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Heel Tough Blog: 2022 Midseason Grades

The Tar Heels are on the backend of their second bye week of the year, this one basically signifying the midpoint of the season. With us now at the midway point of the season, it’s time to hand out midseason grades for this 2022 squad.


Jaylynn Nash- USA Today Sports

Quarterbacks: A+

#10 Drake Maye (RFr.): 497 snaps, 162-231, 2283 yds, 24-3 TD-INT, 84 rush, 378 yds, 3 TD

# 6 Jacolby Criswell (So.): 17 snaps, 1-4, 4 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT, 2 rush, 20 yds

#14 Jefferson Boaz (So.): DNP

#15 Conner Harrell (Fr.): DNP

#16 Russell Tabor (RFr.): DNP

This grade is exclusively based on what Maye has done this season. He is currently second in the country in touchdown passes behind only C.J. Stroud, who has now played an extra game, and top ten in the country in passing yards. When you add in the rushing numbers, you have a guy who ranks top five in the nation in both total offense (4th) and total touchdowns (3rd). The Tar Heels have a legitimate Heisman candidate on their hands who is putting together one of the best freshman seasons in ACC history. Criswell has taken mostly garbage time snaps behind Maye, who has only had to miss one play due to injury despite the number of times he has left his feet this season. None of the other quarterbacks has seen action this season and with only conference games remaining, it’s hard to see them getting an opportunity this season.


Rich Storry- USA Today Sports

Running Backs: C+

#28 Omarion Hampton (Fr.): 166 snaps, 74 rush, 345 yds, 6 TD, 5 tar, 5 rec, 25 yds, TD

# 4 Caleb Hood (So.): 153 snaps, 42 rush, 253 yds, 0 TD, 12 tar, 12 rec, 116 yds, TD

#26 D.J. Jones (Jr.): 104 snaps, 19 rush, 88 yds, TD, 9 tar, 8 rec, 71 yds, TD

#23 George Pettaway (Fr.): 69 snaps, 19 rush, 89 yds, 2 TD, 5 tar, 4 rec, 10 yds

#21 Elijah Green (So.): 28 snaps, 11 rush, 93 yds, 2 TD, 1 tar, 1 rec, 8 yds

#24 British Brooks (Sr.): DNP

This group hasn’t really had a bad game outside of Notre Dame, but there has been a lack of consistency from the unit and a little too much reliance on Maye. While Hampton got off to a nice start to the season with two 100-yard, two-touchdown games in the first three, he has struggled to find yards since. In the meantime, that has opened the door for Caleb Hood, who appears to have locked down the No. 1 role for the time being after back-to-back games where he has produced 80 or more yards of total offense and given the team a receiving threat out of the backfield that they had really lacked before that. Jones hasn’t contributed much on the ground, but he made a big play with his touchdown catch down the middle of the field against Appalachian State and has been the team’s most consistent pass protection so far this season. Green is a name to keep an eye on moving forward after his performance against Duke and the comments that Mack Brown made about him last week would lead you to believe that he could be this year’s version of British Brooks. Brown talked earlier this week about Pettaway, a guy that he says the team is looking to get involved in more ways, but there may not be enough reps available at this point.


Rich Storry- USA Today Sports

Wide Receivers: A

# 5 J.J. Jones (So.): 360 snaps, 25 tar, 14 rec, 304 yds, 2 TD

#11 Josh Downs (Jr.): 322 snaps, 43 tar, 37 rec, 425 yds, 5 TD

# 2 Gavin Blackwell (RFr.): 268 snaps, 19 tar, 10 rec, 124 yds, TD

# 3 Antoine Green (Sr.): 219 snaps, 21 tar, 13 rec, 384 yds, 4 TD

# 8 Kobe Paysour (RFr.): 184 snaps, 21 tar, 18 rec, 192 yds, 2 TD

# 1 Andre Greene Jr. (Fr.): 33 snaps, 1 tar, 0 rec, 0 yds

#83 Justin Olson (Jr.): 22 snaps, 1 tar, 1 rec, 4 yds

# 0 Tychaun Chapman (Fr.): 11 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#29 Jeffrey Saturday (Jr.): 4 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#20 Brooks Miller (RFr.): 2 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#84 Cyrus Rogers (RFr.): 2 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#13 Tylee Craft (Jr.): DNP

