Young receiver stands out, but still no QB clarity for UNC

Sophomore Juval Mollette caught touchdown passes from three different quarterbacks Saturday as the Tar Heels closed out spring practice with their annual Blue-White scrimmage

North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Juval Mollette (5) catches a touchdown pass under pressure from defensive back Zach Goins (37) during the annual Spring Football Game at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill

Saturday’s spring football game didn’t provide a lot of clarity to North Carolina’s uncertain quarterback situation, especially with graduate transfer Brandon Harris still yet to arrive. But it may just have identified a potential new pass-catching target for whoever ends up winning the job.Sophomore Juval Mollette staked his claim to a prominent role on his team’s graduation-depleted receiving corps this fall by catching touchdowns from three different quarterbacks to highlight the Tar Heels’ annual spring scrimmage.The game was played at Fetzer Field, home of UNC’s soccer and lacrosse teams, because of work being done to Kenan Stadium and featured a scoring system that awarded points to the offensive and defense based on yards gained on certain downs and distances.The defense beat the offense 80-70, but both side of the ball had their moments.Many of those from the offense were provided by Mollette, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound Randleman native who caught seven passes for 100 yards. The former four-star recruit caught a 33-yard touchdown from Nathan Elliott, a 17-yarder from Manny Miles and a 21-yard score from Logan Byrd — the final two coming on fade patterns in the right corner of the end zone.”This is the first offseason that Javal has actually gone through,” coach Larry Fedora said after the game. “Last year it was two shoulder surgeries simultaneous and he missed all of the offseason. So he’s really just now, strength-wise, getting back to a point where he looks like he can do some things, where he can use his body in the air, he can use his body on the ground and do all the things he needs to do to be a great receiver.”Now he feels comfortable with it mentally. When you’re on the sideline and you’re not playing at all, it’s hard to stay into it mentally. We’re just now getting him back to where he’s feeling comfortable with the offense.”While Molette and redshirt freshmen Roscoe Johnson stood out among UNCs young receivers — Johnson had 88 yards and a touchdown — the battle to replace Mitch Trubisky under center remains as unclear at the end of spring practice as it was when it started.Elliott, the only returner with meaningful snaps to his credit, completed eight of 12 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Logan Byrd went 12 for 21 with 120 yards and classmate Chazz Surratt was 5 of 14 for 90 yards. Walkon Miles, the son of former LSU coach Les Miles finished up and went 3 of 8 for 41 yards and a score.”I’d say they made a lot of progress, but I wouldn’t say anyone separated themselves,” Fedora said of his quarterbacks. “We’ll get into the summer and get into fall camp and if somebody separates at that time we’ll make a decision. I know we’ve got to put somebody out there in the first game, but I’m not anywhere close to making that decision.”Fedora said that each of the three scholarship quarterbacks took turns working with the first and second teams and got an equal number of snaps.”We’ve got four guys that are competing for the job right now and I think all four have made good progress,” he said. “I don’t think any one of them is ready to go for us at this point, but through all the work over the summer and all the work through fall camp, we’ll have somebody ready to lead this team.”Among the other standouts in Saturday’s game were veteran receiver Austin Proehl with four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, early enrolling running back Michael Carter with 31 yards on nine carries, and kicker Freeman Jones, who converted field goals of 25, 48 and 41 yards.Defensively, sophomore D.J. Ford led the team with 13 tackles while senior defensive end Dajuan Drennon had three sacks.All-in-all, Fedora pronounced himself pleased with the work his team did during the spring, especially some of the young players that will be counted on to play expanded roles once the season kicks off on Sept. 2 against California.”They’ve all flashed throughout the spring,” Fedora said. “That’s what we’re looking for. We’re trying to find some consistency. If you’re going to do it today, I want you to do it tomorrow and the next day also. If we can get that consistency, we have some talent.”