Heel Tough Blog: 2019 Spring Game Preview
It’s finally here. With much anticipation, the 2019 Tar Heel spring now sits just hours away. It will be the first look at the new staff and the final time on the grass playing surface in Kenan Stadium. While there is expected to be some rain in the forecast, there are many differences reason to head to Chapel Hill on Saturday and enjoy the final day of spring football.
Location: Kenan Stadium
Time: 5:00 PM
Weather: 68 °F, 35% chance of thunderstorms
The team will separate into two teams. Team 1 will be “Carolina” and will score on the Carolina end zone. Team 2 will be the “Tar Heels” and will score on the Tar Heels end zone. Both sides will have the ability to kick field goals, but outside of that, special teams will not be a part of the game due to a lack of necessary depth. The uniform combinations will be split between offense and defense, not by team. Offensive players will wear Carolina blue helmets with the Carolina blue home jerseys and white pants, while defensive and special teams player will wear white helmets with the white road jerseys and Carolina blue pants. Quarterbacks will differ from both groups, as they’ll wear navy blue jerseys with the Carolina blue helmet and white pants. The scrimmage will not be run with a game clock, but instead consist of somewhere from 60-70 scrimmage plays and is expected to run off a standard scoring system.
Mack is Back
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Mack Brown is back in Chapel Hill. Saturday will be the first time since 1997 that Brown will be standing on the Kenan Stadium sideline as the head coach and his loaded staff will also be patrolling the sidelines, most for the first time. Both Phil Longo’s offense and Jay Bateman’s defense will also get their first public looks.
Another Offseason, Another Quarterback Battle
It’s become the most recurring story maybe besides injury issues with this Tar Heel football team since Mitch Trubisky left campus and once again spring camp has been headlined by a battle at the quarterback position. This year, though, is a bit different, as this battle seems to be more about the surplus of talent as opposed to what it has been the last two season. Brown told Tar Heel Illustrated’s Jacob Turner after Thursday’s practice that all three of these quarterbacks would have been recruited by him at Texas, that’s how talented this group of quarterbacks is. Saturday will give a look inside this extremely crucial battle for the first time this offseason.
Defensive Depth Continue to Be Major Concern
This was bound to be a concern at some point this season due to the past staff’s lack of recruiting on the defensive side of the football, but with three key defensive linemen missing all of spring due to injury and starting linebacker Jonathan Smith away from the team due to an academic issue, that concern has reared it’s ugly head earlier than expected. The front seven is the major concern, but depth in the secondary isn’t much better, especially with the fact that there are just five cornerbacks active this spring and Myles Dorn and Myles Wolfolk are limited at safety. With these depth issues, there could be some interesting face seeing snaps due to a lack of depth on Saturday and throughout the season.
Top Position Battles to Watch
As mentioned above, this is the third straight season with a quarterback battle that didn’t have a strong favorite heading in, but this year is different with the talented group that is locked in the battle. Both redshirt freshmen, Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder, have taken steps forward this spring, while talented true freshman Sam Howell has shown some flashes. While the staff remains with the notion that all three are still neck and neck, Fortin and Ruder took the bulk of the first-team snaps in the final scrimmage, which would appear to show that those two have created some sort of separation between themselves and Howell. However the reps are split up, this will definitely be the top battle to keep an eye on on Saturday and throughout fall camp.
While all of the other secondary spots appear to have their starters locked in place, the No. 2 cornerback spot opposite of Rene has a fierce battle taking place for it’s starting job. With both K.J. Sails and C.J. Cotman gone, that’s left junior Greg Ross Jr., who started six games a year ago, but struggled with consistency, and sophomore Tre Shaw, who has yet to live up to what he showed as a true freshman in camp, as the top two competitors in the battle. Both should receive extensive reps on Saturday and in fall camp, and as of right now, Ross Jr. probably has the slight edge based on experience, but unless he can prove to be more consistent, this battle will extend well into the fall.
While it looks like Beau Corrales and Dyami Brown will be the Heels two starters at the outside receiver spots, the battle for the first rotational spot behind these two, though, is an interesting one. Juniors Rontavius “Toe” Groves and Roscoe Johnson are the players seeing the most reps outside of the top three receivers, but redshirt freshman Antoine Green looks to capitalize on flashes he showed last season once he fully recovers from an ankle injury. True freshman Emery Simmons is another name to keep an eye on, as he has the talent to factor in immediately and him being with the team in the spring has allowed him to gain an edge on the other freshmen who enter in the fall. For Saturday’s game, though, it will be interesting to see who see how the reps are distributed and who emerges as that top rotational receiver going forward.
