UNC Football: Our staff quarterback competition predictions

Nov 7, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7), quarterback Jacolby Criswell (6), andquarterback Jace Ruder (10) warm up before the start against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7), quarterback Jacolby Criswell (6), andquarterback Jace Ruder (10) warm up before the start against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

As the UNC football program’s quarterback competition is the main story of training camp, who does our staff predict will be under center for the Tar Heels?

For the first time in three years, the UNC football program has a starting quarterback competition brewing in Chapel Hill.

With Sam Howell departing for the NFL, the team must find its new signal-caller to lead them into the 2022 season and beyond. Essentially, the competition will come between junior Jacolby Criswell and sophomore Drake Maye, but the question remains: which one will secure the job?

As training camp is now underway, the Keeping It Heel staff is ready to make our early predictions on who will be under center on opening day.

Here’s a look at what our staff has to say regarding the competition:

Bryant Baucom- Staff Writer

Mack Brown has shown that experience and seniority do not equate to playing time. The QB1 competition for the Tar Heels is being taken with this exact approach.

As followers of Carolina football, we’ve seen this before. The quarterback situation for the Tar Heels will likely end up similar to the three-man race in 2019.

Like Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder, Jacolby Criswell has been here longer and has more experience than his competition. However, similar to Sam Howell, Drake Maye is the more talented option to be the signal caller.

Maye’s ceiling is higher as an athletic pocket passer with an explosive and accurate arm. With No. 10 under center, the Tar Heels have a much higher potential.

It is a possibility that Phil Longo’s offense features a two-quarterback system to begin the season, but I ultimately expect Drake Maye to win the starting job.

Predicted Opening Day Starter: Drake Maye

Mark DeMott- Staff Writer

The quarterback competition seems to be as much of a toss-up as I can remember at UNC in a long time.  Both guys are known to have lots of arm talent and are more than capable in the running game.  As far as who will win the job, I would expect the starting role to go to whoever does the best job of avoiding mistakes and taking command of the offense leadership-wise.  I’m going to predict that Drake Maye will be the starter on August 27th against Florida A&M in the season opener.  He was the higher-rated prospect out of high school and has a bigger frame.  With that being said, I would expect both players to see significant time in the season opener and a very short leash in the following games regardless of who the starter is.

Predicted Opening Day Starter: Drake Maye

Isaac Schade- Staff Writer

With all due respect to Conner Harrell, Jefferson Boaz, and Russell Tabor, the North Carolina quarterback competition comes down to Jacolby Criswell and Drake Maye. Don’t take this as a cop-out, but all indications point to the coaching staff truly believing that they can win with either player under center. I don’t say that to suggest Mack Brown will go with a two-quarterback system, but rather say it’s entirely possible for us to see either Criswell or Maye as the starter on August 27. So what separates the two?

First, after three years of 6’1” Sam Howell at the helm, the thought of a 6’4” quarterback (Maye), as compared to Criswell’s 6’1”, has to be enticing for the coaching staff.

Second, the fact that Maye is a year behind Criswell in school is actually a positive in Maye’s favor. Assuming Maye and Criswell truly are on equal footing, the player with more remaining eligibility is the logical play.

That said, give me Drake Maye as North Carolina’s starter.

Predicted Opening Day Starter- Drake Maye

Nick Delahanty- Site Expert

Mack Brown is no stranger to utilizing a two-quarterback system. However, hopefully, Brown learned from his time at Texas that this type of system isn’t the ideal option.

Do I think the Tar Heels would shy away from using a two-quarterback system to begin the season? Not at all.

If there isn’t a clear-cut starter that emerges from training camp, I think it’s very possible that both Criswell and Maye see time at least on opening day.

By the third week of the season, this team needs one singular leader. At this point, I believe that the two quarterbacks are on equal playing ground, but this is how I see it playing out.

As we saw with Howell, the UNC football program isn’t afraid to start a younger quarterback under center. Criswell has a year of experience over Maye, which could give him an edge, but the other characteristics tend to favor in Maye’s direction.

I’m going to go out on a limb here: I think that Mack Brown and his staff will give Criswell the start in the team’s season opener. I see this competition continuing a little bit into the season, but ultimately, I have a feeling that Maye will be the long-term option for the Tar Heels.

Predicted Opening Day Starter- Jacolby Criswell

Who do you think will be the UNC Football program’s starting quarterback this season? Send us your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook!

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