#19 Grady Sherrill (Fr.): DNP

#25 Kellan Hood (Fr.): DNP

#27 Michael Hall (Fr.): DNP

#38 Aiden Cloninger (Fr.): DNP

#85 Landon Stevens (So.): DNP

#86 Thomas Flynn (RFr.): DNP

It’s hard to believe that this unit actually struggled outside of Downs a year ago with how successful they have been so far this year. Downs hasn’t needed to be nearly as dynamic, but he has still had a tremendous junior season despite missing two games due to injury. Green missed the first three games of the season, but has since returned and has become arguably the nation’s best deep threat, leading the Power 5 in yards per reception (29.5). Jones has also proved to be a capable deep threat, averaging 21.7 yards per reception, the eighth-highest in the entire country. Blackwell hasn’t been nearly as productive as the other receivers who have played significant reps but has made the plays when the team has needed him to. Paysour was counted on when Downs was out of the lineup against Appalachian State and Georgia State and he simply led the team in receiving in both games and made some miraculous plays. Greene Jr. and Olson played a few significant reps early in the season, but have seen their roles diminished with the return of Downs and Green to the lineup. The other receivers who have seen snaps saw them in garbage time.


Jim Dedmon- USA Today Sports

Tight Ends: A

#88 Kamari Morales (Jr.): 212 snaps, 22 snaps, 16 rec, 202 yds, 4 TD

#18 Bryson Nesbit (So.): 207 snaps, 27 tar, 18 rec, 279 yds, 3 TD

#81 John Copenhaver (So.): 183 snaps, 7 tar, 6 rec, 143 yds

#82 Kendall Karr (So.): 16 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#80 Will Crowley (Jr.): 4 snaps, 0 rec, 0 yds

#89 Jake Young (Fr.): DNP

Just like in previous offseasons, we heard that this unit was set to break out this season and this year, those expectations have been proven true. Nesbit has done what most thought he was capable of, giving the team that vertical threat in the middle of the field and proving himself as a reliable target on key downs. He has also graded out as the team’s top run blocker so far this season, something that is an endorsement of John Lilly based on the fact that Nesbit was far from a polished blocker when he came to campus. Morales has found the endzone four more times this season as a red zone threat, becoming the first Tar Heel tight end with double-digit touchdowns in their career. He has struggled a bit in run blocking but has still logged the most blocking reps of anyone on the team. Copenhaver hasn’t received quite the workload that the other two have in terms of targets, but every time he has touched the football, it feels like it has made a big play. He also has taken major steps as a run blocker and has looked solid in his reps so far this season. Karr and Crowley have both taken their snaps in garbage time.


Jim Dedmon- USA Today Sports

Offensive Line: C

#72 Asim Richards (Sr.): 498 snaps, 56.4 run block, 83.4 pass pro, 67.2 overall, 0.0 sacks allowed, 3 QB pressures allowed

#63 Ed Montilus (Sr.): 498 snaps, 46.7 run block, 45.6 pass pro, 46.8 overall, 3.0 sacks allowed, 18 QB pressures allowed

#65 Corey Gaynor (Sr.): 494 snaps, 58.0 run block, 72.6 pass pro, 62.0 overall, 1.0 sacks allowed, 5 QB pressures allowed

#75 Spencer Rolland (Sr.): 423 snaps, 63.1 run block, 68.3 pass pro, 67.6 overall, 3.0 sacks allowed, 16 QB pressures allowed

#76 William Barnes (Sr.): 362 snaps, 54.2 run block, 69.2 pass pro, 0.0 sacks allowed, 9 QB pressures allowed

#52 Jonathan Adorno (Jr.): 211 snaps, 57.5 run block, 53.3 pass pro, 56.6 overall, 0.0 sacks allowed, 8 QB pressures allowed

#68 Brian Anderson (Sr.): 20 snaps, 62.2 run block, 74.5 pass pro, 64.1 overall, 0.0 sacks, 0 QB pressures allowed

#55 Zach Rice (Fr.) 16 snaps, 47.6 run block, 75.4 pass pro, 48.9 overall, 0.0 sacks allowed, 0 QB pressures allowed

