The loss to Georgia is one of those losses that stings for a while. It was yet another big game on the national stage that the North Carolina football team squandered away. After a loss, it is always easy to direct the blame onto certain individuals. Whether it is fair or not, a lot of the blame after a loss gets put squarely on the quarterback’s shoulders. The Georgia game was no different. Mitch Trubisky obviously did not play as well as he and the Carolina faithful had hoped, but it is not time to jump ship or even question Trubisky.
It is easy for fans to forget, but this was Trubisky’s first start. He was the first signature recruit of the Larry Fedora era, and has been on the radar of Carolina fans ever since he stepped on campus. When Bryn Renner was hurt his senior year, there were discussions within the staff of burning Trubisky’s redshirt and starting him as a true Freshman. For the two years after that, he patiently sat and waited his turn behind two-time second-team All-ACC selection Marquise Williams. As good as Williams was for two years, there were still calls for Trubisky to overtake the role as quarterback. None louder, perhaps, than when Williams threw three interceptions in the crushing opening day defeat last year against South Carolina. Williams came back and had a record-breaking year after the disappointment of that game. Expect Trubisky to do the same this year.
If you could build the perfect quarterback for Fedora’s offensive scheme, it would be Mitch Trubisky. The 6’3" Trubisky has a cannon of an arm. There are very few quarterbacks in college football who can match his accuracy with his arm strength. Even in the disappointing performance against Georgia, it was hard to not notice the zip Trubisky had on the ball. Marquise Williams could certainly throw the ball (ask Duke what happened in the first half of last year’s game) but he had nowhere near the velocity Trubisky has. This will undoubtedly lead to some phenomenal throws this year that leave fans scratching their heads saying "how did he do that?"
People tend to forget, but Mitch can run the ball too. In his back-up duty last year, Trubisky ran for 101 yards and three touchdowns. His senior year of high school, he ran for 899 yards and 18 touchdowns. It is obvious that the ability to carry the football is there. There were times in the Georgia game where it would have been nice to see him tuck the ball and pick up a few extra yards on a broken play, but this comfortability will come with more serious game reps.
Athleticism and arm strength are key qualities in Larry Fedora’s system, but the most important one is making good decisions with the football. Fedora has always stressed the importance of taking care of the football and making the right reads, and Trubisky is excellent at this. He has had three years to watch and learn the offense, and it almost comes as second nature to him now. After the Georgia game, Mitch’s ability to take care of the football was the first thing Fedora mentioned when asked about his redshirt junior signal caller. "I mean, I was pleased with his poise," Fedora said. "The first thing we had asked him to do was to take care of the football, and I don't ever remember him throwing the ball into any coverage or anything like that, so I thought he did a nice job of that." If Trubisky can continue to make good decisions with the football, his athletic ability will take over and everything else will fall into place.
Mitch Trubisky may have been the presumed heir to the throne for quite some time, but this does not always mean that the transition is going to be without its fair share of bumps in the road. No amount of practice reps or back-up game reps can ever emulate putting on a helmet and going out against a high level SEC defense in a "neutral site" game on national television. Make no mistake about it, that game was a Georgia home game. I was at the game, and I have never heard a football stadium so loud. Right before the safety that turned the whole momentum of the game around, it was loud. Really loud. Like Marvin Williams making the shot in 2005 to beat Duke, Dean Dome loud. That kind of experience is something that will stick with Trubisky for the rest of his football career, and that is something that cannot be replaced.
Mitch Trubisky was far from perfect. He was a pedestrian 24-40 with 156 yards and zero touchdowns. Nobody expected that from Trubisky. With the high octane offense UNC returned, his first start was supposed to be a coming out party with Trubisky spreading the ball around to his talented receivers and handing the ball off to his stud running backs. His lofty expectations led fans to believe that he was going to march out and hang 50 points on a Kirby Smart led defense. Unfair or not, this is what many fans thought, which could naturally lead to some questions about the quarterback position. These questions are bogus and certainly invalid.
Nobody should be worried about Mitch Trubisky. His coach certainly isn’t. When Larry Fedora was asked if he felt any differently about his quarterback, the coach scoffed at the idea. "I haven’t changed about the way I feel about Mitch Trubisky," Fedora stated. "Did he play as well as he would have liked? No. Did he play as well as I would have liked him to? No. Is he going to play better in the future? Yes. There is no doubt about it. Every rep he gets as a starting quarterback he is going to get better."
This is how everyone should feel about Mitch Trubisky. He is a smart and talented student athlete, and if he is Carolina’s biggest problem going forward, the Tar Heels will have a very successful football season.