Ahead of the ACC Coastal’s arrival to the ACC Kickoff festivities on Thursday, the Tar Heel released their official 2019 team roster. Amongst the changes are some major contributors changing numbers, a new departure and the return of a key member of the defense. Here are our biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s roster reveal.
Jonathan Smith Officially Returns
The senior linebacker will return to the team for his final season of eligibility after missing the spring due to academic issues. While Smith hasn’t quite been as impactful as some thought he could be as one of the headliners of the Tar Heels 2016 class. A big part of that has been injury issues, but when he has been on the field, Smith has been serviceable. Smith was expected to be a full-time starter prior to spring camp at one of the two inside linebacker positions alongside Dominique Ross. With Jeremiah Gemmel’s strong showing in spring camp, it’s no guarantee that Smith will reassume that expected starting role, but it is a possibility if he can show the flashes that we saw from him during his sophomore season. Even if he is unable to regain the starting job, it will help to have him on a two-deep that is extremely thin at the linebacker positions.
Devon Lawrence Joins List of Tar Heels Who Will Not Return This Season
Attrition was one of the early offseason stories for the Tar Heels and we now have a final tally on the number of players who had eligibility remaining that will not return for the 2019 season. In all, 19 players have seeked different options, including two entering the NFL Draft early(Anthony Ratliff-Williams, William Sweet), eight transferring to new schools (Jordon Brown, Thomas Jackson, Tyler Pritchett, K.J. Sails, Kayne Roberts, Malik Robinson, Caleb Rozar, Kyle Wright) and three stepping away from football due to medical concerns (C.J. Cotman, Jay-Jay McCargo, Jonah Melton). Of the other six players, one (Nathan Elliott) is leaving for a graduate coaching position, while two (Mason Veal and Johnathan Sutton) have forgone their final year of eligibility and step away from the football field. Antwuan Branch and Gavin Lewis were not with the team in the spring and Wednesday confirmed that they will not be a part of the 2019 Tar Heels. The final player was the surprise of the group, though. Devon Lawrence, who went through the entirety of spring camp at slot receiver before moving back to running back for the spring game after Michael Carter was forced to sit the game out with a hand injury, was not listed on the official roster on Wednesday. While the depth at running back is enough to keep this loss from being a significant one, questions still need to be raised as to why Lawrence has stepped away.
Major Stars Change Numbers
There were some major shakeups, headlined by arguably the two most talented players on the team. Dazz Newsome, who had two solid seasons while wearing #19, will swap numbers with Austyn Chestnut, who wore #5 a year ago. Meanwhile, defensive star Trey Morrison will change his number from #27 to #4 after a fantastic freshman season. Among others who will be making changes are Dyami Brown (#21 to #2), Beau Corrales (#88 to #15) and Greg Ross Jr. (#35 to #10).