North Carolina football adds depth to quarterback spot with return of Jacolby Criswell

North Carolina head coach Mack Brown said last week the program planned to add another quarterback from the transfer portal to its depth chart. The Tar Heels got their guy through a boomerang transfer.

Jacolby Criswell is returning to UNC, according to multiple reports on Tuesday, with two years of eligibility remaining.

Criswell started his career with the Tar Heels. He played from 2020-22 before leaving the program in the offseason. He played behind now-NFL Draft picks Sam Howell and Drake Maye.

He transferred to Arkansas last season and played four games with the Razorbacks. Criswell completed 17-of-27 passes (63%) for 143 yards and three touchdowns. In his limited role, he did not throw an interception and added 44 rushing yards.

Texas A&M transfer Max Johnson and sophomore Conner Harrell were, as of last week, the most likely candidates for the starting job. Brown said the team needed more depth, though.

As it stands, the Tar Heels’ depth chart also features true freshman Michael Merdinger. He was in the expected No. 3 spot. Brown admitted, however, Carolina was in a unique position. It needed a fourth quarterback who could provide depth, but the staff needed to evaluate the fairness of recruiting a player who could also start on Day 1, whether UNC merely wanted another backup or a young player that could be developed.

“You’ve got to have four quarterbacks and most people have five, so we will look for a quarterback even though we feel like these two are in a good position to move forward,” Brown said at his final spring football press conference.

UNC doesn’t plan name a starting quarterback until the fall, Brown added.

The coach mentioned the quarterback competition between Maye and Criswell two years ago. Brown said the duo ended spring practice even, but Maye ended up the starter after the summer break.

“They both had great spring games,” Brown said. “We came back in August and Jacolby had gotten hurt over the summer. He didn’t get to work as much and Drake was winning every drill. (UNC’s players in 2022) said, ‘Jacolby is great, but, right now, Drake would be the guy.’”

It’s unclear what role Criswell will play in UNC’s updated lineup.

In his three seasons with the Tar Heels, Criswell threw 18-of-31 passes for 201 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He contributed 133 rushing yards on 20 attempts and a score.

Criswell saw the most action for the Tar Heels in 2021, when he threw for 179 yards with 62% accuracy, one touchdown and no interceptions.