4✮ ILB Eugene Asante- Westfield (Chantilly, VA): Signed to North Carolina
4✮ CB Cam'Ron Kelly- Oscar L. Smith (Chesapeake, VA): Transferred to North Carolina
4✮ OT Triston Miller- Charlotte Country Day (Charlotte, NC): Signed to North Carolina
3✮ RB Josh Henderson- Hun School (Princeton, NJ): Signed to North Carolina
3✮ S Giovanni Biggers- The Boys’ Latin School (Baltimore, MD): Signed to North Carolina
3✮ SDE Tomari Fox- Collins Hill (Suwanee, GA): Signed to North Carolina
3✮ SDE Kristian Varner- Hiram (Hiram, GA): Signed to North Carolina
5✮ WDE Desmond Evans- Lee County (Sanford, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ SDE Jacolbe Cowan- Providence Day (Charlotte, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ DUAL Malik Hornsby- Fort Bend Marshall (Missouri City, TX): Uncommitted
4✮ OLB Trenton Simpson- Mallard Creek (Charlotte, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ DT Kedrick Bingley-Jones- Providence Day (Charlotte, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ WR Mike Wyman III- Dudley (Greensboro, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ SDE Myles Murphy- Dudley (Greensboro, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ S Cameron Roseman-Sinclair- Myers Park (Charlotte, NC): Committed to North Carolina
4✮ WR Rayonta Grier- South Point (Charlotte, NC): Committed to North Carolina
4✮ ILB Ethan West- Cosby (Midlothian, VA): Committed to North Carolina
3✮ WR Josh Downs- North Gwinnett (Suwanee, GA): Committed to North Carolina
3✮ WR Da’Qon Stewart- North Mecklenburg (Huntersville, NC): Committed to South Carolina
3✮ WR Antonio Barber- Hough (Cornelius, NC): Uncommitted
3✮ ATH T Lee- Buford (Buford, GA): Committed to Arizona State
3✮ SDE Sean Martin- Bluefield (Bluefield, WV): Uncommitted
3✮ WDE Quentin Williams- Mallard Creek (Charlotte, NC): Uncommitted
3✮ S Maleik Faust- Harding University (Charlotte, NC): Uncommitted
3✮ OT Jonathan Adorno- Rolesville (Rolesville, NC): Uncommitted
3✮ CB LaMareon James- Indian River (Chesapeake, VA): Committed to North Carolina
3✮ OG Malik McGowan- Charlotte Catholic (Charlotte, NC): Committed to North Carolina
3✮ S Jaidyn Denis- Mallard Creek (Charlotte, NC): Uncommitted
3✮ RB Elijah Burris- Mountain Island Charter (Mount Holly, NC): Committed to North Carolina
3✮ WDE Jason Romero Jr.- Scotland County (Laurinburg, NC): Uncommitted
5✮ DT Payton Page- Dudley (Greensboro, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ PRO Drake Maye- Myers Park (Charlotte, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ WR Micah Crowell- East Forsyth (Kernersville, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ RB Evan Pryor- Hough (Charlotte, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ ATH Kaemen Marley- Eastern Randolph (Ramseur, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ CB Kamarro Edmonds- Havelock (Havelock, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ WR Gavin Blackwell- Sun Valley (Indian Trail, NC): Uncommitted
4✮ ATH Dontavius Nash- Hunter Huss (Gastonia, NC): Uncommitted
UR ATH DeAndre Boykins- Central Cabarrus (Concord, NC): Uncommitted
UR WR Breon Pass- Reidsville (Reidsville, NC): Uncommitted
UR DUAL David Hines- Southern Alamance (Graham, NC): Uncommitted
UR WR Jalen Smith- Southern Guilford (Greensboro, NC): Uncommitted
UR OT Prestin Hawkins- Indian Land (Fort Mill, SC): Uncommitted
UR ATH Dawnya Washington- Moore Haven (Moore Haven, FL): Uncommitted
UR WDE Jonathan Cannon Jr.- Vance (Charlotte, NC): Uncommitted
UR CB Mario Love Jr.- Hough (Cornelius, NC): Uncommitted
UR SDE Travis Shaw- Grimsley (Greensboro, NC): Uncommitted
UR DUAL Grantt Logan- Thomas Jefferson Academy (Mooresboro, NC)