Fedora still mum about UNC’s starting QB

Aug. 25, 2014 @ 08:06 PM

All-America returner Ryan Switzer joined a group of reporters huddled around North Carolina linebacker Jeff Schoettmer on Monday and pressed the record button on his phone.

When it came time to ask a question, Switzer went with the topic that’s come up more often than any other during training camp: “Talk about the quarterback situation — who do you think has earned the right to step out on that field?”

There is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Tar Heels as they prepare for the season opener Saturday against Liberty at Kenan Stadium (6 p.m., ESPN3.com), including the running back rotation and the eligibility of senior Ethan Farmer, who started every game at defensive tackle last season.

But the most unsettled position is still at quarterback. UNC coach Larry Fedora said he hasn’t decided if junior incumbent Marquise Williams or redshirt freshman Mitch

Trubisky will start against the Flames — and when he does, it won’t be announced publicly.

Why the secrecy?

“Because it bothers a lot of people,” Fedora said. “That’d probably be the No. 1 reason, is that everybody wants to ask about it, and so it just gives me pleasure.”

Whatever enjoyment Fedora gets out of the quarterback battle — and the possible edge it gives him over an opponent who’s also been kept in the dark — he may also believe in keeping the suspense for as long as possible because the competition has helped both candidates.

“It’s pushed Marquise a lot,” right guard Landon Turner said. “I think I’ve seen him work harder this camp than I ever have before. Whoever starts, it’s going to be healthy for us.”

Switzer said the competition has had the same effect on his roommate, Trubisky.

“I think he’s been mature about it,” Switzer said. “He’s done a lot better than I would have. He’s taking it step-by-step and day-by-day. He comes in every day to get better. I know it’s brought out the best in him, which competition usually does with great competitors.”

Williams went 4-2 as a starter last year and led the team in rushing, while Trubisky was Fedora’s first big quarterback recruit at UNC. The players have been splitting practice time with the starters since the spring.

Switzer said he knows both quarterbacks will play against Liberty, somewhat minimizing the impact of who will start. The decision can also be pushed back because unlike last year — when the mobile Williams was backing up a pocket passer in Bryn Renner — both Williams and Trubisky have similar styles. Fedora said the game plan was fully installed despite the lack of a starter.

“Marquise and Mitch can both run and pass equally as well,” Schoettmer said. “There’s no difference, really. Whichever guys steps on the field first, we’ll rally around him.”

Fedora said he wasn’t “deeply concerned” about the quarterback position since he can win with either player.

Instead, he’s more worried about the lack of depth on both lines — especially considering Farmer’s status is still up in the air because of an undisclosed academic issue, and Fedora doesn’t know when it will be resolved.

“I’d love to (know), but I don’t anticipate anything,” Fedora said. “It’s out of our control. I don’t know the speed of it. Nobody has indicated to me it will happen one way or the other.”

Two expected members of the line, Shawn Underwood and Greg Webb, will already miss the season because of academics, and Farmer is the only end or tackle on the roster who has started a college game.

The team has been preparing both with and without Farmer, who Turner said was the strongest player on the team. If he can’t play, he will likely be replaced by redshirt freshman Nazair Jones, who will join with junior tackle Justin Thomason and redshirt freshman end Dajaun Drennon up front.

Fedora said that the running back position also needs to be ironed out. Sophomore T.J. Logan and junior Romar Morris were listed as co-starters on the depth chart, backed up by top incoming recruit Elijah Hood and Hillside High product Khris Francis.

“You’re only going to get so many snaps in a game,” Fedora said. “So we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to distribute that.”

In the end, he said it will come down to which combination gives UNC the best chance to win. He’ll use the same criteria to pick a quarterback — eventually.

NOTES — East Chapel Hill product Thomas Moore fended off a challenge from freshman Freeman Jones and kept his job as the starting place kicker. The senior also received a scholarship this season, as did fourth-year punter Thomas Moore and long snapper Alex Marrs.