Updated: May 17, 2019
The Heel Tough Blog begins its offseason series today. The series will place the top players in Tar Heel football history at each position group into five different tiers to determine their standings in Tar Heel history. The series will start by looking at the five tiers of Tar Heel quarterbacks.
Tier 1: Marquise Williams, Mitch Trubisky
Tier 1 for the quarterbacks is an exclusive one. This could have easily been combined with Tier 2, but Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky have a slight edge over the three Tier 2 quarterbacks. Williams ranks behind Yates, Durant and Renner on the all-time passing yards list with 7,965 yards, but his 10,423 yards of total offense and 96 total touchdowns rank are both tops in program history, the latter of which is by a large margin. His 24-12 record is the better than any of the quarterbacks in Tier 2 and it also can not be discounted that the starting quarterback for the only team in Tar Heel football history to win 11 games and got the team the closest they had been to a ACC Championship since the 1997 season.
Mitch Trubisky was maybe the toughest decision of any one player in these rankings, but he is the second Tier 1 quarterback. Trubisky had arguably the greatest single season of any quarterback in Tar Heel football history as a senior in 2016 (68.0 cmp %, 3,748 yds, 30-6 TD-INT, 93 rush, 308 yds, 5 TD). Even though he was only a starter for one season in Chapel Hill, Trubisky ranks 6th in passing yards in school history and his 67.5% completion rate and 157.6 quarterback rating rank as the best in school history. His career 41-10 TD-INT ratio also helps his cause. The one year as a starter is the main issue that many have, but there is just too much here not to have him in Tier 1.
Tier 2: T.J. Yates, Darian Durant, Bryn Renner
Tier 2 is a loaded group with two headliners that push for Tier 1 honors. T.J. Yates, a player who started every single game that played in as a Tar Heel, is the all-time passing leader, throwing for 9,377 yards, a school record, and transcended the Butch Davis offense. Yates had a fantastic senior season in 2010, a season that had lofty expectations prior to NCAA violations in large part because of Yates’ success. The reason he is a Tier 2 quarterback is in large part due to his 58-46 TD-INT ratio.
Darian Durant, like Yates, was a four year starter and had plenty of success in those four seasons. Durant’s 9,629 total yards of offense still ranks second in Carolina history and his 68-38 TD-INT ratio is not too shabby either. The reason Durant sits as a Tier 2 quarterback revolves around his record as a starter. Although it may not have been all on his shoulders, his 18-26 record as a starter can not be ignored completely. Still, Durant is solidly a Tier 2 quarterback.
Finally, there is Bryn Renner. An extremely high touted recruit, Renner went through a lot in his time on campus, cycling through three different offenses in his four seasons on campus. Renner improve each and every season on campus, thriving in his first season under Larry Fedora. His 8,221 passing yards ranks 3rd in school history, while his 64 passing touchdowns sit 2nd. Renner’s 66.5% completion rate is phenomenal, considering he started for 2 ½ season before going down with a collarbone injury as a senior. Those qualifications alone are what places him safely in Tier 2.
Tier 3: Chris Keldorf, Ronald Curry, Matt Kupec, Jason Stanicek
Tier 3 might be the most interesting tier of the quarterback group. Chris Keldorf starts the group off and was the hardest to leave out of Tier 2. Keldorf was the main quarterback behind one of the most successful stretches in Tar Heel football history. Keldorf posted a career TD-INT ratio of 35-14 while having to split time with Oscar Davenport. Keldorf’s 1996 season was a special once, as he would throw for 2,347 yards and post a 23-5 TD-INT while playing in just eight games. With Keldorf as a part of the quarterback rotation, the Tar Heels finished with a 21-3 record and he racked up, what at the time, wouldbe multiple program records. What holds him back from being a Tier 2 quarterback was the fact that he was never able to fully wrestle the start job away from Davenport, who we will see later on this list.
Ronald Curry is a solid Tier 3 player. Curry was a three year starter for the Heels, taking over the starting job in the middle of the 1998 season. Curry’s 1,249 rushing yards is the second most of any quarterback in program history and his 4,987 passing yards rank fifth. The issues for Curry that kept him from being a Tier 2 quarterback are his completion percentage (49.6%) and his TD-INT ratio (28-35). Curry finished just one season of his four on campus with more touchdowns than interceptions. In his four seasons on campus, the Heels posted a 24-23 record, a record that was skewed by a 1999 season where the Heels finished just 3-8, in large part because of an injury to Curry.
