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Freshman QB Surratt learns at helm of Tar Heels' offense

(AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

By AARON BEARD

AP Sports Writer

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Chazz Surratt has tried to keep things simple as North Carolina's freshman starting quarterback.

Make the right read, he says. Trust what you see. And don't force anything.

"Each play is so critical in college," Surratt said. "Each play can win or lose a game, so it's really being disciplined in your reads and progressions on each play. The biggest thing is, you can't really afford to make a mistake at any time during the game."

The Tar Heels (1-4) weren't supposed to be in this position of leaning on a new quarterback. But that was before Mitch Trubisky went from first-time college starter to early NFL draft entr�e and No. 2 overall pick in less than a year. Now, entering Saturday's visit from No. 21 Notre Dame, the Tar Heels are trying to get enough from the redshirt freshman to win games now instead of letting him develop behind the now-departed Trubisky.

"I'm not thinking about down the road with him," UNC coach Larry Fedora said. "All I'm doing is trying to make sure we have a plan in place that he can execute for this week. That's it. ... Long-term development will come over the long haul, over all the banked reps and everything that you get from the things that happen in a game."

Surratt, an instate recruit, wrestled the starting job away from LSU graduate transfer Brandon Harris after roughly a half of the season opener. He has started the past four games, showing a good arm while throwing for 988 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions.

He's also shown the ability to make plays with his legs, running for four touchdowns.

And there have been some of the expected growing-pains moments, most notably when Surratt forced a two-handed throw under pressure that Duke intercepted and returned for a fourth-quarter clinching touchdown on Sept. 23.

"He's really shined in some moments," offensive coordinator Chris Kapilovic said, "and then there's some moments he's looked like a young quarterback."

Ask Surratt how he would grade his performance, and he keeps that simple, too.

"We're not winning, so my performance doesn't really matter," Surratt said. "We haven't won and we're 1-4 right now. There's definitely stuff I can work on, everybody can work on. We've just got to get better as a unit."

Surratt brought an impressive prep resume to Chapel Hill. He was the Associated Press prep offensive player of the year for the state of North Carolina while at East Lincoln, where he won two state championships while breaking the state record for career total offense and touchdown responsibility.

Surratt also made the AP all-state prep basketball team at East Lincoln, too.

Now he epitomizes North Carolina's overhauled offense with plenty of inexperienced players in key roles for an injury-plagued team. At times, the offense has shown some of the familiar big-play and up-tempo form, like when Surratt directed a two-play, 80-yard touchdown drive just before halftime against Duke.

But last week, the Surratt-led offense managed just 247 yards and flirted with the first shutout loss for Fedora at UNC in a 33-7 loss at Georgia Tech.

"I think as the weeks go on, that's going to start to bank for the long term," Surratt said. "Just get better each week, and then look at the end and see how much you've grown over the course of a season, going into next year and the years to come."

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Updated October 5, 2017

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