At the beginning of the 2018 football season there was hope in the hearts of many North Carolina football fans. Hope that they had finally found their answer to the QB questions that have been lingering since their beloved Mitch Trubisky left for the NFL. The previous year LSU grad transfer, Brandon Harris, was supposed to be the answer. However, that thought was quickly abandoned. After throwing 2 interceptions and completing less than 50% of his passes in week 1 vs. Cal, Chazz Surratt took over the starting spot.
Once Chazz became the face of the Tar Heel offense, things seemed to run a lot smoother but it still wasn’t a well-oiled machine. Surratt seemed to be more of a rusher than a quarterback. The athleticism was there, but the arm, knowledge of the offense, and opposing defenses didn’t seem to be. Come week 9 against Miami, Chazz Surratt suffered a season ending injury. Nathan Elliott stepped in and the Tar Heel offense seemed to move better than it had all season.
Elliott didn’t seem to be anything special, but the team appeared to rally around him. Which is extremely important when it comes to the QB position. The Heels played tough against a highly ranked Miami team only losing 24-19. UNC went on to win 2 out of their final 3 games of the year. Although 2017 was a year to forget for Carolina fans, it seemed that hope was on the horizon.
The Struggles Continue
Nathan Elliott and Chazz Surratt entered the 2018 season as the clear favorites to win the starting QB spot. Ultimately, Elliott ended up winning the starting position by default, as Chazz was suspended for the first couple of games due to selling school-issued shoes. Some Carolina fans may argue that Elliott won the starting job outright, but judging by his play thus far it is hard to believe that. In the first 2 games of this season, Nathan did not look like a D1 caliber player. He completed only 43% of his passes against Cal in week 1 and threw 4 interceptions. Elliott couldn’t get anything done against a lousy ECU defense, losing 41-19 against their in-state rival. Pitt has been the only game the junior QB has excelled, but that is beginning to look more like an outlier rather than improvement.
Then came the Miami game. Surratt was finally back from suspensions and the hope was that he would come back and save the day. Unfortunately for Tar Heels fans, that was not the case. The UNC QB play during the Miami game, may have been the sorriest I have EVER seen from a QB group ever. Elliott gave up what might have been the most embarrassing fumble that has ever occurred, and Miami scooped and scored it with ease:
Surratt followed that up with a TD on his feet. However, the struggles were far from over. Surratt ended up finishing the game with 4 of 10 passing with 3 interceptions and a NEGATIVE 11.6 QB rating. I repeated a NEGATIVE quarterback rating. Needless to say, something went wrong in Chapel Hill.
What the hell happened?
A lot. A lot of things happened. Anything that could go wrong for the Tar Heels, did go wrong. First, let’s start with the quarterback transfers. 4-star QB Caleb Henderson could have been at the helm of Fedora’s offense last season and this year, but he transferred to Maryland. Henderson does not play for the Terps anymore due to health reasons. However, he did have the big arm that the Heels were looking for, and he could have been great in the offense. Unfortunately, that did not work out.
Then there was Logan Byrd. Byrd was recruited in the same class as Chazz Surratt (2016), and had received high praises in practice. He had a big arm and was quite mobile. I like to compare his mobility to that of Marquise Williams, as he was a bigger guy and could actually lay the wood on some defenders. Granted, he wasn’t quite as mobile and athletic as Quise, but you get the picture. However, after not getting an opportunity to compete during the dreadful 2017 season, Byrd decided to head to a JuCo school. Also, let’s not forget that Anthony Ratliff-Williams was recruited as a QB, before landing at the WR position. Ultimately, I think Tar Heel fans are okay with that given his success at that position.
Although this is not a transfer per say, Tyler Shough was one of UNC’s star commitments in the 2018 recruiting class. Shough seemed like he could be the “It” guy when it came to the UNC QB position, but he ended up switching his commitment to the Oregon Ducks. If Shough would have stayed true to his commitment, he could very easily be the starting QB for the Tar Heels at the moment.
Building for the Future
At this point, the Tar Heels are starting to look at other options for the QB position. Clemson QB transfer Kelly Bryant will be visiting Chapel Hill this weekend. Bryant could be a superstar in Fedora’s offense, but we think this is a long shot at best. Fedora would have to convince Kelly that he will still be around next year. Also, he’d have to convince Bryant that a transfer to UNC would help his chances to play on Sundays. Although, anything can happen when you get a kid on campus.
With Chazz Surratt out for the year again due to a wrist injury, and Nathan Elliott not fitting the bill of a D1 QB, it seems that a change needs to be made right now. Whether it be by default or by lack of production, it is finally time Tar Heel fans. This Saturday UNC looks to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies, and it seems that freshman Cade Fortin will see some meaningful minutes for the first time. He has seen some late game action, but this time it will be while the game is still a contest. In fact, Fortin may even trot out as the starter.
Fortin was a 4-star rated QB until he broke his leg and missed nearly his entire senior season. He was committed to Texas A&M, but UNC QB Coach Keith Heckendorf built a great relationship with him and he ended up a Tar Heel. Fortin has a big time arm and can make every throw that is asked of him. He is slightly limited as a runner, but is more than athletic enough to get the job done. At this point Tar Heel fans are clinging to anything that gives them hope. Fortunately, it seems that help might be on the way.