We go back to the Bill Dooley era for the next member of Tier 3. Matt Kupec was a four year starter under Derek Dooley back in the late 70’s and set many records in his time on campus. His record of 13 consecutive games with a touchdown pass has yet to be broken and he is tied with both Marquise Williams and Jason Stanicek with 24 career wins. Kupec still ranks inside the top ten in passing yards (9th with 3,864) and touchdown passes (33) and his 33-28 TD-INT ratio is solid.
The final member of Tier 3 was another quarterback whose legs were a big part of his game. Jason Stanicek is one of the winnest quarterbacks in Tar Heel history, as he won 24 games as a starter for the Tar Heels and was the quarterback that led to the rise of the Tar Heels into a borderline power. Stanicek’s 4,683 passing yards ranks a solid 7th in school history and his 814 rushing yards ranks 4th among quarterbacks. Stanciek was a read option specialist, but one of the main reasons he lands in Tier 3 is his 26-28 TD-INT ratio.
Tier 4: Scott Stankavage, Oscar Davenport
Tier 4 is home to two very solid Tar Heel quarterbacks that seem to be perfect fits in Tier 4. Scott Stankavage was only a two year starter in Chapel Hill, but put together some good numbers over that time. He would finish his career with 3,363 yards passing and a very repsectable 30-20 TD-INT ratio. The biggest issue for Stankavage, just like the other member of Tier 4, was the fact that he was never able to separate himself from the quarterback he originally split time with, Rod Elkins.
Oscar Davenport had the same issue separating from Chris Keldorf until 1998. Davenport was still effective when he did see time on the field, throwing for 3,090 yards and posting an 18-8 TD-INT ratio. One can only wonder how high he would have been able to climb had he been able to take full control of the starting job.
Tier 5: Mike Thomas, Mark Maye, Danny Talbott, Gayle Bomar
Tier 5 has five players that all had very different careers. Mike Thomas leads the group off and had one of the tougher careers to judge. Thomas was only a one year starter in Chapel Hill, but had some moments when he was called upon as the backup to Jason Stanicek. Thomas would finish his career with 4,368 passing yards, which still sits at 8th in school history. Thomas struggled with turnovers, posting a 10-19 TD-INT ratio in 1995, his lone season as the full time starter and finishing his career with a 22-28 ratio. Even with those struggles, Thomas was still an important part of helping to build what the Tar Heels would become in the late 90’s.
Mark Maye would have two seasons as the head man under center for the Tar Heels in 1986 and 1987 that helped to land him on this list. Maye’s 1986 season was a very solid one, as he threw for 1,401 yards and had a 10-6 TD-INT ratio while completing 62.5% of his passes, helping the Tar Heels to a 7-4-1 mark and what would be the final bowl game of the Dick Crum era. Maye’s senior season is the reason that he lands in Tier 5, though. Maye would improve upon his passing yards (1,965), but saw his completion percentage drop to 53.0% and the TD-INT ratio fall to 9-15, leading to a tough 5-6 season that would end Dick Crum’s coaching tenure in Chapel Hill. Maye is a solid Tier 5 guy and one wonders what may have happened had injuries not derailed his career.
For the final two members of Tier 5, we head back to the 1960’s. Danny Talbott, the only Tar Heel quarterback to inducted into the team’s ring of honor, was a two year starter for the Heels back in 1965 and 1966. While his career numbers may make you shudder a bit (2,018 passing yards, 7-25 TD-INT ratio, 88.0 QB rating in his career), he was the 1965 ACC Player of the Year in large part because of his rushing ability. Talbott would finish his Tar Heel career with 643 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
Gayle Bomar wraps up Tier 5 and while his career record as a starter of 5-15 is far from impressive, Bomar becoming the first Tar Heel quarterback to run for over 1,000 yards in his career lands him on this list. Bomar finished his career with 2,102 passing yards to go along with his 1,024 rushing yards. Bomar would finish his career with 19 total touchdowns, a solid number for time and his 12-14 TD-INT ratio is respectable.