#57 Cayden Baker (So.): 16 snaps, 54.4 run block, 37.8 pass pro, 54.0 overall, 0.0 sacks allowed, 0 QB pressures allowed

#61 Diego Pounds (RFr.): 16 snaps, 41.9 run block, 9.7 pass pro, 29.2 overall, 0.0 sacks allowed, 1 QB pressure allowed

#64 Malik McGowan (So.): 10 snaps, 55.2 run block, 55.4 overall, 0.0 sacks allowed, 0 QB pressures allowed

#78 Trevyon Green (Fr.): 6 snaps, 55.5 run block, 74.9 pass pro, 58.0 overall, 0.0 sacks allowed, 0 QB pressures allowed

#54 Chance Carroll (So.): DNP

#60 Carter Kulka (RFr.): DNP

#69 Jarvis Hicks (Fr.): DNP

#70 Noland Brown (Jr.): DNP

#73 Eli Sutton (RFr.): DNP

#74 Justin Kanyuk (Fr.): DNP

#79 Bo Burkes (Fr.): DNP

The Tar Heel offensive line graded out as the worst unit on the team this time a year ago but has taken a significant step forward this season. It’s led by Richards, who has become the anchor of the unit and looks like he could be headed toward an All-ACC season. Both Gaynor and Rolland have been welcome additions to the team and have graded out relatively well so far this year, especially in pass pro. Barnes has had a really strong senior season, especially as a pass protector, and his presence was missed against Duke. Montilus has had his ups and downs this season but still appears to be locked in as the starter at this point. Adorno has been solid as the rotation guy this season but still has room to grow to become a full-time starter. Those six have played the majority of reps for the unit this season with everyone else’s reps coming late in blowouts.


Bob Donnan- USA Today Sports

Defensive Line: D-

# 7 Noah Taylor (Sr.): 429 snaps, 27 ttkl, 6.0 TFL, 3.5 scks, 17 QB hur, 2 PD, 4 tar, 3 rec allowed, 6 yds allowed

# 5 Jahvaree Ritzie (So.): 275 snaps, 21 ttkl, 0.5 TFL, 0.5 sck, 13 QB hur

#10 Des Evans (Jr.): 262 snaps, 25 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 4 QB hur

#25 Kaimon Rucker (Jr.): 260 snaps, 15 ttkl, 4.5 TFL, 2.0 scks, 12 QB hur, FF

# 8 Myles Murphy (Jr.): 230 snaps, 13 ttkl, 0.5 TFL, 0.0 scks, 3 QB hur, PD

#98 Kevin Hester Jr. (Jr.): 203 snaps, 24 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 2 QB hur

#51 Raymond Vohasek (Sr.): 173 snaps, 14 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 3 QB hur, 2 PD

#17 Chris Collins (Sr.): 152 snaps, 11 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 3 QB hur, 2 tar, 2 rec allowed, 23 yds allowed, TD allowed

# 4 Travis Shaw (Fr.): 75 snaps, 5 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 QB hur, PD

#93 Jacolbe Cowan (So.): 66 snaps, 3 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sck, 0 QB hur

#41 Kedrick Bingley-Jones (So.): 32 snaps, 2 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 QB hur

#55 Keeshawn Silver (RFr.): 25 snaps, 3 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 QB hur

