One of the main concerns for the Tar Heels in the spring was the depth defensively. Two players who were expected to battle it out for the starting cornerback job opposite of Patrice Rene (K.J. Sails and C.J. Cotman) both stepped away from the team during spring camp, leaving some major depth concerns at corner, epsecially with Corey Bell Jr. heading to the offensive side of the football. While Mack Brown maintained that the Tar Heel secondary was in good shape late into the spring, the lack of depth was evident during April’s spring and seemed to force Brown and his staff to look to the transfer portal for a solution. The Heels landed Auburn transfer Cam’Ron Kelly, who entered the portal shortly after early enrolling at Auburn, but has yet to be cleared by the NCAA.
On Sunday, the Heels would add more help at the corner position with the commitment of Virginia Tech transfer Bryce Watts. Last year, as a sophomore, Watts was a starter in 12 of the Hokies 13 games, finishing with 29 total tackles, one interception and seven pass deflections. Watts was expected to be a starter once again this fall, but announced his intent to transfer back on May 31st. Watts took an official visit to Chapel Hill this weekend and choose to conclude his visit with a commitment.
Watts will have to receive a waiver from the NCAA to play this season, something that would be a huge break for the Heels who are still looking for a solid answer opposite of Patrice Rene. Greg Ross Jr. had a strong spring, but was picked on heavily a year ago in his six games as a starter, and Tre Shaw had a good showing in spring, as well, but has never contributed in anything more than a special teams role. Storm Duck showed some flashes in the spring, but had some freshman moments as expected and would have a tough task having to start as a freshman. Watts is a proven commodity and, if he was deemed eligible, would immediately become the favorite to win that starting job.
The Heels have done a good job of replacing Sails and Cotman through the transfer portal. There is still some concern at linebacker and safety, though, so don’t count out the possibility of the Heels testing the market again this offseason.