Gene Chizik compares Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson to 2 current NFL QBs

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

If you believe the various rankings, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky could be the top two quarterbacks selected in April’s NFL Draft. Gene Chizik’s defenses faced both of them – one in an ACC Championship Game, the other in practice every day.

Chizik, the former national championship Auburn head coach, recently stepped down as North Carolina’s defensive coordinator after two seasons to devote more time to his family. He joined our podcast – The Audible – this week to discuss his decision as well as his thoughts on the two star quarterbacks.

“When I first came [to North Carolina] I was watching [Trubisky] throw every day in practice and I was thinking, holy cow,” said Chizik. “At that time, the guy he reminded me of was a college Colt McCoy — very accurate, very fluid in the pocket, had a great sense of the game, but he wasn’t playing much because we had Marquise Williams.”

Chizik, it should be noted, was Texas’ defensive coordinator when McCoy burst on the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2006.

After two seasons spent primarily as Williams’ backup, the 6-foot-3 Trubisky took over the Tar Heels’ starting job last season to considerable success, completing 68 percent of his passes for 3,748 yards, 30 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Ohio native turned pro following his junior season.

“Once Mitch kind of got his cleats in the ground and really started gaining a lot of reps in spring practice last year, some of the throws he was making and some of the things he was doing, I was like wow, this guy really has a chance to be special,” said Chizik. “Well, you never know what they’re going to do when they’re the starting quarterback … because of the pressure and all the things that go with it.

“This guy never flinched. From our first game on, he did everything he did in practice. He was accurate, he had a real quick release on the ball, his decision-making was great.

“I think the he’s going to be a tremendous NFL quarterback.”

Chizik’s primary exposure to Watson came in the 2015 ACC Championship Game, a 45-37 Clemson win in which Watson threw for 289 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while also running 24 times for 131 yards and two TDs.

“When we played him, I was watching him in pregame warmups and I saw this wiry guy – 6-2 or 6-3, not going to physically wow you like a Cam Newton,” said Chizik, who coached Newton at Auburn. “But when the ball kicked off, he was fierce competitor, tough as boots, wiry — I thought he made some great tight window throws.”

Chizik complimented Watson’s toughness and predicted big things for his future, perhaps even starting with his NFL rookie season.

“He is going to make somebody a fantastic NFL quarterback,” he said. “Dak Prescott is kind of what I see Deshaun being, a guy that comes in, he’s a football guy, he picks it up well and becomes successful early in his career.”

Hear the complete interview on the latest episode of The Audible.

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