The Tar Heel team that is set to take the field on Saturday for the Orange Bowl won’t quite be the same as the one that battled the eleven game schedule to get them there. Defensively, the absence of Chazz Surratt will hurt, but the losses of major offensive contributors Dyami Brown, Michael Carter and Javonte Williams definitely draws more concern for a team that has had to put up points to win. Not only will new starters have to step up, but current starters will also need to have big games if the Tar Heels want to be able to win their first ever Orange Bowl appearance. We tell you the five players that we think must have big games if the Tar Heels want to beat Texas A&M.
This one seems pretty obvious, especially with the amount of production that the team is losing in the backfield. Even before the opt outs, this was a game that the Tar Heels were likely going to need a big performance from Howell to win with how good the Aggies run defense had been. Howell is not foreign to putting this team on his back to win games and this may once again be one of those scenarios if the Tar Heels want to finish this season with a major bowl win.
As of right now, it appears that the Tar Heels’ senior slot receiver will play in the game and if he does, they will need him to continue his hot finish to the season with a big performance in this one. With Brown and fellow senior Beau Corrales out of the lineup for this one, Newsome will no doubt be the focal point for both the offensive game plan for the Tar Heels and the defensive one for the Aggies. The staff will have to get creative with how they get him the football, but Newsome will have to make the most of the opportunities when they come his way.
The biggest concerns with the loss of Carter and Williams aren’t just the lack of a run game, but the added pass protection help for Howell. Walston has turned into a weapon for this team as a blocker and he may be asked to help provide some extra help for the offensive line and give Howell time to throw in this one. With all that will be absent from the receiving corps, Walston could also see some more targets in the passing game and it would be a big help if he could step up and be a reliable target for Howell in this one.
The focus of many will be one Eugene Asante in this one, but this will be his first career start so filling the shoes that Surratt leaves behind is a huge task. The Tar Heels will need a big game from Gemmel to help make the transition easier on Asante and help to slow down the dynamic quarterback-running back duo that the Aggies possess. Like Surratt, Gemmel has had a little bit of a rollercoaster season, but they need him to put together one of his best performances of the season in this one if they want to win.
Fox will close his Tar Heel career with Saturday’s game and it would be great if he could close it out on a high note. Getting pressure on Kellen Mond won’t be easy, but the front four needs to be able to at least win the line of scrimmage, especially if they are hoping to take away this Aggies rushing attack.