Updated: Sep 6, 2020
The next position group that we’ll hit on in our 2020 Tar Heel Position Previews is the deepest position on the offensive side of the football. For the first time in program history, two Tar Heel receivers reached the 1,000 yard mark in 2019 and the group returned every receiver who made a catch a year ago. The group has also added some strong freshman talent that will help to make this unit one of the best not only in the ACC, but in the entire country in 2020.
Senior slot Dazz Newsome is set to be one of college football’s top slot receivers after a huge junior season. Newsome was one of just two slot receivers in the country to hit the 1,000 yard receiving yard mark and his number of receptions from the slot led the nation. Newsome was consistently the most targeted receiver on the team a year ago and will likely be the favorite target of Howell again this season. It should be an interesting battle for first team All-ACC honors between Newsome and Louisville slot receiver Tutu Atwell and there is a real chance that Newsome could land postseason All-American honors with another big season.
Junior Dyami Brown is one of the nation's top deep threats following a breakout sophomore season. Brown trailed only Ja’Marr Chase in catches of 20+ yards downfield, averaging 20.3 yards per receptions on his 51 catches. His 12 receiving touchdowns tied a single-season program record and was second in the ACC a year ago. Brown should once again be one of, if not the best deep threat in the ACC in 2020 and has a chance to be an All-American by season’s end.
With Newsome and Brown as the headliners, Beau Corrales doesn’t get nearly the respect that he deserves despite a strong junior season. He proved himself to be a valuable red zone and third down threat as the season went along and should once again be counted on in those areas again, especially in the red zone where the team needs to show improvement. With a lot of focus on the other two guys we have talked about, Corrales should have a chance to build on his breakout performance from this past season.
The depth behind these three starters provides plenty of promise once again this season. Senior Ronatvious Groves is back after a nice junior season as the rotational option behind Newsome in the slot and he will look to hold on to that role once again in 2020 and potentially take that next step if needed. While he was not nearly as dynamic as Newsome, he still made some important catches and just needs to be able to add some consistency to his game after drop problems became a bit of an issue for him as the season went along.
He’ll be challenged for snaps in the slot by early enrollee true freshman Josh Downs, who is the future of the position. Downs will a problem with the football in his hands and he resembles exactly what this offense needs in the slot. COVID-19 hurt his chances to jump in and immediately impress, but if he can show some promise upside to the staff in fall camp, it will be hard to keep him off the field this season.
On the outside, junior Antoine Green will be hoping that he can finally stay healthy enough to become a valuable rotational player. He had a strong start to 2019 coming off of a brutal ankle injury, actually starting the first two games of the season. However, after suffering a lower body injury in the game against Miami, Green lost the starting job to Corrales and was never able to really reestablish a sizable role until late in the season. Like Groves a few years ago, it’s hard to judge Green until he can get through a season healthy and let’s hope that he is able to do that in 2020.
Another player that will likely see reps as a rotational player on the outside is sophomore Emery Simmons. While he didn’t play a ton of reps a year ago, in the snaps he did play, he showed plenty of promise and looks the part of another strong possession receiver that will be able to help the Tar Heels move the sticks. Expect his snaps to increase this season if he has a strong fall camp.
A group of sophomores will be looking to establish a role after quiet freshman seasons. Khafre Brown seems like the most likely player to emerge from this group. His game is similar to Dyami’s and his speed may be even better. Fall camp will be a great chance for Khafre to earn a role in this 2020 offense.
Redshirt freshman Justin Olson will have a stepper hill to climb and will likely be heavy special teams contributors this season. He will likely be looking to earn a role in the slot and right now there just frankly isn’t enough playing time available to think they’ll see a big role this season.
Three more true freshmen will also be looking to establish a role in their first year on campus. Both Tylee Craft and Stephen Gosnell enrolled early, but unfortunately COVID eliminated their chances to impress in the fall. Both guys will likely struggle to see the field with all that is ahead of them, but they will have a chance to earn some valuable special teams reps and potentially challenge for some playing time if injuries were to happen. As for Ray Rose, he is the only true freshman receiver who did not enroll early, but he has the talent to make some noise in the fall and could be the best chance of this group to earn a significant special teams role this season. Don’t be shocked if one or two of these true freshmen receive a redshirt after this season at a position that is much deeper than it was a year ago.
The wide receiving corps also has a healthy group of walk-on’s led by juniors Austyn Chestnut, Austin Chrismon and Mason Laurence. Jeffery Saturday, Carson Burgess and Gray Goodwyn round out the returning walk-on’s and Landon Stevens will join this group in the fall.
Projected Depth Chart
# 2 Dyami Brown, Jr.
# 0 Emery Simmons, So.
# 1 Khafre Brown, RFr.
#12 Stephen Gosnell, Fr.
#85 Landon Stevens, Fr.
#28 Austin Chrismon, Jr.
# 5 Dazz Newsome, Sr.
# 4 Rontavious Groves, Sr.
#11 Josh Downs, Fr.
#83 Justin Olson, RFr.
#19 Austyn Chestnut, Jr.
#89 Gray Goodwyn, So.
#15 Beau Corrales, Sr.
# 3 Antoine Green, Jr.
#13 Tylee Craft, Fr.
# 9 Ray Rose, Fr.
#29 Jeffrey Saturday, RFr.
#32 Mason Laurence, Jr.
#35 Carson Burgess, So.