#12 Beau Atkinson (Fr.): DNP

#19 Bryson Jennings (Fr.): DNP

#34 Gabe Stephens (RFr.): DNP

#52 Jahlil Taylor (Sr.): DNP

#56 Tomari Fox (Sr.): DNP

#87 Colby Doreen (So.): DNP

#88 Deems May II (Fr.): DNP

#92 Kody Kovacevic (Fr.): DNP

#96 Nic Harvey (Fr.): DNP

This defensive line unit was the unit that most people were expecting the most from the season with the sheer amount of talent that is on the roster, but it has instead been the most disappointing unit on the team. The members of the unit have combined for just 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks, the majority of the production which has come from two guys. Taylor has easily been the unit’s best player, as he leads the team in tackles for loss, sacks and quarterback hurries. Rucker has had some nice moments off the edge, as well, but continues to lack the consistency to take a firm grip on a starting job. Outside of those two, the unit has a combined for just 4.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack. Murphy was a player that came into the season with expectations of being a breakout player for this defense and has been one of the most disappointing players in the conference so far this season. Ritzie has played a lot of snaps and provides versatility, but he simply hasn’t been effective for a majority of the reps he has seen. Evans has played better lately, but he is still struggling to make any sort of consistent impact, which this team desperately needs from him. Vohasek is out for the season with upper-body after a quiet start to the season, meaning that Hester Jr. is tasked with playing more and getting more push up front than he has so far this year. Shaw and Silver are guys that we could see more of moving forward and deserve a shot with the lack of production from the guys ahead of them. Cowan is another guy who deserves a little more run in pure pass-rushing downs after producing the only sack for this group outside of Taylor and Rucker. Bingley-Jones has play some important snaps so far this year, but it just deosn’t appear as if he has shown enough at this point to expect a bigger role the rest of this season. The rest of the unit has yet to play this season.


Bob Donnan- USA Today Sports

Linebackers: C+

#33 Cedric Gray (Jr.): 510 snaps, 74 ttkl, 4.5 TFL, 0.0 scks, 4 QB hur, FF, 38 tar, 28 rec allowed, 286 yds allowed, 2 TD allowed, 2 INT, 2 PD

#23 Power Echols (So.): 456 snaps, 66 ttkl, 4.0 TFL, 2.0 scks, 4 QB hur, 26 tar, 26 rec allowed, 211 yds allowed, 4 TD allowed

#11 Raneiria Dillworth (So.): 63 snaps, 9 ttkl, 0.5 TFL, 0.0 scks, 1 QB hur, 1 tar, 1 rec allowed, 13 yds allowed

#24 Malaki Hamrick (Fr.): 60 snaps, 6 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 3 QB hur, 5 tar, 4 rec, 27 yds allowed

#45 Jake Harkleroad (Jr.): 16 snaps, 6 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 QB hur

#44 Randy Caldwell (Fr.): 11 snaps, 4 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 scks, 0 QB hur

#32 Sebastian Cheeks (Fr.): 3 snaps, 3 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 QB hur

#36 Jalen Brooks (So.): DNP

#47 CJ Murphy (Fr.): DNP

#48 Milad Aghaiepour (Fr.): DNP

#53 Gibson Macrae (RFr.): DNP

This group has clearly been the biggest success story of the defense thanks to the two workhorses that have played the majority of the snaps so far. Gray has built off of what he did a year ago and currently leads the ACC in total tackles so far this season. He has struggled a bit at times in coverage, but he has still come away with two important interceptions and also created a huge fumble in the win over Miami. Echols has also had a strong season as he currently sits second in all Power 5 in solo tackles. He too has been picked on in coverage, allowing a perfect passer rating in coverage. The key to controlling that weakness is to limit how much he has to drop into coverage, but that would involve others around him stepping up. Dillworth and Hamrick have stepped in when needed, but both are a clear drop-off from Gray and Echols. Both Harkleroad and Caldwell really shined in their garbage time reps when they saw them against Virginia Tech, but shouldn’t be expected to play a bigger role this moving forward this season.


Rich Storry- USA Today Sports

Defensive Backs: D

# 9 Cam’Ron Kelly (Sr.): 529 snaps, 31 ttkl, 0.5 TFL, 0.0 scks, 11 tar, 8 rec allowed, 159 yds allowed, TD allowed, PD

# 3 Storm Duck (Jr.): 490 snaps, 23 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 42 tar, 28 rec allowed, 347 yds allowed, 4 TD allowed, INT, 3 PD

#16 DeAndre Boykins (So.): 488 snaps, 32 ttkl, 3.5 TFL, 2.0 scks, 2 QB hur, FR, 43 tar, 33 rec allowed, 380 yds allowed, TD allowed, INT, 3 PD

#27 Giovanni Biggers (Sr.): 465 snaps, 39 ttkl, 0.5 TFL, 0.0 scks, FR, 17 tar, 9 rec allowed, 95 yds allowed, PD

# 1 Tony Grimes (Jr.): 453 snaps, 21 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 31 tar, 15 rec allowed, 202 yds allowed, 3 TD allowed, 6 PD

#31 Will Hardy (Fr.): 109 snaps, 14 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks allowed, FR, 13 tar, 9 rec allowed, 121 yds allowed, TD allowed, INT

