CHAPEL HILL — The only thing worse than a quarterback controversy is a quarterback problem.
And North Carolina has a big one of those on its hands right now.
It’s bad enough that both neither quarterback used by coach Larry Fedora distinguished himself during the Tar Heels’ most recent game, a 47-10 beatdown at the hands of Miami two weeks ago. But Wednesday, things got even worse with news that one of those quarterbacks, sophomore Chazz Surratt, will miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury that will require surgery.
TarHeelIllustrated.com reported Wednesday that Surratt reaggravated an injury originally suffered last season when he attempted to tackle Miami’s Romeo Finley during the linebacker’s 83-yard interception return.
Fedora avoided the question when asked about Surratt’s status after practice Wednesday.
Surratt struggled mightily against Miami in what turned out to be his only game this season. Playing for the first time since being suspended for his role in the sale of school-issued athletic shoes, the former national high school Player of the Year completed four passes to his own receivers and three to the Hurricanes, two that were returned for touchdowns.
Elliott, a junior who has been inconsistent at best as the Tar Heels’ starter for the first four games, wasn’t much better. He threw for just 110 yards against Miami with the only touchdown he produced being scored for the wrong team on a fumble.
Although Elliott has decent numbers for the season, completing 58.1 percent of his passes for 773 yards and three touchdowns, most of his success came in one game — a 38-35 victory against Pittsburgh on Sept. 22.
His stats are also somewhat deceiving in that in that 40 of his 75 completed passes this season have been thrown behind the line of scrimmage. He is 40 of 41 on those passes, meaning that his completion percentage is a dismal 39.8 percent (35 of 88) on balls thrown downfield.
With Elliott unimpressive and Surratt unavailable, the door has suddenly become ajar for freshmen Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder to get a shot at running the team when UNC takes on ACC Coastal rival Virginia Tech on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.
“We’ll have somebody ready to go out there on Saturday,” Fedora said. “There’s a chance anything can happen.”
When asked about the situation Monday at his regular weekly press conference, Fedora said that all his available quarterbacks are “anxious to prove that we can play better at the position” and that the competition at practice during the open week was “really good.”
“We evaluate each and every thing — how they carry themselves on and off the field, what they do leadership-wise, and obviously taking care of the football is the most important thing they can do,” Fedora said. “And then just the decision-making process, understanding situational football. You need to understand when do I need to pick this first down up and when is it OK to punt? All those things need to be understood.”
Fedora said that Fortin’s understanding of the offense is much better now than it was during his cameo appearance on Sept. 8 during final minutes of a loss at East Carolina. The freshman who completed three of his six passes for 15 yards in his first college action.
With the Tar Heels struggling to score points and already at a crossroads at 1-3 overall (1-1 ACC), Fedora doesn’t have much to lose in giving Fortin a chance to see what they can do.
“I wouldn’t put him on the field if I didn’t feel confident in what he could do,” Fedora said.
If the Tar Heels have anything going for them against the Hokies, it’s that they’ve had an extra week to prepare for the game.
The last time they had a week off before playing, thanks to the cancellation of their game against Central Florida because of Hurricane Florence, they produced their best effort of the season in beating Pittsburgh.
Coincidentally, that lone win was also UNC’s only home game at Kenan Stadium prior to Saturday against the Hokies.
“We are coming off a very productive bye week where we did a lot of fundamental work with our football team,” Fedora said. “We hope that’s going to pay off for us as we go through the rest of the season.”
As for the future, Inside Carolina is reporting that former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant — the 2017 ACC Championship Game MVP who left the Tigers after losing his starting job to freshman Trevor Lawrence — will be visiting Chapel Hill this weekend as a potential graduate transfer.