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Heel Tough Blog: 2023 Spring Game Takeaways

Tar Heel Athletics

The bow has officially been put on the Tar Heels 2023 spring camp as of yesterday. The team closed it down with an 85 play 'thud' scrimmage that saw nearly the entire roster in action. Brown and the staff will now take today to review film and make their decisions on what the depth chart will look like when the team returns to the field in August. While they are doing that, we’re here to give you a look at our biggest takeaways from Saturday's action.

Maye is Ready to Run New Offensive Scheme

One of the biggest questions that this team faces coming into the 2023 season is if Drake Maye will be able to thrive in Chip Lindsey’s offense the way that he did in Phil Longo’s system last year. On Saturday, Maye looked much like the Heisman Trophy contender that he was for the majority of last season in our first extensive look at him in the new system. Maye was 10-13 for 155 yards and two touchdowns, looking very good going through his progressions and showing great touch on the deep ball. It may only be a spring game, but this was an important day for this offense. The unit as a whole looked really good, but especially the man that will lead the charge and ultimately determine how far this team goes in 2023.

Transfer Receivers Are Set to Make Major Impacts This Season

This feels like a pretty obvious statement considering the track records that both Devontez Walker and Nate McCollum came in with, but the two were spectacular on Saturday. Both caught a touchdown from Maye, including an impressive adjustment scoop off the turf from McCollum on his (yes, it would have been overturned in the regular season, but it was still encouraging). Walker did exactly what Brown has been raving about with him all spring on his touchdown grab, blowing by Marcus Allen on the outside with his blazing speed and hauling in the catch. It’s hard to say if they are going to pick up right where Josh Downs and Antoine Green left off last year, but there is a reason to be confident that they can do enough to keep this passing game succeeding at a high level.

Drop Off Between Blue and White Team is Significant Along the Offensive Line

Mack Brown has been talking about wanting ten offensive linemen that he can trust to play significant reps and he hasn’t been close to having that in any of his first four seasons. This year, it appears like it could be more of the same for the unit. The second unit struggled for the better portion of the day, especially in pass protection, and showed why Brown said earlier this spring that they only have six they can trust. The good news is that the first team unit looked pretty good, including when Jonathan Adorno was subbed in with the starters. The hope is that guys from the white team can take another step in the summer and push to be a part of the blue team in the fall. As of right now, though, it seems like it will be the same veterans from a year ago that will have to be counted on to step up and improve upon what they did last season.

Hard to Take Much Away from the Defense

Personally, I was not a huge fan of the strategy that the team used with the scrimmage by just going ‘thud’ the full time instead of having a period of full contact as they had originally planned. All 85 snaps being 'thud' makes it hard to really judge the performance of this defense, especially since there were only a handful of tackles. The pass rush looked better than it did for the majority of last season but was still rather quiet at times, especially when facing the first-team offensive line. The secondary had its ups and downs early when facing the first-team offense, getting beat deep a few times and still leaving too much cushion at times, making it easy to move the ball on them. The team did a much better job in the red zone and the younger guys made some plays, but it is hard to fully judge that success with the lack of full contact.

Jaybron Harvey Provides a Lot of Promise

Harvey didn’t see action until late in the day, but he may have had the biggest impact of anyone on the defensive side of the ball. He finished the afternoon with three sacks, showcasing his tremendous speed off the edge, including on the final rep of the day. Considering he was going against some of the white and gray team linemen, it has to be taken with a grain of salt, but he showed plenty of promise and could be someone to keep an eye on during fall camp.


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