# 2 Don Chapman (Sr.): 85 snaps, 11 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 1 tar, 1 rec allowed, 6 yds allowed

# 6 Lejond Cavazos (So.): 81 snaps, 4 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 4 tar, 2 rec allowed, 52 yds allowed

#14 Dontae Balfour (RFr.): 60 snaps, 6 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 8 tar, 5 rec allowed, 85 yds allowed, TD allowed

#29 Marcus Allen (Fr.): 30 snaps, 1 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 2 tar, 1 rec allowed, 9 yds allowed

#15 Ladaeson DeAndre Hollins (Sr.): 12 snaps, 1 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 1 tar, 1 rec allowed, 8 yds allowed

#13 Obi Egbuna (Sr.): 1 snap, 6 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 tar, 0 rec allowed, 0 yds allowed

# 0 Ja’Qurious Conley (Jr.): DNP

#18 Christopher Holliday (So.): DNP

#20 Tayon Holloway (Fr.): DNP

#21 Dontavius Nash (RFr.): DNP

#26 Naari Short (So.): DNP

#28 Tymir Brown (RFr.): DNP

#30 Phillips Alvarez (Fr.): DNP

#35 Jaden Selby (Fr.): DNP

#38 Val Edwards (Jr.): DNP

#40 Major Byrd (Fr.): DNP

The defensive backfield has been step for step with the defensive line unit for the worst on the team, but the fact that they have had some sort of impact with the turnovers they have forced has them slightly ahead. Boykins has probably been the guy that has played the best to this point this season, but he has still allowed the most receiving on the team so far this season. Grimes struggled a bit early in the season, but has taken some strides the last two weeks, especially in one-on-one coverage. Duck had a brutal start to the season but has started to find his footing a bit these last couple of weeks, something that will hopefully carry over into this stretch run. Kelly and Biggers have really had their struggles at safety so far this year, especially when it has come to tackling in the open field, and they simply have to be better down the stretch for this defense to improve. Hardy has shown some nice things as the fourth corner in certain situations and should continue to play a role for this team down the stretch of the season. Chapman was playing some nice backup minutes at safety before his injury and it would be huge if he can return and help to at least give the team a different look on the back end. Cavazos has seen limited snaps in large part because of the struggles that he has had when he has been in the game. Balfour has not seen any action since he was torched in the season opener and it seems like it will take a lot for him to get back on the field this season. Allen has seen some action at corner, but the majority of his reps have come on special teams so far this year. Conley, who has been out due to injury, and Hollins are guys who haven’t played much, if at all, but could see more action down the stretch of the season, which could help to provide at least a little boost.


Jim Dedmon- USA Today Sports

Special Teams: B+

#36 Jalen Brooks (So.): 94 snaps, 1 KR, 7 yds

# 9 Cam’Ron Kelly (Jr.): 73 snaps, 5 PR, 12.8 avg

#98 Noah Burnette (So.): 65 snaps, 35-35 XP, 7-9 FG, 20 KO, 64.7 avg, 12 TB, 0 OB

#62 Spencer Tripplet (So.): 49 snaps

#92 Cole Maynard (RFr.): 45 snaps, 1 punt, 14.0 avg

#28 Omarion Hampton (Fr.): 34 snaps, 7 KR, 21.6 avg

#95 Jonathan Kim (Sr.): 33 snaps, 31 KO, 64.4 avg, 26 TB, 0 OB

#18 Bryson Nesbit (So.): 32 snaps, 1 KR, 43 yds, TD

#91 Ben Kiernan (Sr.): 21 snaps, 21 punts, 47.6 avg

#61 Drew Little (Sr.): 15 snaps

#11 Josh Downs (Jr.): 13 snaps, 3 PR, 9.0 avg

The special teams are a unit that Mack Brown has been hoping to see improvement from each year since he arrived back on campus and he is getting some promising results this season. Kiernan has been outstanding so far this year after being pushed for his starting role in the offseason by Maynard. Burnette hasn’t been tested often, but he has looked good so far this year and has hit the major ones when he’s had to. Downs has shown some nice promise again on punt returns, while Kelly did a good job of filling in while he was out injured. Hampton has been solid as a kick returner so far this season. The weak spot might be the coverage units, which have allowed a decent amount of yards this season, but have luckily kept the other team out of the end zone.

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