Social distancing or not, UNC quarterback Sam Howell just works on getting better

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- If you're a UNC football fan, there are several reasons for optimism this fall but none more pronounced than second-year quarterback Sam Howell.

"I just want you to know that I really appreciate your time," Howell said as he opened Wednesday's Zoom session, wishing good health for everyone's families.

Fresh off the most prolific true freshman season in college football history, Howell has Heisman dreams (who wouldn't?) but his entire focus is on winning.

"Really I'm just trying to go out there and give my team everything I can to make sure we're winning games," Howell stressed, "In my opinion, it's selfish for me to just go into the season with one goal, to win the Heisman Trophy."

Howell is spending the COVID-19-induced social distancing attacking the areas in which he can improve.

"I can really just sit down and focus on every single mistake that I made last season, and just try to figure out what I did wrong," he said. "I mean, I know what I did wrong now at this point. I know what I need to do to fix it, mainly it's all mental."

There was certainly much more Howell did right in his first season, one in which he threw for not just a school record, but FBS true freshman record 38 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

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Tar Heels offensive coordinator Phil Longo knows he's got a future pro on his hands, but also a player with plenty of room for growth.

"Playing quarterback, you can always get better at every aspect of play," he said. "And that's what we're doing right now, we're trying to address the biggest weaknesses, take a weak link and move it forward. Then what happens is your overall package, just gets stronger."

Howell occasionally connects with star receiver Dyami Brown for throwing sessions and works twice a week with his quarterbacks coach -- former Blue Devil Anthony Boone.

I asked Howell whether the fact that Boone was coached up by David Cutcliffe means that he's likely getting second-hand lessons from the Duke coach himself.

Howell smiles, "I wouldn't go that far but that's an interesting way to look at it. Anthony does a really, really good job. I know he's definitely a credit to Coach Cutcliffe and all those guys."

It's still a long way to fall, but quarantine or not, Howell plans on being ready.

"We definitely have a lot of excitement around our program right now, but we've got to make sure we're looking at it the right way," Howell said. "I know we constantly tell our guys, just because it's supposed to happen does not mean it's going to happen. You know, we still have to put in the work every single day and we still actually have to do it."
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