Earlier this week, North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell met with the assembled media on a Zoom call. The 2020 college football season is up in the air, currently, as the world works to deal with coronavirus. While some theories and opinions on the subject are, shall we say, suboptimal and insane, others have been a little more measured. Some degree of optimism is fine.
Howell, in his call, touched on a variety of topics, too; the rising sophomore even mentioned an offseason project of his, which includes watching everyone’s favorite Tiger King, Joe Burrow.
#UNC QB Sam Howell says that after the 2019 season he asked for every LSU game so he could study Joe Borrow's tape.
Howell said he watched each cut-up at least three times.
— Ross Martin (@RossMartin_IC) April 8, 2020
Assuming the 2020 season actually takes place (who knows, right now), UNC will have one of the most prolific passers in the country under center.
As a freshman, Howell completed 259-of-422 pass attempts (61.4 percent) for 3,641 yards and 38 touchdowns — an FBS record for a freshman, third most in a season in ACC history — to only 7 interceptions. Going back to the 2000 season, Howell is one of only five ACC freshman to complete 250+ passes in a season. That list also includes Jameis Winston, Daniel Jones and Trevor Lawrence.
A prolific and efficient deep-ball thrower, Howell averaged 8.6 yards per pass attempt (No. 14 in the FBS) while completing 30 passes of 30+ yards, tied for 7th nationally with Lawrence. Over 36 percent of Howell’s 422 passes attempts were completions of 10 or more yards: 154.
Sam Howell: Highest graded QB in the fourth-quarter in 2019 – 92.8.
As a true freshman pic.twitter.com/rSNJr8H9VV
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 30, 2020
Howell was also sensational in the fourth quarter of games this season. He showed rare poise under center (or out of the shotgun) a freshman; Howell completed 66.7 percent of his fourth-quarter attempts (62-of-93) for 947 yards (No. 1 in the ACC) and 12 touchdowns (No. 2 in the FBS). Howell threw zero interceptions in the fourth quarter.
About to make history?
According to Sports Reference, on only 56 occasions over the last 20 seasons of college football (2000-19), has a quarterback thrown for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, completed 60 percent of his passes, and finished with 10 or fewer interceptions. Of that list, however, only three accomplished it as rookies: Howell, Winston (2013) and Sam Bradford (2007)
And at the top of that list, with 60 touchdown passes in 2019, is Burrow, to the surprise of no one. Over the course of his masterful Heisman campaign, Burrow authored the greatest season of quarterback play in college football history.
Sam Howell says winning the Heisman has been a goal, but he’s focused on winning. pic.twitter.com/AEhsrczZ17
— Carolina Blitz (@KeepBlitzin) April 8, 2020
It’s not hard to see why Howell would want to study Burrow; no one has done it better. And if football is to return to the pitch of Kenan Stadium in 2020, Howell will be ready — with a plethora of targets to run with — to build on one of the greatest freshman seasons in ACC football history.