There aren’t many question marks on the offensive side of the football, but the glaring one is the next position group that we’ll preview in our 2020 Tar Heel Position Previews. Last season was not a very productive one for the Tar Heels tight end group, as not a single member of the group caught ten passes or reached the 100 yard receiving mark for the entire season. This year’s group will look a little different, as four members of last year's team have moved on. It will be a challenge for this young and extremely thin group, but the goal has to be to get more production out of this unit than a year ago.
Senior Garrett Walston is the veteran leader of the group after starting eight games a year ago and leading the team’s tight ends in receiving. He has shown signs of being the pass-catching tight end that the Tar Heels are looking for, but he needs to become more consistent and find ways to get himself open, especially if Dazz Newsome garners more attention from opposing defenses this season. The other big question for Walston is can he take another step forward as a run blocker now that guys like Carl Tucker and Jake Bargas are now gone? If he can, he has a chance to play the majority of the snaps at a position that doesn’t have a lot of experience or depth, but will feature some talented, young options that will hope to improve this unit.
As I mentioned the experience behind Walston is extremely limited and definitely cause for concern. The only other player besides Walston to take a single snap in their career on offense is redshirt freshman Kamari Morales, who played just 20 total snaps a year ago. He seems like the most likely player to win the backup job in the fall, mainly due to the fact that he might just be the best blocking tight end that remains on the team. Tight ends were important for the success of the run game a year ago and will probably be so once again this season, so Morales will be counted on to take that next step forward and take over one of the roles that Tucker and Bargas leave behind. Morales has put on a little bit of weight since arriving on campus at Carolina, but he still has the athletic frame that allowed him to be so successful in the passing game at the high school level. Not having spring practice really hurt this group overall, but especially Morales. The talent is there, but he has to grow into his bigger role quickly or else he could be passed by.
Two true freshmen will be challenging the two returning scholarship players for time this season. Both John Copenhaver and Kendall Karr were both early enrollees and despite having no spring camp, will enter the fall with a chance to make some noise. Copenhaver is the healthier of the two with Karr battling back from an ACL injury that cost him his senior season of high school and is also the more athletic of the two. Copenhaver has the feel of today’s more athletic tight ends, similar to an Evan Engram, and fits this offense well, especially if he could establish himself as a reliable weapon in the red zone.
As for Karr, he seems to be the more complete of the two because of his better blocking ability, but the key will be getting him fully healthy. Karr has plenty of upside, though, and if he can put it all together, he will definitely have the opportunity to make an early impact.
Only one walk-on is expected to be a part of this position group this season. Legacy Will Crowley is expected back for his second season with the program as the lone walk-on.
Projected Depth Chart
#84 Garrett Walston, Sr.
#88 Kamari Morales, RFr.
#81 John Copenhaver, Fr.
#82 Kendall Karr, Fr.
#80 Will Crowley, RFr.