By R.L. Bynum
Ultimately, the legacy quarterback who flipped his original commitment from powerhouse Alabama won Carolina’s starting quarterback battle.
Redshirt Drake Maye, the brother of former basketball star Luke Maye (2015–19) and the son of former quarterback Mark Maye (1983–88), will start Saturday’s 8:15 p.m. season opener against Florida A&M (ACC Network), getting the nod in a close competition with Jacolby Criswell.
“Drake earned the right,” Coach Mack Brown said in making the announcement at a Monday press conference. But he added that Criswell will also get playing time and said that it was a very close competition. As far as allocating playing time, he said if one quarterback is producing touchdowns, he’ll keep playing and he doesn’t, he won’t.
“The only thing that matters is who we think, right now, gives us the best chance to win,” Brown said. “We’re going to play the guy who puts the ball in the end zone. It’s really like make it, take it.”
Brown said that Maye and Criswell have had the same number of snaps with the first and second team since spring practice so that they both have the same chemistry with all of the receivers.
“It’s a relatively difficult decision because they’re both so good,” UNC offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. “They both had great camps. They both could start here and, at the end of the day Saturday, somebody has to run out there first, and that will be Drake.”
Criswell, a 6–1, 225-pound sophomore noted for his strong throwing arm, has more experience in the program, but the nod went to Maye, who appeared in four games last season.
Brown said that if Maye couldn’t play because he had to go to a wedding or something, he’d be completely comfortable starting Criswell.
“We’ve got two really, really good quarterbacks and both have been impressive in spring and preseason practice. We’re excited about both of their futures,” said Brown, adding that if Maye didn’t practice well this week and Criswell did, Criswell would start.
The 6–4½, 220-pound Maye was a four-star prospect out of Myers Park High School in Charlotte as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the country and initially committed to Alabama.
Longo said that he wanted Maye to work on his footwork in the offseason and to be a little more accurate and he did that. He said that he doesn’t want to rotate at quarterback because of the nature of the position.
Longo said that making the decision was hard, as well as delivering the news to Criswell. He said that Maye and Criswell are further along in the learning curve than Sam Howell was when he started as a freshman.
D.J. Jones, a 5–10¾, 205-pound junior, will be the starting running back after British Brooks suffered a season-ending injury.
UNC depth chart
|27||8:15, ACCN||Home||Florida A&M (9–3)|
|3||Noon, ESPNU||Road||Appalachian State (10–4)|
|10||Noon, ESPNU||Road||Georgia State (9–3)|
|24||TBA||Home||Notre Dame (11–2)|
|1||TBA||Home||Virginia Tech (6–7, 4–4)|
|8||TBA||Road||Miami (7–5, 5–3)|
|15||TBA||Road||Duke (3–9, 0–8)|
|29||TBA||Home||Pittsburgh (11–3, 8–1)|
|5||TBA||Road||Virginia (6–6, 4–4)|
|12||TBA||Road||Wake Forest (11–3, 7–1)|
|19||TBA||Home||Georgia Tech (3–9, 2–6)|
1 or 3:30,
ABC or ESPN
|Home||N.C. State (9–3, 6–2)|
Photo via @UNCFootball