CHAPEL HILL — To coach Mack Brown and offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and even defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, the North Carolina football team’s quarterback competition won’t be conducted by hesitant means this preseason.
The Tar Heels began training camp Friday with a first practice session that had quarterback candidates Jacolby Criswell and Drake Maye splitting time guiding the first-team offense, just as they did during spring practices.
Brown pointed out both the redshirt sophomore Criswell and redshirt freshman Maye have gained more than a season’s worth of experience in UNC’s system while backing up former star Sam Howell, and contrasted theirs to the situation three years ago, when Howell earned the starting job as an 18-year-old true freshman.
“There’s no holding back,” Brown said Friday at the team’s indoor practice facility. “We’re not worried about their confidence, we’re worried about them separating. So we’re bringing it all. We’re disguising (defenses), we’re blitzing, and we’re putting them in game-type positions to see how they handle it. And we’re telling them, you’re going to tell us who should start. We’re not going to tell you, you’ll determine that.”
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North Carolina opens the approaching season Aug. 27 against Florida A&M, a so-called Week Zero game that arrives earlier on the schedule. Week 1 games are Sept. 3 for nearly all college football.
Criswell and Maye are competing to replace the departed Howell, the Tar Heels’ three-year starter now in the NFL with the Washington Commanders. Criswell and Maye were in a dead heat last season for the backup job behind Howell, who set 27 school records across his UNC career.
“Phil and I’ve talked about it,” Brown said. “We will press both of those quarterbacks really hard every day, and it’ll be easier to determine who’s moving the ball when we put pads on. And then we’ll take the one that has the most success in preseason against everything Gene and the defensive staff can bring against them, and put them in there as the starter that first game.”
Adam Smith is a sports reporter for the Burlington Times-News and USA TODAY Network. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or @adam_smithTN on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on Times-News: UNC football: ‘No holding back’ with QBs Jacolby Criswell, Drake Maye