CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The question that has been asked of Mitch Trubisky the most by NFL personnel since declaring for the draft in January is the same one that has plagued observers of the North Carolina program for years: why did a potential top-10 NFL draft pick only start 13 games in college?
It’s a fair question, albeit one naïve in its simplicity. Lost in the inquiry is an understanding of UNC’s team dynamics in the fall of 2014, a year in which Marquise Williams willed the Tar Heels to more victories than they likely deserved and spearheaded an offseason culture revival that resulted in 2015’s run to the ACC Championship Game.
“For me to answer the question, it’s we had pretty good chemistry with (Williams),” Larry Fedora said following UNC’s Pro Day on Tuesday. “He did a great job of leading the team, things were going well, and I didn’t want to shake that up. And so I thought I did what was best for the football team.”
Fedora acknowledged that Trubisky’s answer to the question would be and should be different. After all, that’s to be expected from a competitor battling for playing time.
As is often the case, Fedora was right.
“Obviously me and Marquise competed here,” Trubisky told a packed room of reporters at Henry Stadium. “I felt like I won the job. I felt like I should have been the quarterback. But Coach Fedora, it was his decision, he did what he thought was best for the team. Even though I hated being a backup as a competitor, I embraced my role and I found ways to get better on my own. I continued to push my teammates. I was a great teammate to him and everyone else, and we won a lot of games with him.
“But I thought if I was in there I could’ve done the same thing and maybe even better, just having that confidence in myself.”
Strong words that highlight Trubisky’s enhanced polish since playing his last game as a Tar Heel against Stanford in the Sun Bowl. Known for his locked-in, almost robotic, approach to media and the game he plays, the Mentor, Ohio product arrived at UNC’s Pro Day with a detailed script for the skills he wanted to showcase, which were vast.
“I tried to include all of the routes on the route tree in my script,” Trubisky said, detailing his workout for scouts that lasted nearly 30 minutes, “and do a couple of movement throws on the run and simulate a pocket rush so hopefully the coaches can see that I can make all of the throws.”
Trubisky was his typical accurate self in front of the 75 NFL scouts and personnel in attendance, confirming what his statistics suggest. The 6-foot-2, 217-pound quarterback completed 69.6 percent of his passes for 4,303 yards, 36 touchdowns and six interceptions in his final two seasons as a Tar Heel.
In his lone season as a starter in 2016, Trubisky set UNC single-season records for touchdown passes (30), completions (304), attempts (447), passing yards (3,748) and total offense (4,056 yards).
Fedora dismissed any concerns about Trubisky’s graduation from a spread offense into the more complex stylings of an NFL scheme, noting his quarterback’s comprehension and command of full-field reads, half-field reads, coverage reads and route progressions. UNC’s route concepts are also many of the same concepts NFL teams utilize.
The most significant challenge for Trubisky, according to Fedora, is possibly the shift to NFL play calling, which is as robust as it is downright wordy. Brevity is key within a hurry-up-no-huddle design, where the quarterback’s primary communication is with his offensive line.
“Now, you go into that level, and you’re calling out every single receiver, running back, offensive line protection, you’re calling it all out in a play,” Fedora said. “If you’ve ever heard an NFL play, it might be 7-8-9-10 words long. Getting that from the sideline or the helmet to his teammates will be the biggest learning curve, I think, for him.”
Trubisky disagreed, citing his emphasis on that adjustment since declaring for the draft.
“I don’t see that being a problem for me,” Trubisky said. “I’ve been practicing it since January. Me and my quarterback coach, Ryan Lindley, would simulate installing plays and I would practice calling it to a huddle. I also did that at the Gruden camp, so it’s just something that comes along with the process.”
Trubisky said he’s been happy with how the draft process has transpired to date. With roughly five weeks remaining before the NFL Draft, his schedule moving forward will be a blend of hosting teams for workouts in North Carolina where he’s currently residing and flying out to various locales to meet with team personnel. He has workouts scheduled with the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, among others.