Heel Tough Blog: Full Spring Camp Preview

Sunday is one of the key milestones for the Tar Heels’ 2019 season as the team will open spring camp inside of the brand new practice facility that was completed over the offseason. As Mack Brown stated in his press conference yesterday, one of the big focus for the Tar Heels will be building depth through competition, especially on the defensive side of the football. However, building that depth won’t be the easiest task due to the fact that the Heels will be without six scholarship defensive players out for spring camp. Let’s take an in-depth look at each position group and what to expect from each of them this spring.


Lexi Baird- Daily Tar Heel

Quarterbacks

Fully Active

Cade Fortin (RFr.)

Jace Ruder (RFr.)

Sam Howell (Fr.)

Jack Davidson (So.)

Donovan Brewington (Fr.)

Quarterback has been a position of turnover so far this offseason, with most of the changes coming in the week prior to the opening of camp. 2017 starter Chazz Surratt made the move to linebacker official on Tuesday ahead of 2018 starter Nathan Elliott’s departure for Arkansas State as a graduate assistant. That leaves what should be a fantastic quarterback battle between the three remaining scholarship quarterbacks. Mack Brown said in Friday’s press conference that all three guys will enter on level ground and whoever is able to move the ball and put it in the endzone with the most consistency will be the starter. While there is very limited experience here, there is plenty of talent, so depth should not be an issue.


Jeffrey A. Camarati- GoHeels.com

Running Backs

Fully Active

Jordon Brown (Sr.)

Johnathan Sutton (Sr.)

Antonio Williams (Sr.)

Michael Carter (Jr.)

Antwuan Branch (So.)

Javonte Williams (So.)

British Brooks (So.)

Similar to a year ago, this position group is the deepest on the entire football team and should provide some fantastic battles for reps this spring. Michael Carter is probably the best all-around back when healthy, but don’t sleep on Javonte Williams who fought his way into significant snaps as a true freshman. That’s not to mention Antonio Williams, who started for most of last season and Jordon Brown, who is the most experienced and the best receiver out of the backfield. While it may not be the most important of the battles because of the sheer amount of depth, the battle for playing time here will be a crazy one.


Zack Wajsgras- The Daily Progress

Wide Receiver

Fully Active

Beau Corrales (Jr.)

Rontavius Groves (Jr.)

Roscoe Johnson (Jr.)

Dazz Newsome (Jr.)

Dyami Brown (So.)

J.T. Cauthen (So.)

Devon Lawrence (RFr.)

Emery Simmons (Fr.)

Austyn Chestnut (So.)

Austin Chrismon (So.)

Mason Laurence (So.)

Carson Burgess (RFr.)

Gray Goodwyn (RFr.)

Will Forrest (RFr.)

Jalen Nixon (RFr.)

Nick Quigley (RFr.)

Limited

Antoine Green (RFr.)

One of the position changes that was revealed by Mack Brown on Friday was the move of Devon Lawrence from running back to wide receiver. As stated by Coach Brown, the Heels are currently lacking the depth for an air raid offense that will see many four and five wide looks. That is evidenced by the fact that just eight scholarship player will be a full go for the spring. The good news is the Heels will have three receivers who started at least four games a year ago back, but the battles behind those three will be fierce ones. Watch for early enrollee Emery Simmons and the finally fully healthy Rontavius Groves to make some, as well as J.T. Cauthen, who became an afterthought following his leave of absence following spring camp a year ago. The three freshmen that will join the team in the fall will help relieve some of the concern, as will Antoine Green being a full go if his recovery from a brutal ankle continues as expected.


Jeffrey A. Camarati- GoHeels.com

Tight Ends

Fully Active

Jake Bargas (Sr.)

Brandon Fritts (Sr.)

Carl Tucker (Sr.)

Noah Turner (Jr.)

Garrett Walston (Jr.)

Another under-the-radar battle that will begin this spring will be another one that will carry over from last offseason. Carl Tucker and Jake Bargas both started games a year ago with Brandon Fritts on the shelf, but with Fritts coming back after flirting with transferring, this two-horse race has now become a three-horse battle. In the new air raid offense, tight ends will be expected to catch the football more often, but still contribute as a blocker in the run game. All three of the candidate fit that role well, so it will be interesting to see if anyone can separate themselves. The battle for that No. 4 tight spot will an interesting one once again, as Noah Turner and Garrett Walston will try to put themselves in position for reps if injuries occur ahead of them.


Icon Sportswire- Getty Images

Offensive Line

Fully Active

Charlie Heck (Sr.)

Nick Polino (Sr.)

Mason Veal (Sr.)

Jay-Jay McCargo (Jr.)

Brian Anderson (So.)

Marcus McKethan (So.)

Jonah Melton (So.)

Billy Ross (So.)

Jordan Tucker (So.)

William Barnes (RFr.)

Joshua Ezeudu (RFr.)

Ed Montilus (RFr.)

Layton Barber (Jr.)

Quiron Johnson (So.)

Tobechi Nwokeji (So.)

Nick Mackovic (RFr.)

Will Not Participate

Wyatt Tunall (Fr.)

