McCaffreys decision to sit out Sun Bowl wont influence UNC underclassmen

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky and defensive tackle Nazair Jones said that while they respect Stanfords Christian McCaffery for not wanting to risk injury in what amounts to a meaningless exhibition game, both plan to play in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 29

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) looks to pass during the college rivalry game against N.C. State at Kenan Stadium Friday

CHAPEL HILL — Christian McCaffrey’s decision to skip his final college game so that he can concentrate on preparing for the NFL draft has dramatically changed the complexion of North Carolina’s Sun Bowl matchup against McCaffrey’s Stanford Cardinal. But it has not changed the opinions of the Tar Heels’ top two underclassmen with draft aspirations. Although quarterback Mitch Trubisky and defensive tackle Nazair Jones both said they respect McCaffery for not wanting to risk injury in what amounts to a meaningless exhibition game, neither has any intention of watching from the sidelines as UNC takes on Stanford in El Paso, Tex., on Dec. 29. “He’s got to make a decision that’s best for him,” Trubisky said of McCaffrey, a 2015 Heisman Trophy finalist. “He’s obviously a smart kid. He’s thought about it, talked to his family and is doing what’s best for him. “For me, personally, I’m going to play in the game. I don’t think (McCaffrey’s decision) has anything to do with me. I’m going to do what’s best for me, he’s going to do what’s best for him.” Unlike McCaffery, Trubisky has yet to make up his mind about his professional future. Jones announced his intention to forego his final season of college eligibility last week. While he’s relieved to have have gotten the difficult decision out of the way, calling it “a big weight off my shoulders,” UNC’s defensive leader said he couldn’t imagine leaving his teammates to face the 16th-ranked Cardinal without him. “I’m cherishing this last moment that I have with this team, because we’ve all been through a lot these last couple of years — especially this season,” said Jones, who leads the Tar Heels with 7.5 tackles for losses. “Me, personally, I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to play with my brothers one last time.” Jones said his decision to enter the draft was based primarily on financial considerations. He is projected to be selected somewhere between the third and fifth round depending on his performance at the NFL Combine in February and individual workouts with teams. Trubisky, on the other hand, has been given a first-round grade by the NFL’s draft advisory committee and is rated by many as the top quarterback available this year. Several teams, including his hometown Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets, has openly expressed their interest in selecting him. But despite what would seem like an obvious choice, he insisted Monday that he is still weighing his options and won’t come to a decision until after the Sun Bowl game. Among the factors he’s considering is his readiness to play at the next level, with only 12 college career to his career. “That’s the big debate, what’s going to be best for my preparation? Will my stock ever be as high as it is now?” Trubisky said. “That’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about and I don’t have a clear-cut answer.” Although it will be at least another week before he finds that answer — the deadline for applying to the draft is January 16 — he’s already well into the process of gathering information to make as informed a decision as possible. In addition to getting feedback from the NFL draft committee, he’s also had numerous discussions on the subject with UNC coach Larry Fedora. “My role in that is to give him as much information as possible and to support him and his family in their decision,” Fedora said. “I’m sure he will make a very good, educated decision. He’s got a very thorough process. He’s not just doing this on the fly. He’s really putting a lot of time and effort into it and talking to a lot of people.” Among those he’s talked to his his teammate Jones, though Jones acknowledged that he wasn’t able to offer much help. “His situation is completely different from mine,” Jones said. “He has a lot of talk about being the first pick or a top 10 pick. I’m not necessarily in that category, so he has a lot of things to think about more so than me.” Despite all the help he’s been getting, Trubisky said the process of deciding his future has been “overwhelming at times. “But I think I’m surrounded by a great group of people. My family, great coaches, my teammates have been supporting me,” he said. “I just like to step back, put into perspective that the position I’m in right now is because of the hard work I’ve put in. It’s really just a blessing to be in a position to have this type of decision. I’m not going to let it consume me. I know I’m going to make the decision that’s best for me. “I’m not really thinking about it too much. I’m r