Heel Tough Blog: 2019 Final Grades

Updated: Jan 21

With the Military Bowl win for the Tar Heels, the 2019 season is officially in the books. There were some ups and downs for this team, but in the end there is a lot of confidence about where this program is headed as they progress towards 2020. To wrap up the 2019 season, it’s time to hand out the final grades for each position for the 2019 season.


James Guillory- USA Today Sports

Quarterbacks: A+

# 7 Sam Howell (Fr.): 952 snaps, 259-422, 3,641 yds, 38-7 TD-INT, 94 rush, 35 yds, TD

#13 Vincent Amendola (Fr.): 36 snaps, 3-4, 48 yds, 0-0 TD-INT

#10 Jace Ruder (RFr.): 8 snaps, 1-2, 7 yds, 0-0 TD-INT, 4 rush, 22 yds

#12 Donovan Brewington (Fr.): DNP

#18 Caleb Russell (Fr.): DNP

Enough can’t be said about the season that Howell put together as a true freshman. Howell set the school record for touchdown passes in a season, the true freshman record for touchdown passes in a season and tied the regular season ACC record for touchdown passes in season, tying Jameis Winston’s mark set during his Heisman season back in 2013. There is a reason why Howell is already being talked about as an early 2020 Heisman candidate. Ruder started the season as the primary backup before going down with a knee injury in the game against Appalachian State. While he may not have played much, he provided an important spark for Howell and the offense in the game at Wake Forest earlier this year. Amendola saw some garbage time snaps against Mercer, NC State and Temple and showed the staff a lot of improvement since his arrival in the fall.


Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

Running Backs: A

# 8 Michael Carter (Jr.): 479 snaps, 177 rush, 1,003 yds, 3 TD, 21 rec, 154 yds, 2 TD

#25 Javonte Williams (So.): 384 snaps, 166 rush, 933 yds, 5 TD, 17 rec, 176 yds, TD

#24 Antonio Williams (Sr.): 128 snaps, 48 rush, 322 yds, 3 TD, 2 rec, 4 yds

#23 Josh Henderson (Fr.): 24 snaps, 18 rush, 127 yds, 0 TD

#34 British Brooks (RFr.): 4 snaps, 3 rush, 10 yds, TD

#62 Braxton Link (Fr.): DNP

The Tar Heels came as close to having two 1,000 yard rushers as they have since the last time that feat was accomplished in 1993. This unit showed major improvement from the last few years, behind the play of Carter, who became the first Tar Heel running back to run for over 1,000 yards in a season since Elijah Hood, and Javonte Williams. The 1-2 punch combined for 2,266 yards of total offense and 11 touchdowns on 381 combined touches as they helped to bring a rushing attack that was lacking consistency over the past few seasons exactly that and made it a crucial part of the success of this offense, primarily early in the year. While Antonio Williams didn’t play as big of a role as once thought, he was an important piece of this backfield, especially late in the season when Javonte Williams was banged up. Henderson received some garbage time reps late in the season, but showed he is setting up well to be a factor as the No. 3 running back in behind Carter and Javonte Williams next season. Brooks scored his first career touchdown in the game against Mercer, but was more recognized for his impact on special teams.


Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B+

# 2 Dyami Brown (So.): 864 snaps, 51 rec, 1,034 yds, 12 TD, 1 rush, 2 yds

# 5 Dazz Newsome (Jr.): 694 snaps, 72 rec, 1,018 yds, 10 TD, 3 rush, 9 yds

#15 Beau Corrales (Jr.): 668 snaps, 40 rec, 575 yds, 6 TD

#84 Garrett Walston (Jr.): 467 snaps, 9 rec, 76 yds, TD

#86 Carl Tucker (Sr.): 360 snaps, 5 rec, 54 yds, TD

# 4 Rontavius Groves (Jr.): 298 snaps, 27 rec, 250 yds, TD, 3 rush, 11 yds

# 3 Antoine Green (So.): 268 snaps, 8 rec, 217 yds, 2 TD

#80 Jake Bargas (Sr.): 149 snaps, 3 rec, 15 yds, TD

#14 Emery Simmons (Fr.): 91 snaps, 4 rec, 72 yds, TD

#11 Roscoe Johnson (Jr.): 29 snaps, 2 rec, 39 yds

#87 Noah Turner (Jr.): 21 snaps

#88 Kamari Morales (Fr.): 20 snaps, 1 rec, 9 yds

#17 Welton Spottsville (Fr.): 18 snaps

#42 Nick Quigley (Sr.): 6 snaps

#83 Justin Olson (Fr.): 4 snaps

# 1 Khafre Brown (Fr.): 3 snaps

# 9 Corey Bell Jr. (Sr.): DNP

#19 Austyn Chestnut (So.): DNP

#23 Ryan Wilkoff (Fr.): DNP

#28 Austin Chrismon (So.): DNP

#29 Jeffrey Saturday (Fr.): DNP

#31 Alex Kopp (Fr): DNP

#32 Mason Laurence (So.): DNP

#35 Carson Burgess (RFr.): DNP

#82 Brandon Fritts (Sr.): DNP

#85 Dom Samson (Jr.): DNP

As in the past, we have combined these two units and that’s why this became a lower grade than you may have expected. The wide receiving corps had a really strong season, led by Dyami Brown, who tied a single season record for receiving touchdowns in program history while also becoming the fourth receiver in school history to reach the 1,000 yard receiving mark in school history. That combined with Dazz Newsome, who became the fifth receiver to reach 1,000 yards receiving just a short while after Brown in the bowl game. The duo became the first in school history to both finish with that mark. Corrales really settled in to his role as the No. 3 wide receiver in this offense, while both Groves and Green had nice seasons as rotational players. Simmons was the only other receiver to player to play major snaps and showed some really promising upside in those limited snaps. The tight end position really drags this grade down, as no Tar Heel tight end finished with ten catches or 100 yards receiving. The Tar Heels will be looking for more production from the unit next season.


Jeremy Brevard- USA Today Sports

Offensive Line: B-

#74 Jordan Tucker (So.): 928 snaps

#68 Brian Anderson (RFr.): 910 snaps

#67 Charlie Heck (Sr.): 865 snaps

#73 Marcus McKethan (So.): 821 snaps

#75 Joshua Ezeudu (RFr.): 516 snaps

#63 Ed Montilus (RFr.): 512 snaps

#58 Nick Polino (Sr.): 203 snaps

#56 Billy Ross (So.): 98 snaps

#76 William Barnes (RFr.): 47 snaps

#72 Asim Richards (Fr.): 47 snaps

#55 Ty Murray (Fr.): 20 snaps

#69 Quiron Johnson (So.): 12 snaps

#78 Layton Barber (Jr.): 3 snaps

#51 Wyatt Tunall (Fr.): DNP

#53 Jacob Setterlind (RFr.): DNP

#54 Avery Jones (RFr.): DNP

#65 Nick Mackovic (RFr.): DNP

#66 Tobechi Nwokeji (So.): DNP

#70 Noland Brown (Fr.): DNP

#71 Triston Miller (Fr.): DNP

#79 Hunter Shope (Fr.): DNP

This unit had their struggles, especially in pass protection, early in the season. However, as the season went along, this group took huge steps forward, culminating with their best performances of the season in the final two games of the year. Heck had another great season, as he was once again the team’s best overall lineman. Tucker and McKethan both started every game and had solid seasons that instill a lot of confidence about them anchoring the line heading into next year. Anderson may not have started every game, but he played the second-most snaps on the team and while he started the season with some ups and downs, he finished the season with some major momentum after some strong starts to close the year. Montilus and Ezeudu split the starts at left guard this season, and while both showed some flashes, they will be looking to establish more consistency going forward. Polino provided a great rotational option following his early season injury after he started the first two games of the season at center. Ross played a handful of important snaps, while all of the other players who saw snaps took them in garbage time.


