North Carolina football fans received a promising glimpse of Mitch Trubisky potential over the previous two seasons. Wide receiver Ryan Switzer believes they will see even better things this fall as the junior quarterback steps in on a full-time basis following the graduation of school record-setter and All-ACC second-teamer Marquise Williams.
“I feel like Marquise would even tell you that Mitch's arm talent is unique and very rare,” Switzer said. “I've been fortunate enough to catch passes from both of them. Not to diminish anything that Marquise did for our program, but Mitch is a very rare talent. Everything that he brings to the table, he's very composed, he's a very team-first kind of guy.
“I'm looking forward to seeing his talent displayed this year, especially with the guys that he has around him.”
That would include a receiving corps led by Switzer, Mack Hollins and Bug Howard and an potentially explosive running attack keyed by tailbacks Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan.
“I joke with Mitch all the time about how fortunate he is to step into the position that he is,” Switzer said. “I don't know of any other team that's returning what we're returning on offense. Like you said, not just the receivers, but we've got two veteran running backs. T.J. Logan behind Elijah Hood could start on virtually any team in the country. Returning four of our five offensive linemen is incredible.
“As receivers, it's our job to kind of make Mitch look good, which we don't really need to do too much of because of the talent that he has.”
Trubisky completed 81 percent of his passes last season (40-of-47) last season and has shown a knack for producing under pressure. Twice in his first two seasons, he was forced into the game in the heat of battle when Williams was forced to the sidelines for a single play. He responded by throwing a game-winning touchdown pass at Virginia as a freshman and a first-quarter touchdown pass on fourth down in a win at NC State last November.
“I can't say enough good things about Mitch Trubisky,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said. “In society today, it's not about be patient and work your way into a position. It's more of a sense of entitlement for most people nowadays that you should be given something because of something you did in the past.
“That's not the approach that Mitch Trubisky or his family took when he came to the University of North Carolina. He knew he was going to have to compete and he competed. He competed every single day. He didn't win the job early on, but it was not a sense of frustration for him. It was just, ‘I need to work harder.’ “
And Fedora said Trubisky has done just that.
“He knew his time was coming.” Fedora said. “His time is here. I think he's excited about it. There's no doubt in my mind he's prepared because of the reps he's had, meaningful reps in games, and also there was a spring where he was the number one quarterback the entire spring.
He's gotten reps. He feels good about where he's at. Nothing is going to rattle him. I mean, I expect him to perform pretty well.”
2015 In Review
With QB Marquise Williams leading an offense that was in high gear throughout and an improved Tar Heel defense, North Carolina enjoyed its first unbeaten regular ACC season in 35 years...UNC tied a school record for wins with an 11-3 overall record, an 8-0 ACC regular season, a Coastal Division crown and a No. 15 final national ranking in both the AP and Coaches polls...Head Coach Larry Fedora’s fourth season in Chapel Hill saw the Tar Heels earn their first final national ranking since 1997...Only an eight-point defeat to ACC Champion Clemson in UNC’s first Dr. Pepper ACC Championship Game, kept the Tar Heels from a New Year’s Six Bowl and possibly more...Williams, who ran and passed for 4,020 yards and 37 TDs, was the catalyst for an explosive UNC attack that ranked 9th nationally in scoring (40.6), 12th in team passing efficiency and 18th in total offense (486.9)...But he had plenty of help as RB Elijah Hood ran for 1,463 yards and 17 TDs and WRs Ryan Switzer (55 catches), Quinshad Davis (55 catches) and Mack Hollins (30 catches), combined for 140 receptions, 2,080 yards and 18 TDs....S Donnie Miles led the revived defense with 128 tackles...Switzer and G Landon Turner earned first-team All-America honors...Hood, Switzer and Turner were all first-team All-ACC picks, while Williams, Hollins, G Caleb Peterson, T Jon Heck, CB M.J. Stewart and CB Des Lawrence were second-team All-ACC...Davis, C Lucas Crowley, PK Nick Weiler, DT Nazair Jones, LBs Shakeel Rashad and Jeff Schoettmer were third-team All-ACC honorees.
The Tar Heels lose nine starters, four on offense and five from defense...Williams, who finished fourth on the all-time ACC total offense (10,423 yards) list and third in TDR (96), will be missed as will Turner, Davis and TE Kendrick Singleton...UNC will also be without two of its top three tacklers on defense in LBs Schoettmer and Rashad, as well as DBs Sam Smiley and Malik Simmons and DT Justin Thompson.
North Carolina’s schedule gets tougher, with road trips to Florida State, Miami, Illinois, Duke and Virginia and an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta against Georgia.
Despite the loss of Williams, UNC should be again potent on offense...Junior Mitch Trubisky, who completed 40 of 47 passes last year (81.0%) and had a pass efficiency rating of 226.43, steps into the starting QB role after waiting in the wings for two years...Hood, one of the most explosive runners in the country returns at TB, as does T.J. Logan (6.1 avg.)...UNC’s WR corps features Switzer, who is also a weapon on special teams in punt returns, Hollins — who averaged 24.8 yards a catch — Bug Howard and Austin Proehl...The offensive line is anchored by Heck and Bentley Spain at the tackles and includes Peterson and Crowley...Weiler is a dependable weapon, connecting last season on 20 of 23 field goals while scoring a school-record 127 points...DE’s Dajaun Drennon and Mikey Bart lead the way up front for Gene Chizik’s defense with Jones and Robert Dinkins, Jeremiah Clarke and Aaron Crawford manning the DT positions...New LBs will have to be found, but UNC has a cadre of promising young players here in Jonathan Smith, Cayson Collins, Andre Smith, Cole Holcomb and JUCO transfer J.B. Copeland...The secondary should be UNC’s strength with three starters returning in CBs Stewart and Lawrence and S Miles, as well as S Dominquie Green who has seen significant playing time.
Numbers & Notes
6.68 - North Carolina TB Elijah Hood finished the 2015 season ranked eighth nationally in yards per carry. Hood, who rushed for 1463 yards, averaged 6.68 yards per carry.
7 - UNC WR Ryan Switzer has returned seven punts for touchdowns in his career. That is an ACC record and is one shy of the NCAA career mark for punt return TDs. The NCAA mark is held by Wes Welker of Texas Tech (2000-03) and Antonio Perkins of Oklahoma (2001-04).
24.8 - The number of yards per reception for North Carolina senior WR Mack Hollins in 2015, the third-best mark in ACC history for 30 or more receptions in a season.
87.0 - North Carolina PK Nick Weiler led the ACC in field goal accuracy in 2015. Weiler made good on 20 of his 23 field goal attempts, an .870 accuracy mark. Weiler also had the second-best PAT percentage in league history, making good on all 67 of his PATs. Only FSU’s Roberto Aguayo was perfect on more attempts in a single season (94 in 2013).
570 - North Carolina scored 570 points in 14 games last season, the third-highest point total in ACC history and a school record. That marks the second time in his four seasons in Chapel Hill that Larry Fedora’s teams have broken the school mark for scoring in a season.