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UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky tries to ignore rising NFL draft stock

Fedora on draft prospects for Mitch Trubisky

University of North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora talks about possible NFL draft prospects for UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
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University of North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora talks about possible NFL draft prospects for UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Mitch Trubisky has tried to ignore it, he said, but that’s easier said than done what with TV, Twitter and even his teammates reminding him these days that, yes, he’s quickly becoming a prized commodity for any NFL team that might be interested in drafting a quarterback next April.

“With social media and everything these days and all the boys on the team gassing it up, it’s pretty impossible to ignore it,” Trubisky, the North Carolina junior, said on Monday.

Asked what exactly his teammates tell him, this is how Trubisky described it:

 ‘Oh, dude, Mitch, you’re gone next year! No. 1 on the big board!’ ” Trubisky said, imitating what he’s heard. “Stuff like that and that’s ridiculous. So yeah – they joke around with it.”

It’s no joke, though. Eight games into the season, Trubisky is receiving the kind of hype reserved for the most prized of prospects. The popular website profootballfocus.com earlier this season named Trubisky its No. 1 breakout NFL draft prospect. Mel Kiper, the draft analyst and expert whose name is synonymous with the NFL draft, recently moved Trubisky atop his “big board” at quarterback.

Entering the season, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Trubisky seemed an unlikely candidate for such attention. He had waited for his opportunity for three seasons and had never started a college game. He was unproven.

Since an underwhelming debut in a season-opening defeat against Georgia, though, Trubisky has usually performed as well as, or better than, any quarterback in the country. He has completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 2,378 yards and 18 touchdowns. His two interceptions came in tropical storm-like conditions in a miserable 34-3 defeat against Virginia Tech.

Remove that performance – when Trubisky completed just 13 of his 33 attempts and acknowledged that he essentially was unable to throw amid the steady rain and consistent 25 mph winds – and he’d be on pace to pass for nearly 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns. Trubisky has yet to throw an interception this season in normal weather conditions.

Amid Trubisky’s burgeoning status as a top NFL draft prospect, he has shared conversations with UNC coach Larry Fedora about how to handle the attention, and the draft. One of those conversations began, Trubisky said recently, with Fedora saying, “I don’t want to talk about it right now.” To which Trubisky said he replied: “I don’t want to talk about it right now, either.”

They did talk about it, though – at least about the hype that is starting to surround Trubisky.

“I’m going to expect a kid to be mature enough to handle it just like he was after the Georgia game, (when) nobody said he could play,” Fedora said. “... So you didn’t pay attention to it then, you don’t pay attention it now. Then we’ll see what happens at the end of the season, we’ll address it at that point.

“But I think it’s so important, as a player, that you don’t get caught up.”

University of North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora talks about possible NFL draft prospects for UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Trubisky is trying not to. Easier said than done, though, when the kind words of a mock draft or some talking head opining about his ability to lead an NFL franchise might only be a click away.

Trubisky’s teammates, too, have reminded him of where he stands. Some, like defensive tackle Nazair Jones, have congratulated Trubisky for receiving the hype he’s receiving. Jones on Monday was quick to say that Trubisky “deserves the attention he’s getting” and that “he’s an amazing quarterback and an even better teammate.”

“But now I just pick at him,” Jones said with a smile. “I always talk about the nice stuff he wears. Like he got a new jacket he wore today, so I’m going to get on him about that.”

UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky discusses UNC's dramatic 37-35 victory at Florida State.

UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who passed for 453 yards against Pitt on Saturday, talks after the Tar Heels' 37-36 comeback victory.

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter

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