Heel Tough Blog: 2020 Final Grades

One of the best Tar Heel seasons in recent memory is in the book as of Saturday and it’s time for one of our favorite features of the season. After a season that resulted in the team’s first appearance in a major bowl game in 71 years, we hand out the grades for each position group on this team based on their performance for the entire season.

Andy Mead- ISI Photos

Quarterback: A-

# 7 Sam Howell (So.): 819 snaps, 237-348, 3586 yds, 30-7 TD-INT, 92 rush, 146 yds, 5 TD, 1 rec, 1 yd, TD

# 6 Jacolby Criswell (Fr.): 44 snaps, 3-4, 16 yds, 0-1 TD-INT, 9 rush, 26 yds

#10 Jace Ruder (So.): 16 snaps, 2-3, 11 yds, 0-0 TD-INT, 4 rush, -3 yds

#14 Jefferson Boaz (Fr.): 6 snaps, 1-1, 3 yds, 0-0 TD-INT

Howell had a tough task following his tremendous true freshman season, but he put together another season that ranks as one of the best in program history. He dominated some of the bigger games of the season for the Tar Heels, including one of the greatest single game performances that the ACC has ever seen in the win over Wake Forest. He’ll head into 2021 as one of the favorites to take home the Heisman Trophy and for good reason. Criswell got a few chances to step in for mop-up and had his up-and-downs, likely opening the door for a competition with early enrollee Drake Maye for the backup role this offseason. Ruder and Boaz also took snaps in a couple of blowouts, but mostly were just facilitators for the run game to bleed clock late in games.

Andy Mead- ISI Photos

Running Backs: A+

#25 Javonte Williams (Jr.): 425 snaps, 157 rush, 1140 yds, 19 TD, 25 rec, 305 yds, 3 TD

# 8 Michael Carter (Sr.): 353 snaps, 156 rush, 1245 yds, 9 TD, 25 rec, 267 yds, 2 TD

#34 British Brooks (Jr.): 44 snaps, 24 rush, 99 yds

#23 Josh Henderson (So.): 41 snaps, 18 rush, 61 yds, 3 rec, 10 yds

#26 D.J. Jones (Fr.): 20 snaps, 11 rush, 65 yds, TD

#21 Elijah Green (Fr.): 14 snaps, 10 rush, 55 yds

The 2020 backfield for the Tar Heels is easily one of the best in program history. Carter ranked first in the ACC and top five in the nation in rushing yards, yards per carry and scrimmage yards. He also finished top five in the ACC in rush attempts, rushing touchdowns and scrimmage touchdowns in what was a career year for him. He was joined in the backfield by the dynamic Williams, who also had a career year, finishing third in the country in both rushing and scrimmage touchdowns, while ranking top five in the ACC in every other major rushing and scrimmage category. Brooks only saw garbage time reps until the Orange Bowl, but the junior wall-on started and had a solid night, showing he’ll be competitive in the offseason battle at the position. Henderson held a similar role to Brooks, seeing his most action in the Orange Bowl, but wasn’t nearly as successful as Brooks was. Both Jones and Green saw limited garbage time reps, but shined in those limited reps and should have a good chance to earn snaps next season.

Andy Mead- ISI Photos

Wide Receivers: A-

# 2 Dyami Brown (Jr.): 699 snaps, 55 rec, 1099 yds, 8 TD

# 5 Dazz Newsome (Sr.): 685 snaps, 54 rec, 684 yds, 6 TD, 2 rush, 21 yds, TD

# 1 Khafre Brown (RFr.): 303 snaps, 15 rec, 337 yds, 2 TD

# 0 Emery Simmons (So.): 299 snaps, 15 rec, 201 yds, TD

#15 Beau Corrales (Sr.): 181 snaps, 13 rec, 238 yds, TD

# 3 Antoine Green (Jr.): 134 snaps, 4 rec, 38 yds, TD

# 4 Rontavius Groves (Sr.): 82 snaps, 4 rec, 41 yds

#11 Josh Downs (Fr.): 74 snaps, 7 rec, 119 yds, 3 TD, 1 rush, -3 yds

#83 Justin Olson (RFr.): 68 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#13 Tylee Craft (Fr.): 20 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#12 Stephen Gosnell (Fr.): 10 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#19 Austyn Chestnut (Jr.): 7 snaps, 1 rec, 3 yds

#35 Carson Burgess (So.): 6 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#89 Gray Goodwyn (So.): 6 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#28 Austin Chrismon (Jr.): 5 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#85 Landon Stevens (Fr.): 4 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#32 Mason Laurence (Jr.): 3 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

# 9 Ray Rose (Fr.): 2 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#29 Jeffrey Saturday (RFr.): DNP

It was a slow start to the season overall for this group, but they recovered nicely to once again finish as one of the team’s most successful units. Brown had another big season, leading the team in most major receiving categories and was one of the top receivers in the country in 2020. Dyami Brown finished top five in the ACC in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and yards per receptions, leading the conference in the first category. Newsome started the season a bit quiet, but roared to life down the stretch to finish the season strong. Corrales was looking as if he was setting up for another solid season before injury shut his season down after his career beat performance against Florida State. Khafre Brown, Simmons and Downs all showed promise in the reps they saw this season as they are set to battle for starting jobs in the offseason. Both Green and Groves saw a decrease in their roles this season, each registering just four receptions each. Olson got the majority of his run in the Orange Bowl and looks like he may be more of a factor in the battle for reps than we may have imagined. All but one of the remaining receivers on the roster saw at least one snap this season, most complete in garbage time in blowout wins.

Grant Halverson- Getty Images

Tight Ends: B

#84 Garrett Walston (Sr.): 691 snaps, 19 rec, 255 yds, 2 TD

#88 Kamari Morales (RFr.): 187 snaps, 2 rec, 16 yds, TD

#82 Kendall Karr (Fr.): 30 snaps, 1 rec, 3 yds

#81 John Copenhaver (Fr.): 19 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#80 Will Crowley (RFr.): 4 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

After a really tough first season under Mack Brown, the Tar Heels’ tight end unit took a nice step forward in 2020 under John Lilly. Walston had a career year while handling a majority of the snaps for the unit, becoming a trusted safety valve for Howell as the season went along and seeing plenty of success as a run blocker. Morales showed some promise when he got his opportunities as he looks to continue to develop into the type of tight end that fits this offense. Karr and Copenhaver saw limited reps in their true freshman seasons, playing most run blocking snaps in garbage time. Crowley also took the first snaps of his career this season.