CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Mitch Trubisky’s decision to enter the 2017 NFL Draft leaves Larry Fedora with a massive rebuilding effort on the offensive side of the ball entering the offseason.
“After a lot of prayer and thought, I have decided to forgo my senior year and enter the NFL draft,” Trubisky wrote in his announcement essay on The Players’ Tribune. “This has been the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make. But no matter what happens next, I know I’ll never experience something as special as being a Tar Heel.”
Trubisky is expected to be a top-10 pick in April’s NFL Draft, which will net him a four-year contract between $15-$30 million. While his decision is hard to argue, it leaves the 2017 Tar Heel offense short on experience and long on youth and unknown quantities.
Trubisky set UNC single-season records for touchdown passes (30), completions (304), attempts (447), passing yards (3,748) and total offense (4,056 yards) in 2016. His backup, redshirt freshman Nathan Elliott, completed 8-of-9 passes for 55 yards.
Elliott will compete with current true freshmen Chazz Surratt and Logan Byrd for the quarterback job in spring ball. UNC remains in the hunt for a grad transfer to serve as a stopgap of sorts. Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire is still an option, although his decision to not enroll in a new school until after the spring semester will play a role in UNC’s search, according to a team source.
UNC’s rebuild extends beyond the quarterback position. The offensive departures result in the loss of 264 career starts. The offensive line will have to replace a trio of four-year players in left guard Caleb Peterson, right tackle Jon Heck and center Lucas Crowley. Another trio of four-year players are gone at wide receiver in Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard and Mack Hollins, while Elijah Hood’s draft decision reversal leaves the Tar Heel backfield without its top three tailbacks.
True freshman Jordon Brown will be UNC’s leading returning tailback with 45 rushing yards, while junior Austin Proehl will be the top returning wideout with 597 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Junior left tackle Bentley Spain will serve as the senior veteran along the offensive line and the only lineman with a full season of starts.