Two weeks ahead of the NFL Draft declaration deadline, the Tar Heels have locked up the two players from their 2019 roster that had the best chances of going pro.
Junior linebacker Chazz Surratt was the first to announce he was returning, doing so just shortly after lunchtime on Monday afternoon after the News & Observer’s Jonathan Alexander had reported the news a little while earlier. His return will give the Tar Heels a player that will almost certainly be on the short list of Butkus Award favorites for the 2020 season and a favorite to take home the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award, as well. Surratt will return after an outstanding first season at linebacker, where he finished with 115 total tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, all of which were first or second on this Tar Heels team and ranked near the top amongst linebackers in the ACC. His return means the Tar Heels will bring back seven starters from this 2019 defense that showed major improvement in year one under defensive coordinator Jay Bateman and will now have a leader in the middle, something they may have been lacking had he declared for the draft.
Just a short time later, wide receiver Dazz Newsome announced that he too was returning to school for his senior season via Instagram. The Tar Heels leader in reception from this past year became just the fifth Tar Heel receiver to ever reach the 1,000 yard receiving mark, doing so in the teams bowl game against Temple. He and Dyami Brown combined to become the first receiving duo in the program’s history to both finish with over 1,000 yard and was also the first pair of Tar Heel receivers to both finish with ten or more touchdown receptions. His return means the Tar Heels will lose just one starter from an offense that finished as the season 12th in total offense at season’s end.
Expectations for the 2020 Tar Heels before these announcements were to compete for, if not win, the ACC Coastal next season and make a run at the team’s first ever Orange Bowl appearance. With both of these players set to return, that goal has become even more realistic and has Tar Heel fans feeling as confident as they have about a future season since 2010.