The offensive line will return four of the five starters from a year ago, but not all of those four are guaranteed to start. There were rumors earlier in the offseason that Nick Polino would move to center, meaning he would likely start over Jay-Jay McCargo, so we’ll see if that comes to fruition in the first few days of camp. Regardless of that question mark, there will be a fierce battle to see who will start at left tackle, which will be back to protecting the blindside of the quarterback again this season. Jordan Tucker and William Barnes are the favorites to win the job, but that race will change if the Polino move to center takes place. Some of the depth battles will be interesting, as well, especially at the guard positions.


ESPN Charlotte

Defensive Line

Fully Active

Aaron Crawford (Sr.)

Tomon Fox (Sr.)

Nolan DeFranco (Jr.)

Xach Gill (So.)

Jake Lawler (So.)

Avery Jones (RFr.)

Gavin Lewis (RFr.)

Jahlil Taylor (RFr.)

Brant Lawless (Fr.)

Hunter Sheridan (Sr.)

Alex Nobles (RFr.)

Will Not Participate

Allen Cater (Sr.)

Jason Strowbridge (Sr.)

The Heels knew they were going to be without Allen Cater heading into spring camp, but with Jason Strowbridge’s injury, the will now be thin at the defensive end spot. The conversion to a 3-4 base will help the cause, but the Heels will still need to find someone to start at defensive end opposite of Tomon Fox. In Strowbridge’s absence, expect extra reps for Xach Gill and Jake Lawler. Meawhile, at nose tackle, Aaron Crawford is back after playing just 10 snaps a year ago due to injury and will have some good depth behind him. This picture will look much different in the fall when the Heels welcome in four more true freshmen defensive linemen.


Jim Hawkins- Inside Carolina

Linebackers

Dominique Ross (Sr.)

Chazz Surratt (Sr.)

Chris Collins (So.)

Jeremiah Gemmel (So.)

Kayne Roberts (So.)

Matthew Flint (RFr.)

Lancine Turay (RFr.)

Kyle Wright (RFr.)

Dilan Gonzalez (RFr.)

Parks Cochrane (Fr.)

Will Not Participate

Jonathan Smith (Sr.)

Tyrone Hopper (Jr.)

Austin Dowler (So.)

The Heels move to the 3-4 scheme was expected evoke some depth issues for the team this season, but with Friday’s news that Jonathan Smith will miss the spring due academic issues, the Heels will be extremely thin depth-wise at linebacker in the fall. Dominique Ross should be one of the Heels two inside linebackers, but the rest of the of the starting jobs should be wide open races. Tyrone Hopper was expected to compete for the starting job at one of the outside linebacker spots, but now those battles will likely be headlined by Matthew Flint and Chris Collins and could also see heavy involvement from converted quarterback Chazz Surratt. The key for the Heels in spring here is get out healthy and hope Smith and Hopper can return for fall camp.


Jim Hawkins- Inside Carolina

Defensive Backs

Patrice Rene (Sr.)

K.J. Sails (Sr.)

D.J. Ford (Jr.)

Greg Ross Jr. (Jr.)

Tre Shaw (Jr.)

C.J. Cotman (So.)

Trey Morrison (So.) Bryson Richardson (So.)

DeAndre Hollins (RFr.)

Javon Terry (RFr.)

Storm Duck (Fr.)

Khadry Jackson (Fr.)

Graham Eklund (Sr.)

Jack Dinges (So.)

Ben Stobaugh (So.)

Drew Homschek (RFr.)

Limited

Myles Dorn (Sr.)

Myles Wolfolk (Jr.)

The concern for many here is finding a consistent No. 2 cornerback opposite of Patrice Rene, but with both K.J. Sails and C.J. Cotman a full go following injuries that cost them most of last season and the new defensive scheme, for the most part, eliminating the nickelback position, there will be plenty of competitors for that starting job, as well as a lot of depth. The concern should lie at safety, where the Heels were already thin depth-wise and will now have there top two returning players who played snaps at safety a year ago in Myles Dorn and Myles Wolfolk limited in the spring. That opens the door for guys like D.J. Ford, Javon Terry and even early enrollee Khadry Jackson to see plenty of reps at the safety spots. Also keep an eye on Trey Morrison and Bryson Richardson, two displaced nickelbacks that have the athleticism and open-field tackling ability to play safety in Bateman’s defense.


@noahruggles- Twitter

Special Teams

Noah Ruggles (So.)

Trevor Collins (Sr.)

Mike Selsor (Sr.)

Cooper Graham (So.)

Mats Pokela (So.)

Nicky Solomon (So.)

The only spot that won’t see a battle on special teams this preseason is punt returner, so this will be another interesting position group to watch. Noah Ruggles is the only kicker or punter on scholarship that will be on campus in the spring and could be asked to handle both kicking and punting duties until Ben Kiernan arrives in the fall. Long snapper will be Trevor Collins, who will hope to establish a cushion between himself and true freshman Drew Little, who won’t be in Chapel Hill until the fall. The kick returner battle could be a really fun one, with so many different players having handled those roles during their high school career.


Note: Defensive line group and linebacker groups are not locked in stone with switch to 3-4 scheme. Players that have moved from defensive end to outside linebacker in these projections are not confirmed and may be different when camp opens.


Denotes Scholarship Player

Denotes Walk-On Player