CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Mitch Trubisky has watched from the sideline, taken a handful of key game reps and waited for his chance to take over as North Carolina's top quarterback. He's getting his first shot to earn that job through spring drills.
The rising redshirt junior heads into Saturday's spring game as the front-runner to be the starter in a fast-paced offense that set program records for yards, touchdowns and overall scoring last year.
''I definitely think I'm ready and I think my teammates are excited to see what I can really do with a full game and a full season,'' Trubisky said. ''It's all about doing little things and staying healthy and taking care of my teammates and pushing every day. That's all I'm going to try to do.''
Trubisky has the edge in experience considering only one other quarterback on the spring roster - rising sophomore Caleb Henderson - has thrown even one pass in a game. The 6-foot-3 native of Mentor, Ohio, has appeared in 19 games the past two seasons and is poised to take over an offense for a team coming off an 11-win season that included an Atlantic Coast Conference division championship and the program's first top-10 ranking since 1997.
Still, coach Larry Fedora isn't ready to publicly commit to him as the starter just yet.
''He's competing,'' Fedora said. ''He's trying to win a starting job. You guys are the only ones that have anointed him.''
Trubisky completed 40 of 47 passes (85 percent) last year for 555 yards and six touchdowns to go with three rushing scores behind starter Marquise Williams. A year earlier, he threw for 459 yards, four touchdowns and four picks.
The most encouraging signs for the Tar Heels have come in the way Trubisky has come into games cold for key snaps and kept UNC's offense moving.
Last year, Trubisky came in after Williams was forced out for a play after losing his helmet against rival North Carolina State and completed a first-quarter touchdown pass. The next week, Trubisky came on again when Williams lost his helmet and completed a third-and-long pass to move the chains against top-ranked Clemson in the ACC championship game.
And a year earlier, he came on in the same scenario and threw the go-ahead 16-yard touchdown with 4:05 left - his only play of the game - in a 28-27 win at Virginia.
It helps explain why Williams was putting big expectations on Trubisky before the Tar Heels had even played their season-ending bowl game last year.
''He's going to win us the ACC championship,'' Williams said in December. ''I'm saying it right now.''
That game experience has boosted Trubisky's confidence. Now he's working through spring practices and studying film of each workout, trying to perfect his play while avoiding the small mistakes that Fedora is fond to point out in meetings.
''I don't think he's a small-picture guy,'' quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf said. ''I don't think he's focused on winning the quarterback job. I think he's focused on, `I'm going to be the best quarterback I can possibly be.' . It's about trying to be the best in the league. It's about trying to be the best in the country.''
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