UNC’s spring game was a relaxed affair, with Mack Brown opting for a 70-play scrimmage in lieu of a traditional game.
But for the quarterbacks, each play was another opportunity to separate themselves in the three-man race.
“I think all three of them are good,” Brown said after the game. “You could see today, there’s some flashes with all three.”
True freshman Sam Howell received the first snaps of the game and finished 10/16 for 131 yards, one touchdown, and one interception that came from a tipped pass.
Howell, the jewel of UNC’s latest recruiting class, started off shaky but put things together in the second half. Shortly after halftime, Howell connected with receiver Roscoe Johnson for a 42-yard touchdown pass to put Team Tar Heels on the board.
“I thought Sam did very well today,” Brown said. “For a freshman to walk out there in front of a crowd, he’s really a high school senior. He made some throws with a quick release that were really good.”
Sophomores Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder were next up in line in the quarterback rotation. Fortin finished 3/7 for 29 yards. Ruder was 4/6 for 143 yards and a rushing touchdown.
With Nathan Elliott opting to take a graduate assistant position at Arkansas State and Chazz Surratt switching to linebacker, Carolina’s quarterback room will be inexperienced this fall. Of the three players, only Fortin has started a game in college.
“This is a difficult offense for the quarterback,” Brown said of offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s air raid offense. “It’s simple for everybody else, but he’s got a lot to do so we told the quarterbacks to take the pressure off who’s going to start, who’s going to play. It doesn’t matter. You’ll have all summer to work on the offense, in the fall we’ll start figuring out who gets the ball in the end zone the fastest.”
Brown also mentioned the transfer portal, which has been a hot topic in college football. This offseason has seen many high-profile quarterbacks enter the portal and transfer to different programs.
“With the transfer portal, everybody gets mad and leaves now so quickly. We want to give all three guys a chance.”
The starting quarterback will be the biggest decision for Brown and his staff before the August 31 opener against South Carolina.
“We’ve told all three of them, it’s going to be the one that gets the ball in the end zone.”