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No. 18 Tar Heels eager to see Howell’s next act at QB

Sam Howell not often seemed like a rookie at North Carolina final season, rolling to huge yardage totals and throwing extra touchdowns than any true freshman in Bowl Subdivision historical past.

That’s why Mack Brown and his 18th-ranked Tar Heels are so eager to see the sophomore’s next act, beginning with Saturday’s opener in opposition to Syracuse. His speedy growth has made him a talked-about NFL prospect and remodeled UNC right into a sudden Atlantic Coast Conference contender.

“No matter if people were saying good things about me, I’m holding myself to a high standard,” Howell mentioned. “No matter if I have success on a play, there’s still probably something on that play I could’ve done better. … I think that’s the only way I can get better.”

Howell headlines an offense that returns 1,000-yard receivers in Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome together with 1,000-yard rusher Michael Carter. It’s fairly a change from when Brown started his second stint in Chapel Hill with uncertainty about who would play quarterback.

The reply got here from the identical man who gave Brown a giant early recruiting win by flipping his dedication as a four-star instate recruit from Florida State to UNC. By December, Howell had helped the Tar Heels shut with lopsided wins in opposition to rival North Carolina State and in opposition to Temple within the Military Bowl whereas ending with a program-record 38 landing passes.

“He’s a very poised quarterback,” mentioned Syracuse security Andre Cisco, a preseason Associated Press All-American. “On film he shows a lot of poise. He sits in the pocket well, scans the field well. When you face a quarterback like that, you’ve got to be in coverage a few more seconds than usual.”

With spring routines interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, Howell turned offseason consideration to learning movie with offensive coordinator Phil Longo. That included having him run psychological reps in opposition to varied NFL defenses and their capability to disguise coverages.

“I’ve never been around anybody that studies football more than he does at such a young age,” Brown mentioned. “And being around him, you wouldn’t even feel how successful he’s been because he never talks about himself.”

Howell was additionally decided to research his mistake and the way to keep away from them in 2020.

Not that there have been many.

He threw seven interceptions on 422 makes an attempt, a fee of 1.7%. He joined LSU’s Joe Burrow – final yr’s Heisman Trophy winner and this spring’s No. 1 general NFL draft choose — and Ohio State’s Justin Fields as the one quarterbacks nationally to throw at least 35 touchdowns with seven interceptions or fewer.

He did that in an offense that pushes the ball downfield as an alternative of leaning solely on quick, protected throws. The faculty mentioned Howell was tied with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence for the ACC lead on accomplished passes of at least 30 yards (30) and led the league on 40-yarders (17), whereas his 21 TDs on throws of at least 20 yards trailed solely Burrow (26).

To hear to offensive sort out Jordan Tucker, Howell has been eager to apply classes discovered.

“For the past year, he’s definitely been a lot more vocal, especially to the O-line,” Tucker mentioned. “Just kind of telling us what he wants, telling us what he’s thinking when he’s back there. If someone manages to get through, he’s quick to tell us how he’s going to react to it and what we can do to fix it.”

For Howell, that’s the important thing, actually. It’s all about fixing errors and shifting ahead. If he retains doing that, the Tar Heels might be set for a giant season.

“Just because it’s supposed to happen doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and have a great season,” he mentioned, including: (*18*)

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AP Sports Writer John Kekis in Syracuse, New York, contributed to this report.

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More AP school soccer: http://apnews.com/Collegefootball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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