It is the biggest question that those around the Tar Heel football program are talking about right now: if Sam Howell can’t start because of the upper body injury that he is nursing, who starts? Both Jacolby Criswell and Drake Maye have seen limited action this season after they battled all offseason long to try to create separation from each other. Let’s make the case for both guys and tell you who we think would start on Saturday against Wofford if the team is without Howell.
The Case for Jacolby Criswell
It really all starts with the fact that Criswell is the more experienced of the two options and is more of the safe option for the team in this one. This isn’t to say Criswell doesn’t have talent; he is a former 4✮ prospect and there is a reason why his player comparison coming out of high school was Sam Howell. He is seen as the superior fit for the scheme that Phil Longo is currently running with Howell and starting Criswell would likely mean that you could do a lot similar things that you have done with Howell over the years. It also has to be mentioned that we have seen Criswell first in every scenario where Howell has come out of the game, which may mean to tell us that he is seen as that No. 2 behind Howell.
The Case for Drake Maye
Maye might be the younger of the two, but he is also the player that has the higher ceiling of the two. Head coach Mack Brown compared a lot of what Maye was doing in the offseason to the trajectory to what Howell did in his true freshman season and eventually led to him winning the quarterback battle that he was in. This is a Wofford team that is one of the worst teams in any level of college football this year, so the Tar Heels wouldn’t be risking by starting the younger may if they truly believe that he is the better quarterback right now. Maye showed in the spring game that he can throw the ball downfield a little bit more than Criswell, which could allow this offense to still hit the home run plays that have made them so successful this season.
What Actually Happens
If Howell can not go in this game, which it looks like he is going to try to do everything he can to avoid that being the case, the more experienced Criswell will likely be the starter. The reality of the situation, though, is that both quarterbacks will likely see playing time whether Howell starts or not and this is a chance to set the table and for both guys to gain some early momentum for what could be a fierce battle for the starting quarterback job this offseason if Howell heads for the NFL.