As we get ready to begin fall camp, it’s time for another one of the Heel Tough Blog’s exclusive in-depth position previews. The series will take a look at every player on the Tar Heels 2019 roster and tell you the impact we expect each to have and give you the projected depth chart position-by-position. We continue with a look at the Tar Heels 2019 tight end unit.
Senior Carl Tucker is the second-leading returning receiver amongst tight ends in the ACC and will likely see the most reps of all the tight ends on this Tar Heel roster in 2019. Tucker has become a nice option over the middle for the Tar Heels over the last couple of seasons, but he is far from a stat stuffer. He has just 31 receptions in his first four years on campus, but those 31 catches have gone for an average of 16.0 per catch. New tight ends coach Tim Brewster would like to see Tucker become more of a consistent threat on third down and in the red zone, something that might not be easy in a Tar Heel offense that will utilize more four and five wide receiver sets than in years past.
Behind him, fellow senior Jake Bargas will look to expand on his role from a year ago. Bargas showed last year that he is a quality blocking tight end, something that could be valuable this season once again, especially early in the year when the Heels will likely need to lean on their running game. Despite only catching 18 career passes, he has reliable hands and is a viable checkdown option. The key for Bargas is discipline, something that he lacked at times a year ago and is one of the reasons he didn’t see more reps. Early in the season, he will have the chance to make a good impression on the staff, but with more of those four and five receiver sets that we talked about and Tucker still ahead of him on the depth chart, it’s hard to see Bargas being able to vastly improve on last year’s numbers.
The third player who many believed would factor into the equation at tight end was Brandon Fritts, who decided to return to the Tar Heels for his senior season after a brief flirtation with the transfer portal. Fritts, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL in his right, would sustain a left ACL tear, though, during the second practice of spring ball, a devastating blow for the senior who was scheduled to battle for first-team reps. The goal is to get the fifth year senior back on the field at some point this season, especially if he can still be the red zone threat that he was prior to the injuries, but when that could be is still a mystery. In his first three seasons in Chapel Hill, Fritts caught 47 passes for 439 yards and nine touchdowns, so there will be snaps for him if and when he returns.
Three others will battle for third team reps until Fritts return and gain an early edge on next year’s starting tight end battle. Junior Garrett Walston was the only player of the three to register any offensive production for the Tar Heels a year ago, catching a solo pass in the game against Pittsburgh. Walston is more of your prototypical receiving tight end, which is something that this new offensive scheme welcomes, something that bodes well for him in this battle and going forward.
Fellow junior Noah Turner played in all eleven of the Tar Heels 2018 contests, but much like Walston, almost all of those snaps came as a special teams contributor. Turner has a little more bulk to him and is the better blocker of the three, but is the lesser of the three as a receiver. That’s not to say that Turner is a liability in the passing game, but in an offense that is based on air raid concepts, it is not a reach to say that the better receiving tight ends will see the most playing time.
True freshman Kamari Morales is the third player who will be a part of the battle after joining the team in the summer. In his three years as a varsity player for Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, FL, Morales recorded 108 receptions for 1,201 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading the team in receiving as a junior and finishing third on the team as a senior. He is the prototypical tight end for this scheme, and with the experience of Walston and Turner being extremely limited, he has a real chance to earn those third-team snaps if he can come in and impress.
The final tight end on the Tar Heels 2019 roster is junior walk-on Dom Samson. The former Cary, NC area high school quarterback transfers in from Division II UNC-Pembroke where he was also a standout under center. He will fight for a special teams role in his first season with the team.
Projected Depth Chart
#86 Carl Tucker, Sr.
#80 Jake Bargas, Sr.
#84 Garrett Walston, Jr.
#87 Noah Turner, Jr.
#88 Kamari Morales, Fr.
#85 Dom Samson, Jr.