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Heel Tough Blog: 2020 Midseason Grades

As hard as it may be to believe, we have hit the “midway” point of the Tar Heels 2020 season. With the game against Western Carolina not a guarantee, we're going to go ahead and consider this the midway point, and with that, it’s time to hand out the Heel Tough Blog midseason grades. Here’s a look at how we grade each position group after five games.

Grant Halverson- Getty Images

Quarterbacks: B+

# 7 Sam Howell (So.): 369 snaps, 95-148, 1403 yds, 10-4 TD-INT, 38 rush, 42 yds, TD

# 6 Jacolby Criswell (Fr.): 14 snaps, 0-0, 0 yds, 0-0 TD-INT, 2 rush, 7 yds

#10 Jace Ruder (So.): 5 snaps, 1-1, 8 yds, 0-0 TD-INT, 1 rush, 2 yds

#14 Jefferson Boaz (Fr.): DNP

Howell got out of the gates a little slow with a few concerning interceptions early, but in the past three games he has looked fantastic outside of the first half against Florida State. That second half against Florida State was reminiscent of some of the games last year that he was simply able to take over and he is capable of doing so if a team is able to slow this Tar Heel run game down, something that no one has been able to do so far this year. While he probably won’t be able to get himself back into contention for the Heisman Trophy this year, he should be well on his way to his second straight 3,000 yard passing, 20 touchdown season. Criswell has taken over the backup job after Ruder started the season as the primary backup and will continue to see the majority of the mop up duty snaps in any blowout. Boaz looks as if he is headed for a redshirt season.

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Running Backs: A+

#25 Javonte Williams (Jr.): 203 snaps, 82 rush, 562 yds, 10 TD, 9 rec, 200 yds, 2 TD

# 8 Michael Carter (Sr.): 179 snaps, 74 rush, 584 yds, 3 TD, 12 rec, 132 yds

#23 Josh Henderson (So.): 10 snaps, 6 rush, 22 yds, 1 rec, 8 yds

#34 British Brooks (Jr.): 4 snaps, 2 rush, 21 yds

#21 Elijah Green (Fr.): 3 snaps, 3 rush, 10 yds

#26 D.J. Jones (Fr.): 2 snaps, 2 rush, 7 yds

This unit has knocked it out of the park this season with PFF College’s best running back tandem. Carter and Williams have once again shared the load pretty evenly with both having their moments of heightened success. The two have combined to average 312.8 yards of total offense per game, combining for over half of the Tar Heels offensive production. Williams is quietly putting together a season that may allow him to sneak into the Heisman conversation if he continues at this rate and Carter looks as if he is destined for his second consecutive 1,000 yard rushing season. The No. 3 running back spot continues to be unresolved, as all four running backs besides Carter and Williams have taken late game snaps in the blowout wins over Syracuse and NC State.

