Mack Brown assembles dream staff to work with Drake Maye

The star quarterback may spurn the NFL to learn from quarterbacking gurus in Chapel Hill

UNC coach Mack Brown looks on as Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye responds to a question during ACC Football Kickoff last week in Charlotte. (Jeff Siner / The Charlotte Observer via AP)

Drake Maye has already turned down untold riches from the transfer portal to stay at UNC. Now he’s hinting he may also press pause on cashing NFL paychecks.

A Heisman candidate last year and one of the shortlisters for the award this year, Maye reportedly was offered millions in NIL cash to transfer to various unnamed football factories across the NCAA. That’s the charge leveled by coach Mack Brown earlier this year. Maye, whose father quarterbacked the Tar Heels and brothers have played for the UNC basketball team, with Luke winning a national title in 2017, decided to stay at Carolina.

The decision was a mild surprise last year, but with Maye expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in college and a potential high draft pick in 2024, it would be a shock if he doesn’t enter the draft when he’s first eligible.

“I think coming back is definitely not out of the question,” Maye said at last week’s ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte. “Third year. I want to obviously graduate and however the year plays out, hopefully we win all the games we can. But staying at this great university, playing another year, you can’t say no to that. It’s an awesome university.”

Before Tar Heels fans start planning a parade in Maye’s honor, however, it’s still only a possibility.

“At the same time, my dream is to play in the NFL,” he cautioned. “So I’ll let this year play out itself, but North Carolina is a special place to me. And I could imagine myself playing five years here.”

Making his potential decision to stay easier is Brown, who replaced offensive coordinator Phil Longo — who left following last season to take a job at Wisconsin — with several big names in the quarterback molding business.

If you don’t want your quarterback to go to the NFL, Brown seemed to reason, then why not bring the NFL to him?

The UNC staff now features coaches who have worked with quarterbacking royalty.

“I’ve got him a lot of manpower in that room,” Brown told ESPN last week, “and now what we’ve got to do is make sure all of them do what’s best for him, that is, therefore, best for our offense.”

The first hire was Chip Lindsey to replace Longo as offensive coordinator. Lindsey has run an Air Raid offense similar to Longo’s at each stop on his coaching journey, and Brown said Maye was one of the interviewers Lindsey had to face.

“He was involved in the hiring of Chip Lindsey,” Brown said, going as far as to admit that if Maye had vetoed the move, Carolina probably wouldn’t have hired Lindsey.

Brown then hired Freddie Kitchens, a former NFL head coach, and brought in former UNC quarterback Clyde Christensen as an analyst.

“We have Clyde Christensen there, who coached the best quarterbacks in the NFL,” Brown said. “We’ve also got Freddie Kitchens, who coached two No. 1 draft choices at quarterback. We have a lot of great help around Drake.”

Maye seems duly impressed with his new staff’s NFL pedigree.

“Coach Christensen, he has coached Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck and Tom Brady,” he said. “So just sitting there with some tape watching old drills of them, picking up little things. He has coached the best, so just trying to pick up whatever I can from him.

“Coach Kitchens was just a few years back the head coach of the Browns. I think he knows a few things, and having him in there, you have a great room in there. So just, like I said, trying to soak it all up. Just ask all the questions. I was asking the other day about Baker (Mayfield) and some of those guys he coached, their mentality and (competitiveness). I think you can never — no question is a bad question with guys like them.”

The moves also show how dialed in Brown is with his star quarterback. He knows that Maye likes nothing better than learning football and working to get better.

“After the season Drake came in to me and said, ‘Help me with these things. These are things I need to improve.’ That’s who he is,” Brown said. “He was raised in a family of athletes. So he is always looking at what I can do better instead of patting himself on the back. … We have to be careful with him because he is too hard on himself, and he is always ‘I didn’t do this right.’ Well, let’s talk about what you did right too, so we can do that.”

So Brown has assembled a master class in quarterbacking for the hungry young prodigy.

It’s the type of move that might just keep Maye in light blue for another year.