Our 2021 Tar Heel position previews continue today with a look at another unit that, like the running back unit, has the tough task of replacing their top two players in terms of production from the last two years. The Tar Heel wide receiving corps has the tough task of replacing both Dyami Brown (123 rec, 2306 yds, 21 TD) and Dazz Newsome (188 rec, 2435 yds, 18 TD), but the good news is that there is more experience here than there is at running back.
Super senior Beau Corrales decided to use his extra season of eligibility following a 2020 season that was cut short by a sports hernia issue that forced him to miss the final seven games after a career performance against Florida State. His return will certainly be welcome, as quarterback Sam Howell has a receiver that he has a strong rapport with and that presents a tremendous red zone and third down threat for this offense.
In the slot, sophomore Josh Downs takes over for the departed Newsome and there is a lot of confidence around his ability to be just as effective out of the slot. He was extremely effective this past season in his limited snaps and as he showed in that game against Texas A&M, he looks more than ready for a more significant role this season. No one should be shocked if he becomes a breakout star at wide receiver and a national name relatively quickly.
Finding the replacement for Dyami Brown and all he did for the Tar Heels over the past couple of seasons may be the most difficult thing this offense has to do this offseason. His brother, sophomore Khafre Brown, was the early favorite to do that, but with him missing the majority of the spring due to an undisclosed injury, the door has been opened for someone else to emerge. He still looks to have the best skill set to replace his brother as he showed a bit in the Orange Bowl when he started in place of him. The one area of concern with him is drops, but if he can limit them, he has some of the best speed on the team and is a major threat with the ball in his hands.
Junior Emery Simmons is a guy who started eight games a year ago, but the question is, does he fit the role as a guy that can consistently take the top off of defenses. He has shown flashes in being able to do just that, but like many other aspects of his game, the consistency has just been lacking. If he can build on those flashes, something that Mack Brown talked about in the spring, he has the talent to be a major part of this wide receiving corps.
Senior Antoine Green looks like he might get the opportunity to finally breakout this season after injuries have derailed his career to this point. Last year, Green played just 134 snaps, but it appears that he is finally in a spot to compete for reps again after what appeared to be a productive spring. Even if he doesn’t win the starting job, this is a position where there will almost certainly be more rotation and Green is a guy that should benefit from that.
True freshman J.J. Jones is the sleeper here. Although he had a quiet spring game, there was a reason that he was one of the starters in the game for the Carolina side. He has a similar skill set to the one that Brown is leaving behind and the comments that followed some of the spring scrimmages seem to show that he thrived in that role. Now that he has had time to settle into the college level practices a bit, fall camp will be a great chance for him to compete to earn some early reps.
In the slot, the backup job will be a battle between high school teammates of two of the team’s current quarterbacks. Sophomore Stephen Gosnell, former high school teammate of Jefferson Boaz, enters his second season with the Tar Heels after a productive high school career at East Surry High School where he made a living making plays after the catch.
True freshman Gavin Blackwell, the former high school teammate of Sam Howell at Sun Valley High School, will battle him for that role. Blackwell was one of the state’s most reliable receivers in the state of North Carolina over the last couple of years and he too possesses the ability to make things happen with the ball in his hand. This quietly has a chance to be one of the better under the radar battles of the fall.
The deeper depth at the position might be as strong as it has ever been. True freshman Kobe Paysour leads the group, as it appears that his skill set will likely have him a little bit lower on the depth chart than his fellow 2021 recruiting class counterpart in Jones. His ability to go up and get the football will likely be much more of a factor next year when Corrales departs, as right now there might just be too much ahead of them.
Sophomore Justin Olson is a guy who has played well when he has been on the field, but just hasn’t been able to climb the depth chart yet in his career. Once again, there appears to be just too much talent ahead of him to make major in-roads on the depth chart, as he looks set for a similar role to last year.
Fellow sophomore Tylee Craft is another name that seems to be buried on the depth chart right now and likely will have to settle for a deeper depth role. He, like Olson, didn't see much opportunity in the spring game, an indication that he is not challenging for significant reps at this time. Special teams will be the place for these guys to shine.
Seven walk-ons will be a part of the group, as well, in 2021. Juniors Carson Burgess and Gray Goodwyn and sophomore Jeffrey Saturday and redshirt freshman Landon Stevens are back from a year ago, while Thomas Flynn, Brooks Miller and Cyrus Rogers are all newcomers who will be a part of the unit without scholarships.
There is no doubt that this group will miss the likes of Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome this season, but as you can see, there is plenty of talent in this 2021 unit to be confident in. Health is going to be the key for the success of the unit and finding the deep threat amongst this group will be important. However, there is no reason to believe going into the season that won’t be one of the best and deepest wide receiving corps in the ACC.
Projected Depth Chart:
# 15 Beau Corrales, Sr.
# 0 Emery Simmons, Jr.
# 8 Kobe Paysour, Fr.
#13 Tylee Craft, So.
#86 Thomas Flynn, Fr.
#28 Cyrus Rogers, Fr.
# 1 Khafre Brown, So.
# 3 Antoine Green, Sr.
# 5 J.J. Jones, Fr.
#83 Justin Olson, So.
#85 Landon Stevens, Fr.
#35 Carson Burgess, Jr.
#11 Josh Downs, So.
# 2 Gavin Blackwell, Fr.
#12 Stephen Gosnell, So.
#89 Gray Goodwyn, Jr.
#29 Jeffrey Saturday, So.
#20 Brooks Miller, Fr.