UNC Football quarterback Sam Howell is among the top returning players not only in the Atlantic Coast Conference but in all of college football. The quarterback should be Heisman trophy candidate this season, going into year three with the Tar Heels.
But before UNC kicks off against Virginia Tech in early September, Howell is earning some more preseason recognition.
Howell was one of 80 players to be named to the Maxwell Award preseason watch list on Monday morning. The award is given out annually to the most outstanding player in all of college football for that season. Howell was a semifinalist for the award last season and will now begin his junior season on the watch list.
Howell finished last season with 3,856 passing yards and 30 touchdown passes, leading the ACC in both of those categories. He finished fourth nationally in passing yards and sixth in passing touchdowns.
Of the 80 players on this year’s watch list, 36 of those players are quarterbacks including big names like Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, USC’s Kedon Slovis, Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels, Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei, Georgia’s J.T. Daniels, Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall and Auburn’s Bo Nix among others.
Despite losing Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome, Howell is expected to have a big season in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels will rely on key returners to help fill that void on offense and if they can, UNC should find themselves in position to contend for the ACC title and potentially be a dark horse for the College Football Playoff.
But one thing remains certain: The Tar Heels need Howell to play at that high level he’s shown in previous seasons in order for them to be considered a legit contender.
For more on Howell and other UNC Football players, please make sure to check back with Keeping It Heel.