As spring camp comes down the stretch, attrition has hit the North Carolina Tar Heels. Thursday’s announcement of Cam’Ron Kelly’s addition eased some mounting concerns, but Friday’s Tar Heel football news has now turned the focus back on the depth of this Tar Heel football team.
Friday morning, senior running back Jordon Brown announced he had entered the transfer portal. The veteran running back has been a key member of the Tar Heel backfield over the last two seasons, including leading the team in rushing back in 2017 when he rushed for 613 yards and four touchdowns on 138 carries. However, towards the end of last season, Brown’s role in the backfield began to diminish with transfer Antonio Williams imidate success and the steady progression of true freshman Javonte Williams. Brown would finish the season with 347 yards and three touchdowns on 81 carries, including solid performances against Western Carolina and NC State. Even with the solid finish to the season, Brown entered the spring as the outsider in a four-man race for reps at the running back position, behind the two Williams and leading rusher Michael Carter. As the Heels head towards the conclusion of spring camp, Brown has not been able to re-establish himself as part of the rotation, leading to his decision to transfer today. Brown finishes his Carolina career with 1,005 career rushing yards and eight career rushing touchdowns on 239 career carries. He also finishes his Tar Heel career with 342 receiving yards on 46 receptions. Brown will be eligible immediately wherever he ends up and will have one year of eligibility remaining.
While the Heels have plenty of depth in the backfield, Brown’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will be missed. The Heels offensive playbook is expected to be more wide open under new offensive coordinator Phil Longo and a new quarterback better suited for an intermediate and deep passing game, but having a safety value like Brown is something that every passing game loves to have. The good news: Ole Miss running backs caught just 22 total passes a year ago. Longo isn’t opposed to having a running back that can effectively catch the ball out of the backfield, though, as Jordan Wilkins was a strong receiving threat out of the backfield in 2017. The other concern for some may be the loss of experience, but having veterans like Carter and Antonio Williams, both of whom have settled well into leadership roles, along with the experience that Javonte Williams gained last season should help eliminate that concern. Add in backs like senior Johnathan Sutton, sophomore Antwuan Branch and redshirt freshman British Brooks who return from last season and true freshman Josh Henderson, who will join the team in the fall, and you can see why this move isn’t as concerning as the other departures that have taken place so far this offseason. Brown’s transfer means the Heels will likely go with a three-man rotation in the backfield during next Saturday’s spring game, with a small number of reps possibly falling to Sutton and Branch late in the festivities.
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