The North Carolina Tar Heels got manhandled on Saturday by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 33-7. The defense actually held its own for most of the game against the triple option. It was the offense that displayed one of its worst performances under Larry Fedora.
Had it not been for a garbage time touchdown in the fourth quarter, Fedora would have been shutout for the first time ever as a head coach. The offense simply could not move the ball. Jordon Brown had a few tough runs, but, as we’ve seen before, Surratt struggled to keep the chains moving on third downs.
Look, I get it. Surratt has stepped into a pretty rough situation. As a redshirt freshman, he has been forced into the starting role a year earlier than was originally anticipated. On top of that, this team has dealt with an unbelievable amount of injuries, which never bodes well for a young quarterback. Still, he consistently makes the simplest of plays seem complicated with his indecisiveness.
Surratt was 18 for 30 passing, with 141 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception. His stat line wasn’t necessarily atrocious, but keep in mind that he had two passes that most certainly should have been intercepted but were merely dropped by Georgia Tech defenders.
After having some success throwing the ball against Duke last week, there was a question of whether that fortune was more of a credit to Surratt or breakdowns in the Duke secondary. I’d say it was the latter.
Surratt repeatedly underthrew his receivers and misjudged what the Yellow Jacket defense was giving him. At times, he panicked when his first read wasn’t there and took off running before fully scanning the field.
At other times, his first read was there but he tucked the ball and ran anyway. We know Surratt has wheels, but he has to trust in his coaches’ play-calling (however questionable it may be at times). He looks awfully confused for someone who has been getting at least a share of the first team reps since the offseason.
I understand that these mistakes can potentially be corrected with time. One thing that can’t really be taught, though, is arm strength. Surratt has been known to float his passes and it was more of the same on Saturday. The interception that he threw in the third quarter occurred mostly because it was late, but it was also in the air for what felt like an eternity. Under the same circumstances, Brandon Harris probably could have bulleted that pass in there and not given the defender enough time to get in front of his receiver.
To be clear, I am not defending Harris, who threw an interception in his lone pass attempt of the game. However, Harris possesses certain abilities that Surratt does not, and arm strength is one of them.
In terms of the future, Harris is not really a factor seeing as he’s currently in his last year of eligibility. Someone who could present a legitimate threat to Surratt’s job, though, is Tyler Shough.
Shough is a pro-style quarterback currently committed to the Tar Heels as part of the 2018 class. 247sports ranks him as the number one player in the state of Arizona and the 200th best in his class. If Surratt continues to struggle, Shough could very well make a push to start in his first season.
With all of this being said, I’m not going to go as bold to definitively say Surratt is not the guy long term, because he still very well could be. However, this season could be more about figuring out whether he’s the best man to run the offense rather than preparing him to start next season and beyond.