Jeremy Brevard- USA Today Sports

Defensive Line/Pass Rushers: B-

#12 Tomon Fox (Jr.): 762 snaps, 41 ttkl, 10.0 TFL, 7.0 scks, 2 FF, INT

#55 Jason Strowbridge (Sr.): 698 snaps, 44 ttkl, 6.0 TFL, 2.5 scks, FF, 3 FR, PD

#92 Aaron Crawford (Sr.): 685 snaps, 50 ttkl, 9.0 TFL, 3.0 scks, FF

#33 Allen Cater (Sr.): 497 snaps, 20 ttkl, 2.5 TFL, 0.5 sck, 2 PD

#56 Tomari Fox (Fr.): 255 snaps, 15 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, FF

#52 Jahlil Taylor (RFr.): 239 snaps, 11 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, PD

#42 Tyrone Hopper (Jr.): 232 snaps, 16 ttkl, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 scks

#51 Raymond Vohasek (So.): 157 snaps, 15 ttkl, 5.0 TFL, 1.5 scks

#90 Xach Gill (So.): 137 snaps, 10 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sck

#14 Jake Lawler (So.): 35 snaps, 2 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#43 Hunter Sheridan (Jr.): 9 snaps

#91 Nolan DeFranco (Jr.): 6 snaps

#93 Kristian Varner (Fr.): 6 snaps

#98 Kevin Hester Jr. (Fr.): 3 snaps, 1 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#58 Lancine Turay (RFr.): 3 snaps

#40 William Robertson (Fr.): 2 snaps

#47 Noah Taylor (Jr.): 1 snaps, 1 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#17 Chris Collins (So.): DNP

#94 Wisdom Asaboro (Fr.): DNP

#97 Alex Nobles (RFr.): DNP

The defensive line unit was as strong as any unit heading into the season, but the lack of proven depth became an issue as the year progressed. Both Crawford and Strowbridge were workhorses who weren’t nearly as effective late in the year as they were early in the year due to fatigue. Tomon Fox was also a player who worn out by season’s end and continued to struggle with consistency. Cater saw the most time amongst the rest of the group and was solid, yet unspectacular. Many of the young players saw more time late in the season, with Vohasek and Tomari Fox showing the most upside of the group. Taylor, Hopper and Gill are all players who didn’t play expansive roles this year, but will be counted on to play more and at a higher level next year. There were also many players who were able to get on the field in garbage time, as only three players in this position group failed to take a single snap this season.


Neil Redmond- USA Today Sports

Linebackers: B

#44 Jeremiah Gemmel (So.): 816 snaps, 84 ttkl, 7.5 TFL, 2.5 scks, 3 FF, FR, 2 PD

#21 Chazz Surratt (Jr.): 744 snaps, 115 ttkl, 15.0 TFL, 6.5 scks, FF, FR, INT, 2 PD

# 3 Dominique Ross (Sr.): 679 snaps, 60 ttkl, 6.0 TFL, 2.5 scks, FF, INT, 5 PD

#24 Eugene Asante (Fr.): 58 snaps, 11 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

# 7 Jonathan Smith (Sr.): 49 snaps, 3 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

# 8 Khadry Jackson (Fr.): 46 snaps, 11 ttkl, 0.5 TFL, 0.0 scks

#49 Parks Cochrane (Fr.): 7 snaps

#30 Matthew Flint (RFr.): 3 snaps, 1 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#26 Jake Harkleroad (Fr.): DNP

#48 Dilan Gonzalez (RFr.): DNP

This was one of the most improved units from a year ago on this Tar Heel defense, led a three of very solid starters. Surratt’s story is one of the best in the nation, as he went from a highly criticized quarterback a year ago to one of the best linebackers in the country, highlighted by huge games against Clemson and Duke. Gemmel may not have received the same recognition that Surratt did, but he had a breakout season for himself while playing the second-most snaps of anyone on this defense. Ross rounds the trio that controlled the bulk of the snaps and while his stats might not be as gaudy as the other two, he took over and thrived in an important role as a coverage linebacker when the depth in the secondary broke down, leaving the defense without a nickel. The drop off in snaps to the player that had most snaps after these three is astounding, but guys like Asante and Jackson showed a lot of upside, especially after Jonathan Smith entered the transfer portal midseason. Flint played just a handful of snaps before being lost for the season with a leg injury and Cochrane saw a few garbage time snaps against Mercer.


