Wednesday was the first time since the bowl game win over Temple that Mack Brown took the stand for a press conference, as he provided some updates on the team as they head towards fall camp. While there were a couple of little nuggets that came out of the press conference, the injury news that was released is what should be catching everyone's eyes.
Twelve players will miss the entirety of spring practice with injuries, while two more players are expected to be limited throughout the one month spring schedule. The group of twelve who will miss the spring include many who are recovering from injuries sustained last season, headlined by Patrice Rene and Cam’Ron Kelly, both of whom are still recovering from ACL tears. They are two of four secondary members who will miss the spring, a group that will also have safety Myles Wolfolk limited after his leg injury that ended his season early in 2019.
Another area that is hit hard by injuries is the linebacking corps. While the starters seem to be healthy and in good shape, Khadry Jackson and Matthew Flint, two players who are expected to play rotational roles in 2020, will both miss all of spring practice, meaning the depth at linebacker will be limited once again. Expect plenty of reps for Eugene Asante and early enrollees Cedric Gray and Ethan West in their absences.
The position that takes the biggest hit, though, is the already thin defensive tackle position. Jahlil Taylor and Wisdom Asaboro, two guys that are expected to play significant roles at the nose tackle position, are both out for the spring. Meanwhile, prized nose tackle recruit Clyde Pinder Jr. won’t arrive until the fall, leaving the Tar Heels without a single guy who was listed as a defensive tackle a year ago on the roster or in high school. That means the Tar Heels will have to do a lot of shifting to find players capable of taking snaps at defensive tackle.
Defensive ends that could be looked at to kick inside are Xach Gill, who put on weight last offseason to fit the 4i-tech defensive end spot and played defensive tackle at the high school and early enrollee Kedrick Bingley-Jones, a guy who fits the 4i-tech spot better, but saw some reps at defensive tackle in high school as well. Offensive tackle Avery Jones spent the spring at nose tackle last year, so don’t be shocked if he is back there again this year. The other thing to watch is if the Tar Heels will start making some noise among the defensive tackles still available in the transfer portal.
The 2020 season is expected to be an exciting one and as Mack Brown said on Wednesday, there will be a lot of great battles to watch this spring. While these injuries definitely raise some concerns, especially on a rebuilding defensive line, that is not a reason to lose optimism about what sets up to be one of the most hyped seasons in Tar Heel football history.