CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Mitch Trubisky’s wait is finally over.
The quarterback will make his first career start Saturday for No. 22 North Carolina in the opener against No. 18 Georgia in Atlanta. It comes after two years of preparation with only spot game action and plenty of watching from the sideline.
“It’s exciting just because I guess the label comes with it,” Trubisky said. “I’m going out there as a starter. I’m one of the leaders of this offense, so I do feel there’s more responsibility on my shoulders, which makes it more special for me.
“It’s the same offense. I do have a good amount of experience, so I think that give me confidence.”
Trubisky, a 6-foot-3 junior from Mentor, Ohio, arrived in January 2013 as one of head coach Larry Fedora’s first recruits as he installed a fast-paced spread offense at UNC. He was the guy many expected to be the Tar Heels’ long-term quarterback once starter Bryn Renner’s career was done, but he instead ended up playing behind dual-threat Marquise Williams for two seasons.
As Williams moved the chains and directed an offense that set school records during an 11-win season, Trubisky kept working and waiting. Now with Williams gone, Fedora named Trubisky the starter in the spring so he could come into preseason camp as the unquestioned leader.
Now it’s time to see what Trubisky will do in a game in that role.
“I’m convinced he’s our guy, so there’s no question about that,” Fedora said. “Coming off the bench in a relief role and being the starter, there is a difference there. There will be a bit of a learning curve for him in that aspect. You don’t have time to ease into the game. You’ve got to roll.
“But his role doesn’t change. It’s take care of the football and let’s move the chains. That’s it.”
New Georgia coach Kirby Smart doesn’t look at Trubisky as a newcomer. He figures the past two years of experience have prepared Trubisky to play Saturday.
“He’s probably the best quarterback that nobody knows about, because in my mind it’s almost like he’s a returning starter because of what he played early in the year,” Smart said, “and the guy does a really good job with offense.”
Trubisky has thrown just 125 career passes, but he has responded in a handful of key moments despite coming in cold off the bench for a single play.
Two years ago, he came on when Williams had to leave the game after losing his helmet on a play and threw the winning 16-yard touchdown pass with 4:05 left in a 28-27 win at Virginia. Then last year, he did it two more times when Williams again lost his helmet on a play — first by throwing a first-quarter touchdown pass at North Carolina State, then by throwing a third-down pass to move the chains against then-No. 1 Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
The difference now is those moments will come in much more than one-snap chances.
“I don’t really feel I have anything to prove to anyone else except my teammates who have always believed in me to this point, who have stuck by me in thick and thin,” Trubisky said. “I just want to go out there and do it for them. They’ve seen me do it in practice so I want to go out and do it for them on Saturdays.”