Tommy Gilligan- USA Today Sports

Defensive Backs: C+

# 1 Myles Dorn (Sr.): 863 snaps, 83 ttkl, 4.5 TFL, 0.0 scks, 2 INT, 6 PD

#16 D.J. Ford (Jr.): 550 snaps, 54 ttkl, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sck, FR, INT, 2 PD

#29 Storm Duck (Fr.): 530 snaps, 37 ttkl, 2.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 2 INT, TD, 5 PD

#10 Greg Ross Jr. (Jr.): 479 snaps, 26 ttkl, 2.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 5 PD

# 4 Trey Morrison (So.): 461 snaps, 31 ttkl, 1.5 TFL, 0.0 scks, INT, 4 PD

#13 Don Chapman (Fr.): 302 snaps, 30 ttkl, 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sck, FF, 2 INT, PD

#15 DeAndre Hollins (RFr.): 287 snaps, 17 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 4 PD

#11 Myles Wolfolk (Jr.): 271 snaps, 25 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 3 INT

# 5 Patrice Rene (Sr.): 73 snaps, 6 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

# 9 Cam’Ron Kelly (Fr.): 51 snaps, 7 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#27 Giovanni Biggers (Fr.): 23 snaps, 4 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#20 Obi Egbuna (Fr.): 21 snaps, 4 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, PD

# 6 Javon Terry (RFr.): 19 snaps, 4 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sck

#25 Tre Shaw (So.): 14 snaps, 6 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#39 Graham Eklund (Sr.): 10 snaps, 3 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

# 2 Bryce Watts (Jr.): DNP- Ineligible

# 6 Bryson Richardson (So.): DNP

#19 Drew Homschek (RFr.): DNP

#28 Kyler McMichael (So.): DNP- Ineligible

#38 Val Edwards (Fr.): DNP

This was the unit who’s grade changed the most from the first game of the season to the final game of the season, in large part due to the sheer amount of injuries that took place. Dorn is the hero of this secondary, as he did so many different things out of his safety spot this season to keep the Tar Heels secondary from falling apart. Duck and Morrison both finished the season strong after fighting through injuries for a portion of the year. Both Ford and Ross Jr. played a lot of snaps before being benched because of their struggles. Chapman finished the season about as well as anyone could have hoped for and made a strong case for him to earn significant reps again next season. Hollins had his growing pains, but still looks like he could be a serviceable option in the future. Wolfolk and Rene were having nice starts to their seasons, but they were both cut short due to injuries, as was Kelly’s, who was a starter for just one game before going down for the season. Everyone else that saw snaps had theirs come in garbage time late in the year.


Jeremy Brevard- USA Today Sports

Special Teams: C-

# 4 Rontavius Groves (Jr.): 1 PR, 0.0 avg

# 5 Dazz Newsome (Jr.): 12 PR, 6.8 avg

# 8 Michael Carter (Jr.): 19 KR, 24.5 avg

#19 Austyn Chestnut (So.): 1 KR, 8.0 avg

#24 Antonio Williams (Sr.): 2 KR, 16.0 avg

#60 Trevor Collins (Jr.): 77 snaps

#61 Drew Little (Fr.): 60 snaps

#84 Garrett Walston (Jr.): 2 KR, 6.0 avg

#90 Michael Rubino (Sr.): 2 snaps, 41 KO, 59.4 avg, 18 TB, 2-2 XP

#91 Ben Kiernan (Fr.): 60 snaps, 60 punts, 41.3 avg, 13 In 20, 37.7 Net avg.

#92 Nicky Solomon (RFr.): DNP

#93 Mats Pokela (RFr.): DNP

#94 Michael Selsor (Jr.): DNP

#95 Jonathan Kim (Fr.): 3 snaps, 33 KO, 63.5 avg, 21 TB

#96 Cooper Graham (So.): 77 snaps, 7 KO, 61.7 avg, 2 TB, 2-2 XP, 0-1 FG

#97 Noah Ruggles (So.): 72 snaps, 45-45 XP, 19-27 FG, Long of 49

There is a reason that Scott Boone was released from the staff just a few days ago. The Tar Heels ranked in the bottom half of the ACC in almost every major special team statistical category, a huge change from the prior staff’s special teams success. Kiernan was consistent this season, but his average was one of the worst in the ACC. Ruggles got in a grove after his benching following the Virginia Tech game, but is still a question mark beyond 40 yards. Kim was a solid replacement after taking over Michael Rubino on kickoffs, but is still not quite as consistent as the staff would like him to be. Graham was used in garbage time on kickoffs, but found a nice role as the team’s holder. Carter was the more successful of the two primary returners, but wasn’t nearly as dynamic as the Tar Heels had become accustomed to. The coverage units recovered from a slow start, but still allowed too many return yards for the liking.

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