Head coach Butch Davis indicated at his UNC Media Day press conference on Friday that he hoped to have a starting quarterback named no later than Aug. 11. Yates is battling sophomore Cameron Sexton, who started five games last season, and freshman phenom Mike Paulus.
The Marietta, Ga. native capped a strong spring with a good showing in the spring game, completing 10-of-15 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns. He believes his overall effort in the spring helped him move into the frontrunner position.
“I just kept working hard, working on my drops and my throws, getting a good rapport with the all receivers, and just kept making completions and doing the little small things that helps the team get better,” Yates said.
That effort continued into the summer for the entire team, and Yates said those offseason workouts helped prepare him and his teammates for this fall training camp.
“I thought we got a lot of good work in over the summer, because it’s just doing reps and getting a good feel for everybody on the team – all the receivers, all the running backs, all the tight ends,” Yates said. “It helped a lot because coming into this you don’t feel rusty, [and] you don’t feel like you haven’t done this in a while because we did it like a week ago.”
Davis spoke about determining who will earn the starting quarterback during his press conference.
“It's all about growth and development of these quarterbacks,” Davis said. “How comfortable they feel in the scheme, how quickly they can adapt to all we're going to ask them to do and how efficient they are. It won't be the number of great plays they make, it's the number of poor plays they don't make. From center-quarterback exchange, throwing into coverages, misreading coverages - the quarterback position needs to be efficient."
The 6-foot-3-inch signal-caller knows what it’s going to take to win that spot on the first-team offense.
“[It’s] getting in the film room and learning everything, so when I go out there it will be like second nature,” Yates said. “Just getting all my plays memorized so I don’t have go up there and think about what’s in front of me. Just reading the defense and just being comfortable and making my throws.”
Sophomore wide receiver Hakeem Nicks spoke about Yates’ abilities under center: “He can stay in the pocket and deliver a nice decent pass. He’s confident enough that if a receiver is between two defenders, he can put it right there.
"He has a strong arm, he’s smart and he’s got a good knowledge of the game.”
Yates elected to play basketball instead of football during his junior year in high school, but returned to the gridiron during his senior season, completing 160-of-289 passes for 2,305 yards and 17 touchdowns. He earned a UNC offer five games into that campaign, and committed immediately. Little did he know at that time the opportunity that would lie before him as a redshirt freshman at North Carolina.