Grant Halverson- Getty Images

Wide Receivers: B

# 2 Dyami Brown (Jr.): 354 snaps, 24 rec, 401 yds, 3 TD

# 5 Dazz Newsome (Sr.): 289 snaps, 15 rec, 151 yds, TD, 1 rush, 6 yds, TD

#15 Beau Corrales (Sr.): 176 snaps, 13 rec, 238 yds, TD

# 1 Khafre Brown (RFr.): 107 snaps, 7 rec, 94 yds, TD

# 0 Emery Simmons (So.): 71 snaps, 5 rec, 38 yds

# 4 Rontavius Groves (Sr.): 42 snaps, 1 rec, 13 yds

#11 Josh Downs (Fr.): 31 snaps, 2 rec, 18 yds, TD

# 3 Antoine Green (Jr.): 31 snaps

#83 Justin Olson (RFr.): 9 snaps

#12 Stephen Gosnell (Fr.): 6 snaps

#13 Tylee Craft (Fr.): 5 snaps

# 9 Ray Rose (Fr.): DNP

#19 Austyn Chestnut (Jr.): DNP

#28 Austin Chrismon (Jr.): DNP

#29 Jeffrey Saturday (RFr.): DNP

#32 Mason Laurence (Jr.): DNP

#35 Carson Burgess (So.): DNP

#85 Landon Stevens (Fr.): DNP

#89 Gray Goodwyn (So.): DNP

With the success that the running game has had, the production from the wide receivers has dropped a bit from a year ago, but there is still plenty of talent and depth here. Dyami Brown has led the team in receiving in all but one of the five games of the season and is easily on track to lead the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns for the second straight season. Newsome, like Brown, is following up a 1,000 yard, 10 receiving touchdown season, but unlike Brown, Newsome has really struggled to make a major impact. The game against Virginia Tech is Newsome’s only game this season with five or more receptions, as he has struggled to create separation with defenses keying in on him. Corrales has some solid numbers at the midway point of the season, but a bulk of that production did come in the game against Florida State and he missed this past weekend’s matchup with NC State. The good news is that both Khafre Brown and Simmons have shown some nice flashes in the resp that they have played this season and appear more than ready to handle a bigger role if needed. Groves and Downs are continuing to battle for backup reps in the slot, but Newsome continues to handle most of the reps there himself. Green has appeared to be passed by on the depth chart for now, but does have the experience needed to make an impact if they need him. Olson, Gosnell and Craft have all gotten some late garbage time snaps, while the rest of the players in this position have yet to see the field this season. The unit as a whole has once again had some problems with drops and will need to work on eliminating them as the season turns to the home stretch.

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Tight Ends: B+

#84 Garrett Walston (Sr.): 298 snaps, 7 rec, 118 yds, TD

#88 Kamari Morales (RFr.): 88 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#82 Kendall Karr (Fr.): 10 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#81 John Copenhaver (Fr.): 6 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#80 Will Crowley (RFr.): DNP

This unit has improved from a year ago, but is still struggling to make a major impact receiving so far this season. Walston has shown signs of becoming a contributor in the passing game, as he has caught multiple passes in each of the last two games, the first time any tight end has done that in Phil Longo’s Tar Heel offense. Both Walston and Morales have had very good seasons as blockers, especially in the run game where they have done a great job of sealing the edges. Karr and Copenhaver have gotten the late game snaps so far, but nothing more and it’s hard to see them taking on a bigger role barring injury. Crowley has yet to see any offensive snaps this season, but may get a shot later in the year if the game against Western Carolina is played.

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Offensive Line: C

#68 Brian Anderson (Jr.): 369 snaps

#74 Jordan Tucker (Jr.): 364 snaps

#73 Marcus McKethan (Jr.): 352 snaps

#72 Asim Richards (So.): 310 snaps

#63 Ed Montilus (So.): 226 snaps

#75 Joshua Ezeudu (So.): 200 snaps

#69 Quiron Johnson (Jr.): 76 snaps

#76 William Barnes (So.): 21 snaps

#52 Jonathan Adorno (Fr.): 19 snaps

#57 Cayden Baker (Fr.): 5 snaps

#51 Wyatt Tunall (RFr.): 4 snaps

#64 Malik McGowan (Fr.): 1 snap

#54 Chance Carroll (Fr.): DNP

#55 Ty Murray (RFr.): DNP #65 Nick Mackovic (So.): DNP

#66 Tobechi Nwokeji (Jr.): DNP

#67 Trey Zimmerman (Fr.): DNP

#70 Noland Brown (RFr.): DNP

#71 Triston Miller (RFr.): DNP (Opt-Out)

#77 Wisdom Asaboro (RFr.): DNP

#79 Hunter Shope (RFr.): DNP

This group has been the model of inconsistency for the Tar Heels. In the Tar Heels two matchups with ranked opponents that both came in with fairly successful defensive lines, the unit has stepped up and played their football of the season. Meanwhile, in the other three games, the unit has really struggled, especially in pass protection, as the group has already allowed 14 sacks this season. Ezeudu’s return to the unit has definitely helped, but there is still a lot of concern for this unit, especially at left tackle where Richards has been up-and-down all season. The right side of the group continues to be the strength of the group, while Anderson has continued to hold his own in the middle. Montilus was off to a troublesome start in the first two games of the season where he was a starter, but he has been solid in a rotational role since Ezeudu returned. Johnson came in clutch in the Syracuse game and did the same late in the game against Boston College when Tucker went down with an injury. Everyone else who has played has seen the majority of their snaps come in blowouts.

