Brandon Harris is headed to North Carolina, but the former LSU quarterback was not able to participate in spring ball. Does the ex-Tiger have the edge for the starting job in Chapel Hill?
North Carolina held its annual spring football game at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill on Saturday, although it didn’t feature Brandon Harris, the former LSU quarterback who will be joining the team as a graduate transfer.
Perhaps the biggest question currently facing Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora and his offensive staff is who is going to replace Mitch Trubisky, who decided to enter the NFL Draft after his standout 2016 season. While UNC showcased four different quarterbacks this past weekend, the one that wasn’t on the field—Harris—perhaps holds the most intrigue. Because of his starting experience in the SEC, many Tar Heels fans assume that the starting job is his to lose once he arrives on campus.
Without Harris this past weekend, though, Fedora and the Tar Heels’ offensive playmakers had an opportunity to see how the current signal-callers would do in the spring spotlight.
Nathan Elliott, who served as Trubisky’s backup in 2016, joined fellow dual-threat Chazz Surratt as well as pro-style gunslingers Logan Byrd and Manny Miles in Saturday’s battle. If the decision were up to linebacker Andre Smith, Surratt would get the call as the No. 1 QB.
“I know that Elliott has been here for a while, and he deserves a shot. But Chazz, he brings a different perspective to the game,” Smith said. “Not only can he throw, but he is very fast. He brings that Lamar Jackson quality with the zone-read ability and provides a different dynamic.”
Mentioning Surratt in the same sentence as Louisville’s defending Heisman Trophy winner is certainly high praise.
Surratt received the start for the Tar Heels on Saturday, finishing with 90 yards on 5-of-14 passing. Elliot had 213 yards through the air and three touchdowns on 8-of-12 passing, complete with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Roscoe Johnson and a 65-yard scoring strike to Austin Proehl on his final two drives of the first half.
Meanwhile, Miles impressed by passing for a touchdown on his last drive. However, Byrd often stared down his wide receivers but did overcome a rough start to finish with 120 yards on 12 completions. He also thrived as a runner.
Still, as we look ahead to the summer months, the battle remains undecided.
“I’d say they made a lot of progress, but I wouldn’t say anyone separated themselves,” Fedora said. “We’ll get into the summer and fall camp, and if someone separates at that time, then we’ll make a decision. I’m not anywhere close to making a decision.”
A decision can’t be made because Fedora needs to see Harris in UNC colors first.
As I wrote when Harris decided to head to Chapel Hill, the ex-Tiger has a chance to succeed in this offense. He doesn’t have to be as prolific as Marquise Williams or Trubisky for this to be a successful stint. He just has to be the best option under center on a roster without much experience at the position. Fedora’s track record as one of the better offensive minds in the country with a QB-friendly system should help Harris thrive and end his college career on a high note.
But with a finite number of practices in preseason camp, will Harris be able to prove to the coaching staff that he gives the team the best chance to win over Elliott, Surratt or one of the other QBs?
UNC fans will have to wait until August to find out.