UNC Coaches Dismiss QB Rotation Concerns

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora and quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf are lockstep in their belief that rotating quarterbacks has not disrupted their offense’s rhythm and flow.

Fedora told reporters on Monday that he wasn’t concerned that starting quarterback Marquise Williams would be affected by inserting backup Mitch Trubisky during predetermined series. Trubisky, a redshirt freshman, has entered UNC’s first three games for the third series of the game, and played a second series in the first half against East Carolina on Saturday.

During his ACC teleconference on Wednesday, Fedora indicated that the intent of the substitutions is to get his No. 2 quarterback game experience. The third-year UNC head coach added that the only scripted series for Trubisky has been the third series, and that there’s no set number of reps beyond that initial drive.

“I think Marquise has done a really nice job of handling that and I don’t feel like it’s affected the flow of the game,” Fedora said.

On Saturday, UNC scored 10 points on its first two possessions and Trubisky entered with a three-point lead. The Mentor, Ohio native directed the offense down to the 4-yard line before the drive stalled and the Tar Heels settled for another field goal and a 13-7 lead.

“Both of them, the first drive that they had, they marched right down the field and we just didn’t finish,” Heckendorf said following practice on Tuesday. “The dynamic of that game could have really changed if we scored two touchdowns down there when we scored two field goals. But in those drives, each of them would have one play where you’d say, ‘Dang, did you see this? I would have loved to have seen you do this.’ Other than that, I thought we got off to a really good start.”

Over UNC’s next six possessions – not including a snap to run out the first half clock – it scored just once, and those points came off a fake field goal 29-yard touchdown pass.

Trubisky reentered for the sixth series of the game with UNC trailing 21-20 and went three-and-out. With Williams back in for the ensuing three possessions, UNC gained 50 yards on 12 plays, kicked two punts and gifted the Pirates an interception return for touchdown to effectively put the game out of reach at 42-20 less than a minute into the third quarter.

Heckendorf shared Fedora’s opinion regarding the quarterback rotation and any potential adverse effect it might have regarding offensive production.

“I don’t think it has any effect at all,” Heckendorf said.

Heckendorf said the plan was established during the week and the team practiced with the substitution in mind, adding that there were never any issues in practice and that there haven’t been issues in the games.

“I think that’s an excuse more than anything else,” Heckendorf said. “If people want to point the finger and pick out something to blame, they could pick out that, but I think if you talk to either one of them, they both support each other, they’re both there for each other and they’re both going to help this team win.”

Williams, for his part, avoided being sucked into the conversation following Saturday’s loss.

When asked if Trubisky’s playing time disrupted his rhythm, Williams offered this response: “I can’t even speak on that. I’m just doing my job. Whatever it is to help these guys win, I’m going to do it.”

There are various factors that play into the scripted rotation decision, according to Heckendorf, including how the quarterbacks practice and prepare, as well as “the feel of the team.”

“We’ll adjust as we see what’s best for this football team,” Heckendorf said. “We don’t have a set plan of how we’re going to do it each and every week through the end of the season. There’s a lot of things that happen throughout the course of a game and throughout the course of a week.”

North Carolina’s offensive problems start up front with a young and inexperienced offensive line, although it’s the quarterback position – and how the coaching staff handles that position - above any other that receives praise on good days and criticism on the bad ones.

“If I looked at it and evaluated and felt like it was hurting us offensively, obviously, I wouldn’t do it,” Fedora said, “but I don’t think that’s the case.”

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