback position

UNC sophomore quarterback Jacolby Criswell (6) rushes past Wofford's defense on Nov. 20 at Kenan Stadium. UNC beat Wofford 34-14.
Buy Photos UNC sophomore quarterback Jacolby Criswell (6) rushes past Wofford's defense on Nov. 20 at Kenan Stadium. UNC beat Wofford 34-14.

With Sam Howell now in the NFL after setting numerous records for North Carolina football, the time has come for the inexperienced quarterbacks to gain some experience.

UNC has five quarterbacks on its 2022 roster, but only three — sophomore Jacolby Criswell, redshirt first-year Drake Maye and sophomore Jefferson Boaz — have seen any playing time, combining for 36 career pass attempts.

While Maye and Criswell are the current leaders in the battle for who will start under center on Aug. 27 in the season opener against Florida A&M, there are several options behind them. 

Here's a look at what each player can bring to the revamped quarterback room.

Jacolby Criswell

Criswell came to North Carolina in 2020 as one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in his class, winning Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Morrilton High School. He played sparingly in his first two seasons at UNC, yet showed flashes of why he was highly regarded during his prep career.

Criswell's first taste of game action in the 2021 season came against Georgia State. He attempted two passes against the Panthers, one of which was a 47-yard touchdown throw under pressure after being lured out of the pocket by the defense.

Later in the season, Criswell started against Wofford while Howell sat out with an upper-body injury. In that game, he continued to showcase his mobility, rolling out of the pocket and running down the field for 26 yards to get the Tar Heels into the red zone Criswell ended the game with 125 passing yards and 66 yards on the ground, including a rushing touchdown.

If head coach Mack Brown prefers to utilize a quarterback with dynamic mobile ability, Criswell has the chance to thrive in the UNC offense.

Drake Maye

Maye was a top-25 player in the 2021 recruiting class coming out of Myers Park High School in Charlotte. Maye first committed to Alabama before flipping to North Carolina in 2020.

His name was known by UNC fans long before he committed to the Tar Heels, though. Maye's father, Mark, was North Carolina’s starting quarterback for two seasons in 1986 and 1987. His brother, Luke, played for the men's basketball team from 2015-2019 and hit one of the greatest game-winning shots in UNC history during the team's run to the 2017 national championship.

When the younger Maye got his chance to debut for UNC against Wofford last year, he made the most of it. He finished the game with an efficient 89 passing yards, including a 46-yard throw to J.J. Jones that showcased his pinpoint accuracy from the pocket.

Maye also proved his ability to scramble, too, rushing for 38 yards on four attempts, including an 18-yard scamper on a broken pass play. Although Maye has been heralded for his passing ability, making plays with his legs could be an important factor in him running the offense.

Jefferson Boaz

Boaz came to UNC in 2020 after being recruited by the likes of Appalachian State, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Although the sophomore from Pilot Mountain has only attempted one pass for UNC, it’s hard to miss him on the field because of his 6-foot-7-inch, 245 lb. stature. With the size he possesses, he has the frame to be a productive tight end, but Brown and the coaching staff have decided to keep him under center.

In his high school senior season in 2019, Boaz put together a record-setting year, throwing for 4,615 yards and 65 touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 17 touchdowns. He led East Surry High School to the 1AA state title and a 15-0 record while setting the NCHSAA single-season record for touchdowns responsible for with 82.

@thenoahmonroe

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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