UNC’s till-now exciting class of 2020 took a major blow yesterday, with one of its top-ranked players, quarterback Malik Hornsby, deciding to re-open his commitment. He announced it to the public via Twitter:
Please respect my decision and the choice I have made pic.twitter.com/VzjPwMciAc— Malik Hornsby (@1MalikH1) June 25, 2019
This decommitment comes just two months after his commitment, though Mack Brown and company have been busy in those two months. This includes what’s probably one of the primary factors in this decision for Hornsby, namely the commitment of another 4-star dual-threat quarterback from the Tornado Belt: Jacolby Criswell. For that reason, this move doesn’t come as a huge surprise from Hornsby, who took a visit to hometown Texas A&M (the school that was on him hardest before UNC got involved) in the intervening time, soon after Criswell’s commitment.
Assuming UNC doesn’t re-enter the picture here, this may well be the first step in alleviating the young and crowded quarterback room that was developing at UNC, which Chad Floyd wrote about here upon Criswell’s commitment. Based on Mack Brown’s comments this spring about expecting one of the three currently rostered quarterbacks to transfer, he may continue to look for another in the 2020 class, though it’s worth noting that the only offer UNC has right now to an uncommitted quarterback is to Hornsby. He could also not; recent 2020 commit Jefferson Boaz can play quarterback in a pinch and UNC is (understandably) in very good shape with 2021’s Drake Maye, which would mean that the position seems relatively well taken care of even if we expect a transfer. Two would spell trouble, but, as Chad and I said at the time of Criswell’s commitment, it’s a fine problem to have when you’re worried about too much talent at one of the most important positions in sports.
UNC loses a player with a sky-high ceiling; Hornsby’s potential has been compared to college football legends like Vince Young due to both his running ability and his pinpoint accuracy when he’s comfortable (note: Hornsby gets mischaracterized a lot as needing to work on his passing accuracy when what he really lacks at the moment is the ability to replicate his standstill accuracy on the run, off-platform, or from different launch angles due to an over-reliance on his imperfect mechanics. Don’t get fooled by the stereotypical takes). On the other hand, he almost definitely would not have been ready Day 1 the way that Sam Howell looks to be or the way that Criswell seems to be ready to be, and betting on potential is always dangerous. UNC lost a great player, but its immediate future at the quarterback position is just as stable as it was before.
It’s hard to know what’s next for Hornsby. Texas A&M is the easy favorite to point out, but it looks like that staff is currently focusing its quarterback efforts on Haynes King, who’s set to decide between them and Tennessee. If they land King, who’s also a Texan, it’s hard to see them taking Hornsby as well. Texas, the other easy choice, already has two highly coveted quarterbacks in the 2020 class locked up. UNC may or may not figure into this process for him; they certainly had their share of guys they got to decommit before they committed back to their original choices last year. If there are any more developments on this from the Tar Heel side, we’ll let you know.