Image Credit: North Carolina Athletics
Sam Howell had a remarkable freshman season for the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2019. We may still be months away from the start of next season, but Howell is already projected to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in 2020.
ACC is a Quarterback Conference?
Recently, PFF released its list of top 10 returning college football quarterbacks in 2020, and Howell was listed as the fourth-best returning quarterback in 2020. Howell trailed only Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, and Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman. Considering how well he played, especially down the stretch, it isn’t a surprise Howell is believed to be one of the best signal-callers in the country. Last year, Howell threw for 3,641 yards, 38 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions. In UNC’s 55-13 victory in the Military Bowl, Howell threw for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns, winning the game’s MVP. He also chipped in 53 rushing yards on 3 carries.
Entering the 2019 season, Howell was a consensus four-star prospect from Monroe, NC. He was the #3 pro-style quarterback and #87 overall player nationally by the 247Sports Composite. UNC was 4-6 through 10 games, but rode a 3-game winning streak to finish 7-6. Mack Brown, who previously coached the Tar Heels from 1988-97, along with Howell helped the program return to respectability as they played in a bowl for the first time since 2016.
As his chemistry with Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown grew stronger, Howell seemed to find his groove. After the Duke game where he threw 2 picks, Howell finished the season with 16 TDs and 2 INTs. He started to move in the pocket and kept his eyes downfield, which helped him find receivers late into their routes. The most impressive part was his ability to hit his receivers in the face of pressure. Once he started moving around and learned to read blitzes, he was able to use his natural tools to hit receivers 15+ yards down the field.
With Howell and Brown in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels have high aspirations for the 2020 season. Howell’s chemistry with his receivers will only improve, as will his decision-making. With the Virginia Cavaliers losing their quarterback, UNC will be the favorites to win the Coastal. North Carolina begins next season in Orlando against the UCF Knights on September 3rd. They also play the Auburn Tigers on September 12th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Their other two non-conference games are against James Madison and the UConn Huskies.