The Tar Heels 2023 fall camp is now a few days old, as the team steams towards the season opener against South Carolina attempting to bounce back from the four straight losses they suffered to close last season. The team did a lot of good things in the spring that this staff wants to see them carry over and build upon over the next few weeks and so far, the indications are that they have. There are a lot of very interesting names to keep an eye on right now, but here is a look at the five names we think are the most important to keep tabs on over the next few weeks.
Huzzie had one of the best springs of anyone on the team and will have a chance to solidify himself as one of the best players on this defense over the next few weeks. He split his time between outside corner and nickel in the spring, but it looks like he will start on the outside with the blue team opposite of Marcus Allen, who flashed late last season. Brown has raved all offseason about what he has seen from Huzzie, mainly his ability to play the ball and create turnovers. If Huzzie can build upon what he did in the spring, he could be the face of this rebuilding secondary that simply has to be better than they were a year ago.
When it was revealed early in the spring that Barnes would move to left tackle to take over for Asim Richards, there was some skepticism. Last year, Barnes graded out as the offensive line’s second-worst starter in all three of the major categories according to Pro Football Focus, allowing two sacks and 27 total pressures while playing right guard. His numbers the year before when he played as a rotational tackle don’t inspire much confidence either. These next couple of weeks will be a chance for him to prove that he can be a reliable left tackle for a team that desperately needs better offensive line play.
Blackwell was a starter for the team at the beginning of last season with the injury to Antoine Green and he has an excellent chance to win that starting job back this fall. In the first day of fall camp on Wednesday, he saw the most snaps with the blue team along with Tez Walker and Nate McCollum. With it appearing like the staff doesn’t want to use Kobe Paysour on the outside, there is no reason to think that won’t continue moving forward. He did some nice things when he was on the field a year ago and if he can continue to show the staff what they raved about in the spring, it’s hard to see him not winning the starting job opposite of Walker.
After showing flashes late last season, Shaw will look to take another step this season and become a consistent contributor this fall. He has slimmed down this offseason, going from 375 lbs. down to 340, but the biggest challenge that remains for him is stamina. In the next few weeks, he will have to prove that he is in good enough shape to play a significant amount of reps for this team. The talent is there and the impact that he had late last year in the middle is sorely needed, so hopefully he can prove himself enough to play a significant amount this year.
Campbell had a tremendous spring camp and has set himself up to be the primary backup at inside linebacker. The staff raved about him at the end of the spring and Mack Brown continued that praise on Wednesday after the first practice. The question that Campbell has to answer is whether can he be trusted to play significant snaps for this team if they need him to. If he can show them enough, he might just be able to take some pressure off of Cedric Gray and Power Echols and allow them to be fresher and more impactful late in the season.