North Carolina coach Larry Fedora hasn’t often offered the kind of clarity regarding the Tar Heels’ quarterback situation that he did Monday.
No, he was content to let speculation linger throughout the preseason on the competition between Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky, and he once joked that not naming a starter gave him “pleasure.”
He did something different Monday and said Williams is the firm starter. Williams, a fourth-year junior, started 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.
“Marquise will be our starting quarterback,” Fedora said. “And we will use Mitch as we need to throughout a game.”
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It was easy to wonder, though, what exactly Fedora meant. After all, Williams played on 10 drives Saturday and Trubisky eight. Trubisky, a redshirt freshman, entered the game on the third offensive series, and he played 35 snaps.
Afterward, Trubisky made it sound like he believed the quarterback competition would continue “until one of us really separates ourself as the leader of the offense.”
Given the way Williams and Trubisky rotated Saturday, Trubisky’s assessment didn’t seem misguided. I even wrote Sunday that the competition wasn’t over, that it seemed to be starting anew.
Not so, apparently. I asked Fedora whether Williams and Trubisky would continue to rotate. The first words out of his 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 – 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 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 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.