The junior quarterback is the focus of draft scouts this week, but should Heels fans be concerned about him leaving?
For the first time in program history, a University of North Carolina quarterback is faced with a decision as large as Mitch Trubisky’s.
In the history of Tar Heel football, the program has never had a quarterback drafted in the first round. As a matter of fact, the Heels have never had a quarterback drafted earlier than the fifth round, and that was TJ Yates.
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Oct 29, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) warms up before playing the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field. The Tar Heels won 26-19. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Trubisky put together one of the most statistically impressive seasons in program history. Trubisky holds the single season records for passing yards, passing touchdowns, and is second in total touchdowns.
Along with those impressive ranks, Trubisky also recorded thirty touchdowns to only six interceptions.
While there are many questions surrounding the junior quarterback, there are no questions about his ability to play the position.
Most questions about Trubisky are aimed at his experience. Trubisky has only started thirteen games as a Tar Heel, despite appearing in thirty-one.
The only knock scouts have had on him has been his lack of a representative sample size.
A decision from Trubisky should be coming any day now.
Many people are waiting on the decision from the quarterback, but in the mean time lets discuss the pro’s and con’s of leaving early, and what the team could look like next season with or without him.
Benefits of leaving early
Draft analysts, and scouts both agree this is one of the weakest quarterback classes in years. Along with Trubisky, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, and Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer are the top quarterbacks in the draft.
Trubisky would benefit from this, because quarterbacks are at such a premium in the NFL, and there are several teams in the top ten that need a franchise signal caller.
Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
There could also be a concern of injury that could send Trubisky to the NFL draft.
In the Heels bowl game, Trubisky watched as Keller Chryst, Stanford quarterback, reportedly tore his ACL.
The chance of injury, while not high, still exists, and it only takes one hit, or one cut to change a career path.
In his time at Carolina, Trubisky was regularly healthy. He never missed a game as a starter due to injury, which also could help his draft potential. Most NFL teams love kids who can stay on the field, and earn that check. It is doubtful injury concerns would change the decision course, but it could sway his decision one way or another.
Trubisky could also capitalize on the mystique around him, similar to which Carson Wentz did last year. Wentz was not a household name going into the season, but he performed great on the field, and checked all the boxes off the field. Wentz rose up the draft boards, and was ultimately selected second overall.
If the only questions are based on experience, he could perform well at the combine, and in the interviews, and it would help quiet the questions.
Reasons to return to school
We already know Mitch has received a first round grade from the NFL advisory committee. While that is a strong grade, teams are still doubtful of him, based on him only having the thirteen starts. Trubisky could return to school, and double that number of starts, and attempt to replicate his junior season.
Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
Most NFL teams like to have the experienced senior, or even the second or third year starter junior QB, like Deshaun Watson.
While teams that need a quarterback would probably take a chance on Trubisky, should a few teams in the top ten pass, it could start a free fall.
Take Brady Quinn in the 2007 NFL Draft for example.
While Quinn was a seasoned college QB, he was expected to be a surefire top ten pick. Once the Browns passed on him at third, Quinn slipped all the way down to 22nd. It only takes one team to pick Trubisky high, but it could only take one team to pass. Once that one team passes, a free fall could ensue.
Trubisky could also return for personal reasons. Maybe he would like to break records.
Nobody really understood why Tyler Hansbrough stayed around, except for the fact that he loved Carolina. Mitch might love Carolina, and love the community of fans, and would want to deliver on an Coastal Championship again.
Future of the team
As far as what the team will look like next season, it really hinges on Trubisky’s decision.
We know for sure that his favorite receiver, Ryan Switzer, will be graduating. Also Bug Howard, and Mack Hollins will be gone from the team, both of which were featured receivers.
The Heels will return Austin Proehl, and Thomas Jackson, who both came on strong this past season. Elijah Hood recently announced he will be returning also.
Nov 19, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) with the ball as Citadel Bulldogs linebacker Myles Pierce (50) defends in the second quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The quarterback position is in much more lingo than anywhere else. Aside from Trubisky, no other QB has thrown a touchdown at UNC.
The Heels seemed to be in the running for graduate transfer Malik Zaire, but things have cooled on that front recently. Many believe Zaire is awaiting a decision from Trubisky.
Without Trubisky next season the Heels will likely struggle.
It would be the second year in a row they would have to roll out a first time starter, unless they go the transfer route.
The Heels know what they will have on defense next season, which is why many people are speculating that the defense could be the anchor on next seasons team. Without Trubisky, the team could potentially turn into a seven-win bunch.
Keeping Mitch would almost feel like getting a five star recruit to this team. Trubisky has shown his passing skills are some of the top in the country.
The weapons he would have would not be the same, but Proehl has sure hands, and Jordan Cunningham has shown he is a big play threat. Should Mitch return, this team could hover around the 9-3 mark, as long as they stay away from the head-scratching losses.
Potential NFL landing spots
The team in the number one spot is one of the hottest names for Trubisky. The Cleveland Browns are slotted in at number one, and as usual are looking for a franchise signal caller.
Trubisky, a Mentor, Ohio native, has often said that his dream NFL team is the Cleveland Browns.
If you go thirty minutes west of Mentor, you arrive in Cleveland, which would give Mitch the opportunity to turn around his hometown franchise. The Browns actually have the 1st overall pick, and the 12th overall pick, giving them two chances at Trubisky.
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Another team that has been rumored to be in on the Trubisky sweepstakes is the San Francisco 49ers.
The Niners, who recently fired their GM, Trent Baalke, and Head Coach, Chip Kelly, appear to be in full rebuild mode.
Since Colin Kaepernick had an incredible first two seasons as a starter, he has flamed out.
Teams have figured out how to defend him, which resulted in the Niners struggling the last couple seasons.
This situation could be great for Mitch, seeing as the whole franchise would be able to build around him, and not about Trubisky having to fit in.
Several more teams that have been rumored to have interest in Trubisky are the Bears, Jets, Bills, and Cardinals. Of all those situations, the Cardinals would seem to be the best fit there. In Arizona, Trubisky would be given time to wait, and learn the offense behind Carson Palmer. The Cardinals are one year removed from an NFC title game, and they faltered this season in part of Palmer’s poor play.
There are a host of good situations for Mitch to land in next season, should he go. His incredible arm talent is what has earned him this opportunity, and it appears to be good enough to lead an NFL team in the postseason one day.
No matter the situation Mitch lands in, the team will be getting a player fully capable of leading their franchise.