UNC freshman quarterback Mitch Trubisky vying to back up Bryn Renner

acarter@newsobserver.comAugust 14, 2013 

— Larry Fedora doesn’t like to think about such things, so he didn’t have much of an answer when asked Wednesday who might become North Carolina’s starting quarterback if Bryn Renner suffered a serious injury.

“Don’t know,” Fedora, the Tar Heels’ second-year head coach, said. “I try not to think that way.”

Every coaching staff, however, has a contingency plan, and UNC’s, in the case of a long-term injury to Renner, might very well lie on the shoulders of Mitch Trubisky, a freshman who enrolled in January and played well throughout spring practice and during the Tar Heels’ annual spring scrimmage.

A year ago, Trubisky was preparing for his senior season at Mentor High School in Mentor, Ohio, where he earned the state’s Mr. Football Award. Now he could be one play from becoming the most important player on the Tar Heels’ offense.

It’s not a farfetched proposition.

Trubisky, UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said Wednesday, is in a “dead battle” with Marquise Williams for the Tar Heels’ backup quarterback position. Williams, who missed spring practice while he dealt with an academic issue, played in nine games last season, and it’s likely the offense will again feature plays designed for him.

Trubisky, however, could be the coaching staff’s preferred long-term option should anything happen to Renner.

Trubisky already has displayed a firm grasp of the offensive playbook, something Williams struggled with at times a season ago. And though he served as the backup last season, Williams entered preseason behind after missing spring practice.

The prospect of having to play sooner rather than later is something Trubisky has thought about often, he said. It’s a thought that doesn’t appear to faze him.

“I think about that in the back of my mind,” Trubisky said. “And you really never know what could happen throughout the course of a season. So I’ve got to prepare myself like I’m going to be able to play week one, and I think that’s just the mindset you have to go in with.”

Renner, entering his third season as UNC’s starter, has been durable. He hasn’t missed a start in the past two seasons and rarely has had to leave a game because of injury.

If that trend continues, Trubisky could redshirt this season and learn from the sidelines and in practice. That would be the preferred path, Anderson said.

“I guess the perfect world would be to redshirt him if you could,” Anderson said.

“It may not be a decision we make until even later on in the season, depending on how things go,” he said. “We’ll have an emergency plan and then a midseason emergency plan and then a late-season emergency plan.…

“But I really would feel comfortable if we needed to play with Mitch tomorrow. I feel like, in a game, he’d be very prepared and would give us a chance to win.”

Trubisky received scholarship offers from Ohio State and Alabama and plenty of others. Some of the more nationally-recognized programs, however, didn’t make him as much of a recruiting priority as UNC.

The fiercest recruiting competition for Trubisky came from Wisconsin, Michigan State and Tennessee, Anderson said. The Tar Heels, it turned out, had an advantage all along: Fedora’s up-tempo spread offense.

Playing in Fedora’s spread, Trubisky said, is the main reason he chose to come to UNC.

“I liked the no-huddle, shotgun and go,” he said. “I think that fits my abilities well.”

Fedora said Wednesday that he has left his offense in charge of a variety of quarterbacks: Bigger ones and smaller ones, ones with powerful arms and less-powerful legs, and vice versa.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Trubisky possesses a blend of attributes that make him close to a prototypical quarterback for Fedora’s system.

More than his physical skills – Trubisky threw for 9,126 yards in high school and ran for 1,559 more – Fedora has been most pleased so far with the mental aspect of Trubisky’s game. Though Trubisky has been here less than eight months, Fedora said, he no longer views him as a freshman.

“Now I look at him as just one of the guys,” Fedora said, “and I expect more from him because of it.”

Fedora is hoping he doesn’t have to expect too much from Trubisky, however; if Trubisky starts at any point this season, it likely means Renner has suffered a serious injury.

Fedora and Anderson don’t want to think about that too much – though Trubisky’s early development has made the emergency plan a little less dire.

If it came down to it, Anderson said, “I would not have any issue with him being the guy.”

Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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