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UNC football: What Week 1 tells us about the quarterback situation

Chazz Surratt separated himself, but has he officially won the job?

California v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The hottest topic of the offseason for the Tar Heels was the question of who would be the guy at quarterback. After the disappointing loss to California, the answer to that question is a little more clear.

As expected, Brandon Harris started the game. Harris, a grad transfer from LSU, bolsters more experience than any other QB on the roster by a long shot, but that’s not what it looked like.

Harris managed the UNC offense on its first two series, neither of which resulted in a first down. Then, enter Chazz Surratt.

As soon as Surratt took over, the offense began moving the ball much more effectively. He showed great poise and awareness for a redshirt freshman. In fairness, he ordinarily had Michael Carter in the backfield with him, who was basically solely responsible for the Heels’ first touchdown drive of the game.

Fedora continued to give each player snaps throughout the game. The deeper into the game we got, the clearer it became that Surratt was our guy, or rather that Harris wasn’t.

Harris just never got into any sort of rhythm. There were times where it looked like he might be settling in, but inaccurate passing and bad decision making plagued him. Right before the half ended, Harris brought the Tar Heels down into Cal territory only to toss a ball into triple coverage and have it intercepted. It was these kinds of foolish mistakes that got him benched for the fourth quarter, but not before creating a big hole for Carolina.

Harris finished the game with 60 yards on seven of sixteen passing. He had no touchdowns and two interceptions. Many were expecting him to come out and put an end to the quarterback debate. Things did not go as planned for Harris. All game long, he looked like an anxious freshman who’d never played a snap of football.

Meanwhile, Surratt was the one who looked like the fifth year senior with double digit games as a starter under his belt. Surratt consistently made the right play, even if it wasn’t the flashiest. At times, he took a little too long going through his reads, but he was able to get out of the pocket and make things happen with his improvisation. We didn’t get a great sense of how well he can throw the ball down field, but it didn’t seem as if Fedora trusted his arm strength very much. Still, his running ability and short field passing was more than enough to outperform Harris.

With all of this being said, I’m not 100% opposed to giving Harris another shot. As bad as his performance was, it’s possible that nerves got the best of him. After all, this is a guy who had huge expectations coming out of high school, and this is his last chance to make a name for himself. He showed flashes of talent at LSU, and I’m still a believer that there’s something there. After Saturday, though, he’ll have his work cut out for him.

It’s safe to say that Surratt has worked himself ahead of Harris on the depth chart. I fully expect Surratt to come out as the starter against Louisville, but don’t be surprised if Fedora continues to give Harris snaps, especially if Surratt struggles.

Fedora has a history of taking his time to establish a starting QB. While Surratt is certainly now the frontrunner, I wouldn’t necessarily call him “the guy” yet. Hopefully, next week gives us a concrete answer for this burning question.