CHAPEL HILL — Coach Larry Fedora’s decision to play Brandon Harris instead of Chazz Surratt against Virginia on Saturday raised some eyebrows. Fedora’s explanation for why he did it, amid conflicting internet reports, raised the potential for a quarterback controversy at North Carolina.
Tuesday, however, Fedora’s offensive coordinator Chris Kapilovic moved quickly to defuse the situation by suggesting that Surratt was under the weather rather than being disciplined for an alleged dispute with quarterback coach Keith Heckendorf, as reported by one media outlet.
“Somebody printed something that there was arguments with him and Heckendorf,” Kapilovic said. “That is completely false. That is not what happened.”
So what did happen?
Kapilovic chose his words carefully so as not to violate Fedora’s long-standing prohibition on discussing the physical condition of his players. But he did seem to confirm pregame rumors that Surratt — a redshirt freshman who had started the previous five games — was limited at practice during the week because of illness and wasn’t prepared to play.
“We don’t talk about sickness or injury, but the bottom line was throughout the practices, Brandon was able to practice every rep, so he was able to start,” Kapilovic said. “I can say this much, it wasn’t about (Surratt) being benched or anything of that nature. And it definitely wasn’t about attitude or an argument. That’s probably as much as I’m allowed to say, but those two things are important for people to know.”
Surratt has struggled of late after getting off to a promising start, but he’s still completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 1,167 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 178 yards and four scores.
While he watched from the sideline, Harris suffered through a nightmare performance against the Cavaliers, hitting only only 7 of 18 passes for 46 yards and getting intercepted three times in the Tar Heels’ 20-14 loss.
After the game, Fedora fueled the flames of controversy by saying that Harris started because “he had a better week in practice.” He complicated matters even further moments later when after being asked if Surratt was available to play, Fedora answered, “He could have played if we needed him to.”
Asked the same question after practice Tuesday, Kapilovic had a different answer.
“That would have been up to the doctors,” Kapilovic said. “If they said he could go, he would go. Nathan (Elliott) was ready to go, so we would have been OK there.”
Kapilovic didn’t indicate which quarterback would start this week in the Tar Heels’ game at Virginia Tech, though Surratt was seen working with the first team during the final session of practice that was open to the media.
Surratt was not made available afterward. Harris, who did conduct a short media session, was noncommittal on his team’s quarterback plans.
The depth chart UNC released Monday had both Harris and Surratt listed as potential starters with the word “OR” between them.