Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina

Evaluating UNC's Quarterback Trio

The competition for North Carolina's 2017 starting quarterback spot begins on the practice field next week.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C --- As Mitch Trubisky heads to the NFL Combine, North Carolina will enter spring practice with a trio of scholarship quarterbacks to evaluate. Even if UNC lands a graduate transfer at the position, that player would not arrive until fall camp.

What do each of the three players that will compete during the spring bring to the table? Offensive coordinator Chris Kapilovic provided a breakdown.

First, Nathan Elliott, who won the backup role in 2016.

“He’s a smart, gritty kid. A coach’s son,” Kapilovic said. “He knows the offense, he played a similar offense in high school. He runs the ball pretty well, and throws it pretty well, and does a great job of taking care of the football.”

There is no question that head coach Larry Fedora places an emphasis on taking care of the football, for good reason. Trubisky only threw six interceptions in 2016, all coming in losses. That may give Elliott a leg up going into the spring, but there’s going to be competition.

The two quarterbacks UNC fans know the least about were true freshmen in 2016. Logan Byrd, 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, from Warner Robins (Ga.) Veterans, and Chazz Surratt, at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, from Denver (N.C.) East Lincoln.

Both Surratt and Byrd have strong arms, according to Kapilovic, and he believes both could throw the ball well in UNC’s offense. The difference in the two quarterbacks may be in their style of running.

“Chazz Surratt is a freakish athlete,” Kapilovic said, “He runs the ball extremely well.” Asked if he compared to former UNC quarterback Marquise Williams in that way, Kapilovic said they have different running styles.

“Marquise was a very physical runner that loved contact, “Kapilovic said. “He would run over people. Chazz is faster than Marquise and if he finds a seam, he can score from anywhere on the field.”

Byrd, meanwhile, has a style more like Williams.

“Byrd is a bigger guy, and is more like Marquise in the way he runs the ball,” said Kapilovic. “He’s not afraid of contact.”

The remaining question is how these players will react when they’re no longer wearing a “no contact” jersey. In 2015, Kapilovic learned that Williams never found his rhythm until after he had been hit. After recognizing this phenomenon, they called Williams’s number in the running game early on Saturdays.

“That’s what we have to find out,” Kapilovic said. “How will they respond once they begin to get hit?”

This spring UNC fans will begin to find out more about all three of the scholarship quarterbacks. What is clear from Kapilovic’s verbal tour of this group is that in addition to the passing requirements in this offense, being able to run the ball and, perhaps most importantly, take care of the ball, are going to be highly valued traits for the next UNC starting quarterback.

Stay tuned for more of Inside Carolina’s pre-spring interview series with the Tar Heel coordinators.

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