Caulton Tudor

Trubisky's simple decision signals overhaul for Tar Heels offense

Posted January 9

North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky during the Tar Heels' game at Duke on Thursday, November 10, 2016 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC.  Duke won 28-27.  (Photo by Jack Morton)

There might have been an odd symmetry at work Sunday afternoon.

Just a few hours before UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky, a junior, announced he’ll enter the April 27-29 NFL Draft in Philadelphia, Miami Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore, subbing for injured Ryan Tannehill, was trying to make the near-impossible happen in a wild-card playoff game against 10-point favorite Pittsburgh in brutally cold and hostile conditions at Heinz Field.

The Steelers were well on their way to a 30-12 win when the 32-year-old Moore (6-3, 225) took a vicious blow to the chin by Bud Dupree, 23, a 6-4, 270-pound Pittsburgh linebacker. Moore hit the turf and had the dazed glaze of man who might not get back to his feet.

After a timeout and some medical attention, Moore eventually was helped to the bench. Suddenly third-stringer T.J. Yates was called to active duty for one play by Miami coach Adam Gase.

The 29-year-old Yates, a standout at UNC in his college days, had not played in a Miami game during regular season. He’s only played in 18 games in his 6-year career, dating back to his selection as a 5th-round pick by Houston in the 2011 draft.

And yet, Yates had one-year contract worth $760,000 to chart plays and carry a clipboard for the Dolphins.

Trubisky, widely rated as a first round pick and the top quarterback in the next draft, one day probably will absorb the same kind of blow that Dupree used to KO Moore Sunday. But if all goes as seems likely, Trubisky will be getting millions of dollars for the pain.

In other words, the guy simply had to leave for the money, of course.

He could have returned for one more lap with the Tar Heels, but he’s already graduated. He’s definitely not getting any younger and probably not much stronger. The contact terms almost certainly would not increase much – if any – had he returned to an offense that now is also minus Ryan Switzer, Elijah Hood, T.J. Logan, Mack Hollins and Bug Howard.

There’s a reasonable amount of debate about Trubisky’s pro potential, but that’s natural for a prospect with so little college experience. Although he threw 30 touchdown passes and rarely was intercepted, Trubisky was a single-season starter at Carolina. He spent much of his career subbing for Marquise Williams.

But there’s much agreement by most draft experts that Trubisky has a lot of the tools NFL teams like: size, a strong arm, slightly above-average mobility but still with a knack for staying in or at least near the passing pocket.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. said in December that Trubisky “isn’t ready to play right away and start (as a rookie), but I don’t see any other first-rounders.”

CBS Sports still has Trubisky rated as the No. 1 quarterback but does include Clemson junior Deshaun Watson as a first-round selection and projects Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer as either a late first-round or early second-round pick.

Trubisky’s exit also will signal a full-blown offensive makeover at the skill positions to mark the beginning of Larry Fedora’s sixth season at Carolina.

Former Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire, who graduated in December, mentioned Carolina and Wisconsin as schools he’s considering for a gray-shirt 2017 season. He originally planned to transfer for the current semester but later switched to summer as his target date. Trubisky’s decision possibly changes those plans, but Zaire (6-1, 225) also has Michigan in his sights.

Still on the Tar Heel roster are Nathan Elliott (6-1, 195, redshirt sophomore in ’17), Chazz Surratt (6-3, 205, soph) and Logan Byrd (6-3, 230, soph). Only Elliott played in ’16 and then in just four games, completing 8 of 9 passes for 55 yards.

Fedora and his staff reportedly have 16 players committed but no quarterbacks yet. That, too, could change before the Feb. 5 signing date.

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