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Defensive Line/Pass Rushers: C+

#12 Tomon Fox (Sr.): 293 snaps, 19 ttkl, 7.0 TFL, 4.0 scks, FF

#56 Tomari Fox (So.): 282 snaps, 25 ttkl, 5.0 TFL, 3.0 scks

#42 Tyrone Hopper (Sr.): 274 snaps, 13 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sck, 2 PD

#52 Jahlil Taylor (So.): 158 snaps, 7 ttkl, 1.5 TFL, 0.0 scks

#51 Raymond Vohasek (Jr.): 151 snaps, 9 ttkl, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sck

#25 Kaimon Rucker (Fr.): 64 snaps, 5 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#17 Chris Collins (So.): 61 snaps, 2 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#88 Myles Murphy (Fr.): 58 snaps, 2 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#10 Desmond Evans (Fr.): 53 snaps, 0 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, FR

#98 Kevin Hester Jr. (RFr.): 31 snaps, 0 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#90 Xach Gill (Jr.): 27 snaps, 4 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#55 Clyde Pinder Jr. (Fr.): 12 snaps, 0 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#93 Kristian Varner (RFr.): 2 snaps, 0 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#40 William Robertson (RFr.) DNP

#41 Kedrick Bingley-Jones (Fr.): DNP

#54 A.J. Beatty (Fr.): DNP

#58 Lancine Turay (So.): DNP

#87 Colby Doreen (Fr.): DNP

#97 Alex Nobles (So.): DNP

This group, like the offensive line, has had their inconsistencies and will need to iron them out as the season goes along. Vohasek has been the standout of the group, despite the stats not showing it, and the team really missed his present in the middle in the game against Virginia Tech. His presence in the middle of the defense, especially when he was healthy in those first two games of the season, made such a huge difference for this defense that just hasn’t quite been the same since. Both of the Fox brothers have gotten off to solid starts to the season, thriving in pass rushing situations, but have some room for improvement when defending the run. Hopper and Taylor have both had solid starts to their seasons, but also have had their troubles contributing in run defense. This is the one unit where the true freshmen have seen a lot of playing time, with Rucker and Murphy showing the most positive flashes so far, despite Rucker disappearing the last few weeks for some reason. Collins and Evans have played some significant reps at the EDGE spot and have held their own so far. The rest of the group that has played has been used sparingly, but has looked solid in the reps they have taken.

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Linebackers: B

#21 Chazz Surratt (Sr.): 334 snaps, 32 ttkl, 4.5 TFL, 4.0 scks, INT, PD

#44 Jeremiah Gemmel (Jr.): 325 snaps, 30 ttkl, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sck, INT, 3 PD

# 7 Eugene Asante (So.): 55 snaps, 9 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

# 8 Khadry Jackson (So.): 37 snaps, 2 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#33 Cedric Gray (Fr.): 0 snaps, 2 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#24 Ethan West (Fr.): DNP

#26 Jake Harkleroad (RFr.): DNP

#36 Jalen Brooks (Fr.): DNP

#43 Braden Hunter (Fr.): DNP

#48 Dilan Gonzalez (So.): DNP

#49 Parks Cochrane (RFr.): DNP

This was expected to be one of the best units on this team this year, but much like this rest of this defense it has been far from perfect. Surratt is having another strong overall season, leading the team in tackles and tied for the lead in sacks, but he had a slow stretch in the games against Virginia Tech and Florida State where missed tackles really hurt him. Gemmel is in a similar boat, struggling in the games against the Hokies and Seminoles, but having some strong games outside of those. Even with their one tough stretch, this linebacker tandem is one of the better ones in the ACC and should be worried about as much as other areas on this team. Asante and Jackson haven’t been needed much, but when they have been one the field, much like last year, they have had some quiet success. Both of Gray’s tackles have come on special teams, as he and the rest of the unit have yet to play an offensive snap this season.

