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Sizing up the competition for UNC’s 2017 quarterback job

One of the following five people will be starting for the Heels come September. Here are the pros and cons for each one of them.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at North Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina is in deep, deep trouble next year. The Tar Heels lose their top three running backs on the depth chart, three starting wide receivers, and several key players on defense. Arguably, none of these positions is as important as the quarterback, and UNC is losing NFL-bound Mitch Trubisky. Last year the Heels lost Marquise Williams to graduation, but they had the comfort of knowing that there was another promising QB to take the reins. This year doesn’t have the same security.

Right now there are five options who could potentially be UNC’s next quarterback. They are Nathan Elliot, Chazz Surratt, Logan Byrd, Malik Zaire, and Brandon Harris. Three of these are currently on the football team, including redshirt sophomore Nathan Elliot, redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt, and redshirt freshman Logan Byrd. There are also two graduate transfer QBs eyeing UNC, Malik Zaire and Brandon Harris. All of these quarterbacks have their pros and their cons for being the starter next year, so I decided to compline pros-and-cons for all of the QB options. Let’s begin with the most likely in-house option:

Nathan Elliot

Pros: Elliot is the only quarterback currently on Carolina’s roster with any sort of playing experience. This year he served as the backup for Mitch Trubisky, and during his limited playing time he was eight of nine passing for 55 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. All of this action came in garbage time of three blowouts: in a 56-28 victory over James Madison where he was five of six for 30 yards, in the last drive of a 48-20 victory over Georgia Tech where he was two of two for 16 yards, and in the waning moments of a 41-7 victory against the Citadel where he was one for one for nine yards.

Furthermore, Elliot was a four-star recruit out of high school and seems to be fairly talented, and seems to be well equipped to be a decent dual-threat quarterback with more of an emphasis on passing.

Cons: He’s no Marquise Williams, Bryn Renner, and of course no Mitch Trubisky. Elliot, while he’s the only in-house option with any playing time at the college level, is still very inexperienced. Garbage time against two FCS teams and a mid-tier ACC foe does not a good QB make, and Elliot seems poorly equipped to lead a team quite yet.

Chazz Surratt

Pros: Chazz Surratt was a highly-recruited four star dual-threat quarterback out of high school. While officially listed as an Athlete, he was recruited as a QB and has a lot of raw athletic ability, especially as a rusher. He was listed as the eighth best dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class, and he redshirted last year, therefore he will be a redshirt freshmen for the 2017 football season.

He threw for 3,536 yards and 51 touchdowns as a senior in high school, and he also rushed for 1,345 yards and 15 more touchdowns. My best analogy for him would be Marquise Williams as a freshman, and I personally think that he will end up being just as good if not better.

Cons: While he might end up being a great quarterback down the road, he just isn’t quite there yet. He’s still unrefined as a passer, like ‘Quise was as a redshirt freshman when he played as a backup, and has no college experience whatsoever. I can’t see him starting at the beginning of the season next year, however he might be able to make a better case for more playing time or even starting later in the season and beyond.

Logan Byrd

Pros: There honestly aren’t many. Logan is a decent pocket-passer, and is more analogous to Mitch Trubisky in terms of style than Marquise Williams, however he can’t be considered in the same camp as either of those.

Cons: As with Surratt, he has no college playing experience. He is a lesser passer than Elliot and isn’t as athletic as Surratt, therefore I don’t see him starting next year, and I doubt that he’ll get much playing time at all.

Malik Zaire

Pros: Malik Zaire is a graduate transfer from Notre Dame. He played on-and-off at Notre Dame, and was rather successful when he did play. As a freshman he started in the Music City Bowl against LSU and led his team to victory, finishing with 96 passing yards on 12 of 15 passing and a touchdown and 96 rushing yards and another touchdown. He was named the Music City Bowl MVP for his effort.

In 2015 he started two games, throwing for a combined 428 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions, but he broke his ankle against Virginia and was out for the rest of the Irish’s season. Due to this injury he lost out on the starting job in 2016, and he threw for only 122 yards and a touchdown as a backup. As a result, he decided to transfer from Notre Dame. If he decides to choose UNC, he would be almost assured a starting job, as he has far more skill and experience than any other player Carolina could field.

Cons: Zaire has decided to delay selecting the school that he will go to until April, and the schools currently in contention are UNC, Wisconsin, and Florida. Carolina seemed the early favorite, and he seemed to like what he saw when he visited UNC last fall, however late pushes by Wisconsin and UF caused him to put off finalizing his choice. While Carolina could very well end up snagging Zaire, it is just as likely that he will choose to go to the Badgers or Gators.

Brandon Harris

Pros: Brandon Harris is a graduate transfer from LSU that announced his choice to leave the program very recently on Monday, February 13th. Reports almost immediately indicated that Carolina and Harris had mutual interest, and this could mean that we see Harris don Carolina blue next season. Harris has one year of eligibility left, and is the most experienced of all the options on this list.

He started twelve games in 2015, and during his time at LSU he had 2,756 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He was the sixth-ranked quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class, however he underwhelmed during his time at LSU and was regarded by some as a failure. If he decides to choose UNC, he will bring a lot of experience and talent to the table, and he could prove to be a very welcome addition.

Cons: Harris didn’t play that well last year, as he lost his starting job just two games into the season to LSU QB Danny Etling. Harris is a good runner and has a cannon for an arm, however his short passing still needs refining. Carolina seems to be the most likely choice for him to end up at, and if he does he will almost definitely start next year, as Malik Zaire wouldn’t choose UNC if Harris already transferred to the Heels.

So, there you have it. As I said before, I think that Elliot is the best and safest option currently on the roster, but I think that Surratt has the most overall talent. Between Malik Zaire and Brandon Harris, it is hard to pick but I have to say that I would rather have Zaire for a year than Harris.

However, both quarterbacks would be good for the Heels and better than what we would have without them. Playing behind a transfer would be good for Elliot and Surratt, as it would allow them to develop without being thrown directly into big games. I don’t see Logan Byrd playing hardly at all if any, he’s either third or fourth on the depth chart depending on if we get a graduate transfer QB.