Monday saw the hammer finally come down with the expected announcement of suspensions of several members of the football team for selling team merchandise.
While there will be huge repercussions all over the field on both sides of the ball, one of the names that stood out was quarterback Chazz Surratt.
The sophomore got the majority of the playing time last year, especially in the first two-thirds of the season. He struggled, and towards the end of 2017 was replaced by Nathan Elliott.
Going into this season, things seemed to be leaning towards the starter being one of those two again, with Elliott expected to get the nod. With Surratt’s suspension, it’s no longer a question.
UNC's Larry Fedora: "Nathan Elliott is my starter going into Cal."— Ross Martin (@RossMartin_IC) August 6, 2018
So Elliott will have some leeway to start the season, but what other impact may this have on the quarterback depth chart going into the 2018 season?
At least for the first four games when Surratt is suspended, this does open up the backup slot. The best bets for that would seem to be one of the freshmen, Jace Ruder or Cade Fortin. Ruder was higher in 247 composite recruiting rankings, which won’t mean anything when they get on the field, but also indicate that he’s the higher thought of prospect, at least according to people who’ve watched them.
We’ve also seen in a lot of past seasons that Larry Fedora will often give other quarterbacks some time. Last year is a bit of a weird story considering no one really stood out, but three quarterbacks threw at least 70 pass attempts over the course of the season.
Mitch Trubisky got a decent amount of time in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, when he was the backup to Marquise Williams. Even prior to Bryn Renner’s injury in 2013, Williams had gotten at least a couple snaps in most of the games that season. Fedora has shown a willingness to change things up for a couple snaps per game. On the other hand, maybe he does that less if Ruder or Fortin are the second options.
The worse case scenario at quarterback would obviously be either injuries or general poor play from the position. If that does happen, then at the very least you’re getting a second option once Surratt returns from injury. He’ll still be allowed to practice, and he’ll be fresh when he’s allowed to take the field again.
None of the suspensions are good for North Carolina. However now, at least we can say somewhat for certain that we have some clarity at the quarterback position.