Monday, the majority of the focus was on the decision that Drake Maye was going to be the starting quarterback for the team in 2022, but the team also went ahead and released their official depth chart for the opener on top of it. Mack Brown briefed the media on the guys that he labeled as blue team members (starters/rotation players) and white team members. Here are our reactions to the depth chart for each position group.
There was a question from some as to whether or not the team would actually name a starter on Monday, but Brown did in fact tell us that Drake Maye will get the start on Saturday. He did mention that this battle was so close that the result would flip if the redshirt freshman signal caller was to have a bad week of practice and that he fully expects that both quarterbacks will play this season. Barring something drastic, it appears like Maye will get a legitimate shot to prove himself on Saturday.
Brown named D.J. Jones the starter for Saturday and it should come as no surprise considering that he was the only returning member of the backfield that practiced throughout the entire spring. He will be expected to produce at a higher level than he did in his carries a year ago with him now the leader of the unit. Behind him there is really any separation between the remainder of the unit. Brown says that Hood has made some plays when he has been on the field, so there is certainly a chance that he can be a significant part of the equation if he can stay healthy. He also said that both true freshman running backs will be involved starting on Saturday, something that is music to many fans' ears with the rave reviews that they received this offseason.
The receiver group shaped out a little bit differently than some may have thought. Neither Gavin Blackwell nor J.J. Jones was really talked about that much over the last couple of weeks but they will join Josh Downs as the starters this Saturday for the opener. Blackwell is the guy who has really begun to shine, showing up consistently on the team’s highlight tapes from practice as camp has progressed. Kobe Paysour will also be a part of the rotation, but will not start despite being raved about throughout the summer. True freshman Andre Greene Jr. is not a part of the blue team just yet, but is a guy that Brown has high hopes for and could see his role increase as the season goes along.
This might be the deepest unit on this offense this season for the Tar Heels, as Brown said that the expectation is that the trio of Kamari Morales, Bryson Nesbit and John Copenhaver will all play a role on this 2022 team. One thing that was interesting was that on the depth chart that was released by the team yesterday, Nebsit appeared to be listed as the No. 3 tight end. This will be something worth monitoring on Saturday.
There weren’t many surprises with this unit that appears to have some of the best depth it has had in years. Asim Richards, Ed Montilus and Corey Gaynor all are locked in as starters as expected, while William Barnes will be starting somewhere on the right side. Spencer Rolland is a blue team member and as of right now would be the starter at right tackle, but it appears that this will be an important week of practice to determine exactly what it will look like. Brian Anderson, as expected, is a blue team member that will provide the needed depth at center, while Jonathan Adorno has come on strong and is now a member of the blue team who could push to start at right guard. Both true freshmen, Zach Rice and Trevyon Green are part of the white team, but the indication is that that is largely due to the time that the two had to miss in camp with injuries. Don’t be shocked if those two are able to become part of the blue team early in the season. Cayden Baker is the other member of the white team and provides some nice versatility to help if needed.
This is probably the deepest unit of any on the team this season, which doesn’t really come as much of a surprise. There are no real surprises about the members of the blue team here, with all six of the guys being expected to contribute as either a starter or rotational player. Ritzie, as we heard for most of the offseason, will be an extremely important part of this group with the ability to play both 3-technique and power end. Kedrick Bingley-Jones, Keeshawn Silver and Travis Shaw are all current members of the white team who may be able to push to be a part of the blue team now that they are fully healthy.
This is a unit that Brown has mentioned many times this offseason lacks depth and it showed on Monday. The good news is that RaRa Dillworth is officially part of the blue team and received huge praise from Gene Chizik, meaning the trio of himself, Cedric Gray and Power Echols could get a lot of run early in the season. Sebastian Cheeks is the only other inside linebacker that is even in the picture right now with the white team and Brown mentioned that he is pleased with his progress. At JACK, both Noah Taylor and Chris Collins are blue team members that will see snaps this season after both had nice offseasons. One interesting note here was the fact that Brown said the team will be looking into ways to get Malaki Hamrick on the field at the position, even as a true freshman, because of how well he rushed the passer at the prep level.
This was the position group that provided the most surprises on Monday. Even with the fact that Lejond Cavazos might not be ready to go for the opener, Storm Duck does not appear to have the starting job opposite of Tony Grimes locked up at this point. Redshirt freshman Dontae Balfour is seen as a blue team member after building off of a strong spring and appears like he will have the chance to start on Saturday. DeAndre Boykins will be starting at the STAR spot, but there is a good chance that Duck will take a lot of snaps there, especially once Cavazos returns. At safety, the same trio that handled the spots late last year is set to handle those roles once again this season and the hope is that they can be much more consistent than a year ago, Marcus Allen and Will Hardy are white team guys that ware worth monitoring throughout the season after strong showings in fall camp. The most notable part of this room, though, has to be the guys that are nowhere to be found. Senior Dae Dae Hollins was a guy that was expected to return from a lower-body injury this season to be a contributor is absent and wasn’t mentioned by the head coach yesterday when he was breaking down the room. Also missing is spring standout Dontavius Nash, who was a starter back at free safety and was raved about for how well he was playing.
This room has been filled with battles throughout camp, but it feels like most of those seemed to be wrapped up at this point. Ben Kiernan has emerged as the starting punter after being pushed by Connor Maynard, while Jonathan Kim appears to have the slight edge over Noah Burnette for the placekicking job. The kick returner spot remains interesting, though, with Omarion Hampton and Caleb Hood appearing to be the ones that will get the first cracks at it on Saturday.