The 2020 Tar Heel football season is set to begin just 72 hours from now against the Syracuse Orange in Chapel Hill. With that, now is the perfect time for a look at our bold predictions for this 2020 Tar Heel football team. Here are our five bold predictions for this season.
Sam Howell Is a Heisman Finalist
With the Big Ten and Pac-12 deciding to sit out fall football (at least starting in September) and some other dynamic players deciding to opt out of the season, the Heisman Trophy field has thinned a little bit at the top, headlined by Justin Fields and Jalen Newman now out of the running. Last year’s stats for Howell were impressive, especially with how successful the Tar Heel running game was a year ago, as well. With the Tar Heels potentially looking to use Howell’s legs more this season with more depth behind him, that should help the Tar Heels offense take another step forward, mainly in the red zone. The most important aspect for Howell’s chances, though, will be the win aspect. Howell had the stats a year ago to at least be in the conversation, but the Tar Heels 7-6 record meant he went with little more than a mention. This season, the expectations for this now veteran team are much higher. If they can live up to those expectations, which I think they will, and Howell can put up the same or even slightly better statistics, he will be one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy later this year.
Don Chapman Leads the Team in Interceptions with Five or More
The first unofficial depth chart released by the Tar Heels on Monday listed Chapman as the starter at free safety, something that shouldn’t come as much of a shock after seeing the games in which he saw action a year ago. In his four starts last year, Chapman pulled down two interceptions, including a game-changing one in the game against NC State. Now with Chapman starting, that aggressiveness should pay off for the Tar Heels in the form of more turnovers. Despite Myles Wolfolk being back after having three interceptions in the first four games of last season, I like Chapman to lead the Tar Heels in interceptions this season with five or more. If he is able to reach that mark, it would be the first time since 2013 that someone has done so.
Tomon Fox Reaches Ten Sack Mark
2013 is also the year you have to go back to to find the last Tar Heel defender to have double-digit sacks in a season. Fox had some big games a year ago, but he is still lacking the consistency, something that he has really been searching for since his freshman season. This year, as a senior leader of this team, that consistency is a must and with the talent that is behind him, that may be just the push he needs to put it all together. That would give him a great chance to reach that 10.0 sack plateau, especially since he had the best season of his career out of his outside linebacker role a year ago. This is also a number that Chazz Surratt could challenge this year, but with Fox being an every down pass rusher, I think he is at least the first one that gets there.
Garrett Walston Finishes the Season With More Than 300 Yards Receiving
Last year’s struggles at tight end are well known and it’s an area where the Tar Heels must show marked improvement in 2020 under new position coach John Lilly. Senior tight end Garrett Walston is the leader of the group after leading all tight ends in receiving a year ago while starting eight games, but the Tar Heels need him to be more of a receiving threat after catching just nine passes for 76 yards a year ago. This could make this pass offense even more dangerous than it already is considering how successfully Howell was able to use his tight ends at the high school level. According to the staff, Walston has stepped his game up so far in fall camp and I think he has a chance to take a nice steps forward and finish this season with 300+ yards and possibly also become a nice red zone threat for the offense in the process.
Joshua Ezeudu Earns First Team All-ACC Honors
This might be the least bold of the predictions on the list, but considering Ezeudu isn’t on nearly any preseason All-ACC teams, it fits the criteria here. The ACC has plenty of talent on the offensive line, don’t get me wrong, but Ezeudu thrived in the final five games of the season after taking over at left guard and he has now had an offseason to improve knowing what his role was set to be. He allowed just one sack a year ago.and it would be shocking if his pass protection success isn;t similar this year. If this Tar Heel offense can put together or even improve upon the numbers from last year and Ezeudu can prove himself a valuable asset to this team, I could see him landing first team All-ACC honors at season’s end.