Grant Halverson- Getty Images

Defensive Backs: B

# 2 Don Chapman (So.): 332 snaps, 28 ttkl, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sck, INT, PD, 2 FF

# 4 Trey Morrison (Jr.): 326 snaps, 12 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, INT, PD

# 1 Kyler McMichael (So.): 318 snaps, 12 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 3 PD

# 9 Cam’Ron Kelly (So.): 179 snaps, 20 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, PD

#29 Storm Duck (So.): 133 snaps, 4 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 2 PD

# 5 Patrice Rene (Sr.): 111 snaps, 8 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 2 PD

#13 Obi Egbuna (So.): 69 snaps, 3 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, PD

# 0 Ja’Qurious Conley (Fr.): 63 snaps, 9 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#11 Myles Wolfolk (Sr.): 61 snaps, 5 ttkl, 0.5 TFL, 0.0 scks, PD

#15 Dae Dae Hollins (So.): 50 snaps, 4 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 2 PD

#27 Giovanni Biggers (So.): 41 snaps, 0 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, INT

#14 Welton Spottsville (So.): 34 snaps, 1 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

#20 Tony Grimes (Fr.): 32 snaps, 3 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

# 3 Cameron Roseman-Sinclair (Fr.): 6 snaps, 1 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, INT

# 2 Bryce Watts (Jr.): DNP (Opt-Out)

#18 Christopher Holliday (Fr.): DNP #23 Javon Terry (So.): DNP (Opt-Out)

#38 Val Edwards (RFr.): DNP

This unit entered the fall as arguably the deepest unit on the team, but has seen a lot of departures since then. Still, this unit has been able to hold pretty solidly, especially on the outside, where there have already been a few significant injuries. McMichael has been the one constant for the Tar Heels at corner, as both Duck and Rene, who were having strong starts to their seasons, have gone down with injuries in recent weeks. McMichael has had a nice season on the outside so far and both Egbuna and Hollins have been able to step up on the outside when needed. That has allowed Morrison to stay at nickel after he already had to move to safety for the Boston College game and continue what has been a very solid start to his junior season. The biggest concern about this unit is the back end after the departure of Wolfolk due to academics. Chapman and Kelly haven’t been bad, but they have struggled to tackle in the open field and have let up some big plays down the field so far that will have to be cleaned up as the season progresses. Conley showed a lot of promise in the nickel before his injury caused him to miss a couple of weeks and with him back, that could allow the Tar Heels some more flexibility the rest of the season. Biggers hasn’t seen a significant amount of snaps just yet, but he has been impactful when he has been on the field. Grimes is still a little behind the curve as a guy that is still supposed to be in high school, but you can see that the talent is there. Spottsville played significant reps late in the game against Boston College after Conley’s injury and held steady despite being in his first season at nickel after playing wide receiver to begin his career with the team. Roseman-Sinclair saw the first snaps of his career on Saturday and quickly made his impact felt. Watts and Terry opted out for the season and Holliday and Edwards have yet to play.

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Special Teams: D+

#95 Jonathan Kim (So.): 33 KO, 64.7 avg, 31 TB

#17 Grayson Atkins (Sr.): 31 snaps, 23-23 XP, 4-8 FG, Long of 40

#60 Trevor Collins (Sr.): 31 snaps

#96 Cooper Graham (Jr.): 31 snaps

#91 Ben Kiernan (So.): 17 snaps, 15 punts, 40.8 avg, 4 50+ yds, 6 In. 20

#61 Drew Little (So.): 17 snaps

# 5 Dazz Newsome (Sr.): 8 PR, 12.5 avg., 1 KR, 19.0 avg

# 8 Michael Carter (Sr.): 4 KR, 21.5 avg

#94 Adam Buck (So.): DNP

#97 Noah Ruggles (Jr.): DNP

#98 Noah Burnette (Fr.): DNP

As hard as it is to believe, this unit has somehow digressed from a year ago. The only saving graces for this unit are the kickoff game and the punting game, both of which have been strong. Kim is one of the country’s top kickoff specialists, as he is tied for the fewest kickoff returns allowed this season with just two. Kiernan has built off of what we saw from him a year ago and has put together a strong season so far. After those two, though, this unit goes downhill. Place-kicker Grayson Atkins has had a rough season so far, especially from beyond 40 yards, the main area that the Tar Heels were hoping to improve in by bringing him in. The return units have once again struggled to make a major impact. Newsome has shown some improvement over last season as the primary punt returner, but he hasn’t really made a major impact outside of the season opener against Syracuse. Meanwhile, Carter has been extremely quiet in the kick return game so far this season, leaving the offense with a lot of long fields to begin drives. Even the coverage units, when they have been tested, which has been rare, have struggled and the goal for the team is to continue to avoid testing these units as much as they possibly can.


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