Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (2024)

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (1)

Aidan Jensen

July 4, 2024 2:56 pm ET

Over the past two seasons, the North Carolina Tar Heels were extremely fortunate to have a proven, talented starting quarterback in Drake Maye.

Maye captured the 2022 ACC Rookie and Player of the Year Awards, threw for over 8,000 yards and 63 touchdown at UNC, turning that into the 2024 NFL Draft’s third overall selection. He now hopes to be the New England Patriots’ next great quarterback, after the likes of Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe failed to lock down the starting gig.

It’s now the Fourth of July, we’re under two months away from the start of college football season and North Carolina still hasn’t chosen a starting QB.

What the Tar Heels don’t have in a decisive starter, they make up for with a three talented options to choose from. Before UNC landed Max Johnson and Jacolby Criswell in the transfer portal, their starter looked to be Conner Harrell, who started the Duke’s Mayo Bowl last season.

In a Spring Game competition between Johnson and Harrell, the latter stood out with his ability to launch deep balls with accuracy. That’s no guaranteeing Harrell a starting job, though, as Johnson previously started at and LSU.

For the sake of Harrell, though, here’s everything you need to know about North Carolina’s possible QB1 entering the fall.

Player Biography

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (2)

Dec 27, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Conner Harrell (15) throws under pressure against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Harrell's UNC stats

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (3)

Dec 27, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Conner Harrell (15) runs in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

2023: Started one of four games he appeared in, completing 22 of 33 passes for 270 yards while throwing two touchdowns and interceptions apiece. Rushed 22 times for 75 yards (3.4 YPC) and a touchdown.

2022: Redshirted

Harrell's fit on Tar Heels' depth chart?

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (4)

Dec 27, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Conner Harrell (15) looks to pass against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the first half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Though Harrell knew he was going to be starting the Duke’s Mayo Bowl weeks in advance, seeing his first collegiate start in a bowl game couldn’t have been easy.

As you might imagine, Harrell struggled a bit during UNC’s 30-10 loss to West Virginia. He did complete 18-of-27 passes for 199 yards, but threw just one touchdown to two interceptions. Harrell fared much better during the Tar Heels’ spring game, tossing a long touchdown and not throwing a single interception. He looked significantly more comfortable, having several more months to learn North Carolina’s system as a starting QB.

To the naked eye, Max Johnson should be the Day One starter. He has 5,853 passing yards and 47 touchdowns –over four seasons playing SEC football – including a career-best 2021 campaign of 2,813 yards and 27 touchdowns.

I have high hopes for Harrell and wish him the best of luck in chasing the starting job, but to open the season, I bet he sits second on the depth chart behind Johnson.

Potential fears for Harrell

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (5)

Sep 16, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Conner Harrell (15) on the field before the game at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The glaring fear for Harrell, especially if he is named QB1, is inexperience.

I commend Harrell for his effort in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, which is a tall task to ask of a player’s first career collegiate start. As I wrote earlier in Harrell’s profile, struggles are bound to happen when you’re suddenly thrust into action.

Having an entire offseason with starting reps can only help Harrell. He looked phenomenal in the Spring Game, outdueling Max Johnson and making a strong case for QB1. Though Harrell lacks the full-time starting experience, he has three years of the UNC playbook under his belt.

You could point to Harrell’s average bowl game performance and say he has a turnover issue, but it’s difficult to judge that off one game. Completing 66 percent of his passes could be seen as subpar, but again – the Duke’s Mayo Bowl was just one game.

Realistic expectations for 2024

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (6)

Dec 27, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Conner Harrell (15) passes the ball in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Especially early on, as North Carolina head coach Mack Brown searches for separation between his likely top two starting candidates, I see Harrell and Johnson operating in a platoon system.

This wouldn’t be the first time UNC has utilized a QB-by-committee approach, as it did the same back in 2013 with Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams.

An experienced wide receiver duo of J.J. Jones and Nate McCollum will certainly help Harrell when he sees the field, whether as a starter or backup. The Tar Heels also sport a deep tight end room, headlined by Bryson Nesbit, who will help Harrell adjust big-time in his first season with extended starting action.

As a writer and fan, I always want North Carolina to go undefeated. The season hasn’t even started yet, so that’s still a possibility.

With Harrell possibly under center, though, I see UNC faring no better than 9-3. Harrell could end up being the All-Star quarterback the Tar Heels never knew about, but it’ll be wise to keep expectations unsure until we see Harrell in more consistent game action.

Looking back at Harrell as a recruit

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (7)

Thompson quarterback Conner Harrell (15) searches for an open option. Auburn High and Thompson High faced off in the AHSAA 7A State Championship on Dec. 2 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. [Photo/Hannah Saad]

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According to his 247Sports recruiting profile, Harrell was the 33rd-ranked quarterback – and 28th-ranked played in Alabama – during the 2022 recruiting class. These all led to him gaining a 3-star recruiting ranking. Harrell was highly-recruited out of Thompson (Ala.) High School, though, receiving 31 offers. He only took three visits – to UNC, Arizona State and Northwestern, settling for sky blue.

Harrell on social media

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (8)

Nov 4, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Conner Harrell (15) runs for a touchdown as Campbell Fighting Camels linebacker Jack Wilkes (12) defends in the fourth quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

X (formerly Twitter): @connerharrell2

Instagram: @conner_harrell

Conner Harrell Photos

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (9)

Dec 27, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Conner Harrell (15) reacts to an interception during the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Conner Harrell Photos

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (10)

Dec 27, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Conner Harrell (15) looks to pass against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the first half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Conner Harrell Photos

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (11)

Dec 27, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Conner Harrell (15) runs in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Conner Harrell Photos

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (12)

Dec 27, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Conner Harrell (15) throws under pressure against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Conner Harrell's 2024 UNC Football Player Profile (2024)

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