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September 1, 2014

UNC coach Fedora provides clarity on quarterbacks

Marquise Williams is the Tar Heels' definitive starting quarterback, and Mitch Trubisky is the backup, entering UNC's game against San Diego State.

North Carolina coach Larry Fedora hasn't often offered the kind of clarity he did on Monday into the Tar Heels' quarterback situation. No, Fedora was content to let speculation linger throughout the preseason on the ongoing competition between Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky, and Fedora once joked that not naming a starter gave him “pleasure.”

He did something different on Monday, though, and said, basically, that Williams is the team's firm starter. It wasn't at all a surprise that Williams, a fourth-year junior, started on Saturday against Liberty. He accounted for four touchdowns – two passing and two running – but also threw two interceptions during the Tar Heels' 56-29 victory against the Flames.

“Marquise will be our starting quarterback,” Fedora said on Monday. “And we will use Mitch as we need to throughout a game.”

It was easy to wonder, though, what exactly Fedora meant. After all, Williams played on 10 drives on Saturday, and Trubisky eight. Trubisky, a redshirt freshman, entered the game on Saturday on the third offensive series, and he played on 35 snaps.

Afterward, Trubisky made it sound like he believed the quarterback competition hadn't ended – that it would continue, he said, “until one of us really separates our self as the leader of the offense.” Given the way Williams and Trubisky rotated on Saturday, Trubisky's assessment didn't seem misguided. I even wrote in this space on Sunday that the competition wasn’t over, necessarily, that it seemed to be starting anew.

Not so, apparently. I asked Fedora on Monday whether Williams and Trubisky would continue to rotate the way they did on Saturday. The first words out of Fedora's mouth: “Oh, no – no.”

“And we didn't go into the game saying, with our thought process, we were going to split reps,” Fedora said. “We had finally made our decision that Mitch was going to come in on the third series of the game, for sure.

“We wanted him to know that he was coming in so he could prepare himself that way. But then throughout the game, it was just a feel thing. And then when the game kind of got out of hand we got him some more reps.”

Neither quarterback played tremendously well on Saturday -- neither played poorly, either -- but Trubisky seemed to have difficulty settling in and, while Williams' made costly mistakes he also led the offense to four touchdowns. The offense seemed more in rhythm with Williams at quarterback.

Fedora on Monday said both quarterbacks had a “similar” game. Williams didn't do enough during the preseason to separate himself as the clear-cut starting quarterback – at least Fedora didn't say that publicly – but apparently Fedora liked enough of what he saw on Saturday to make that distinction.

Outside of the interceptions, that is. Fedora said Williams' two interceptions probably “should have been touchdowns.” Nonetheless, he's now UNC's clear starter. There no longer is an “OR” on the depth chart between Williams and Trubisky.

Andrew Carter is the UNC athletics beat reporter for The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow him on Twitter at @_andrewcarter .

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