Why North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt is making the switch from quarterback to linebacker

UNC’s Chazz Surratt talks about his decision to move to linebacker

Former North Carolina quarterback Chazz Surratt talked about his decision to move to linebacker after UNC's first spring football practice in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, March 3, 2019.
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Former North Carolina quarterback Chazz Surratt talked about his decision to move to linebacker after UNC's first spring football practice in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, March 3, 2019.

Chazz Surratt said he considered transferring from North Carolina after last season, but he wanted to stick it out with his teammates.

He talked it over with his family and decided to stay and change positions from quarterback to linebacker, a position he played some in high school at East Lincoln in Denver, N.C.

“I just thought it was best for me going forward,” Surratt said Sunday at UNC’s first spring practice under Mack Brown.

Surratt started in seven games at quarterback for UNC during his redshirt freshman season in 2017. He passed for 1,342 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions, and also ran for five touchdowns.

Surratt was expected to be the starter heading into the 2018 season, but he and 12 others were suspended for selling their team-issued sneakers.

In his first and only game back against Miami, he ran effectively, rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown. But he threw three interceptions.

On one of the interceptions, Surratt dove to tackle a defender and injured his wrist. He opted to have surgery to repair it and missed the rest of the regular season.

On Sunday, he was back on the field wearing a cast on his right hand, but he participated in special teams and linebacker drills. Surratt, who is 6-3 and was previously listed at 215 pounds, said he’s put on 15 pounds of muscle since last season.

“I’m learning everything backwards than I learned it from playing quarterback,” Surratt said. “Reading defenses and stuff, I think that will help. Stuff with the gaps and the fits at linebacker is different, but I’m learning and just trying to do the best I can.”

Surratt said the best part about being a linebacker is getting to sack the quarterback. When asked why he felt moving to linebacker was the right move, Surratt said, “I got pretty good size and I can run.”

“And at the next level I think that translates,” he added. “I probably could have played receiver or something else but I kind of wanted to really be able work on myself, and I thought it was the best decision.”

Brown didn’t seem worried about Surratt’s transition. He said quarterbacks tend to be among the best athletes in high school.

New North Carolina football coach Mack Brown talks about his impressions of the team and being back in NC after the Tar Heels' first spring practice in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, March 3, 2019.

“For whatever reason, it didn’t work for Chazz at quarterback, and to be very clear, he wanted to move to defense before we got here,” Brown said. “So he was either going to be a safety or linebacker.

“He’s up to 225 now. He runs really good and he’s smart and he obviously knows schemes because he was a quarterback.”

Brown said the coaching staff will know more on Thursday when the team puts on pads for the first time.

‘A clean slate’

Surratt’s position change wasn’t the only thing that was different. The football team opened up spring practice in its new indoor practice facility. The band played the school’s fight song at the start of practice, as the players danced along.

The school’s interim chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, spoke to the team about his excitement for the season.

The vibe was different, as players talked about the opportunity for a fresh start after two consecutive losing seasons. UNC senior defensive tackle Aaron Crawford said the new coaching staff is doing a good job of earning the players’ trust.

The UNC pep band and cheerleaders were on hand at the start of spring football practice for North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, March 3, 2019. It is the first practice for new head coach Mack Brown.

“I think this is the first time I’ve really seen everybody buy in to every little single thing we’ve done,” Crawford said. “Six A.M. workouts, people are up flying around, yelling, screaming, getting hype in the morning.”

“Everybody has got a clean slate, everybody has got to prove themselves again, including myself.”

North Carolina defensive tackle Aaron Crawford (92) huddles with fellow defensive linemen during UNC’s first spring football practice in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, March 3, 2019. Ethan Hyman

Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.

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