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Heel Tough Blog: Futures of Eleven Tar Heels Revealed

Bob Donnan- USA Today Sports

Monday was Mack Brown’s first meeting with the media in a couple of weeks and there was plenty of talk about the new coaching staff and madness that is the transfer portal and tampering. Along with all that came some important news about the future of eleven members of the Tar Heel roster.

The biggest piece of news was the return of first team All-ACC Cedric Gray for another season in Chapel Hill. Gray led all of the Power 5 in total tackles (137) and solo tackles (76) in what was a monster season for him in the middle of this defense. He led the Tar Heels in tackles for loss with 10.0 and pulled down two interceptions and registered five pass deflections in coverage. He was easily the most consistent member of the Tar Heel defense this season and his return cannot be understated.

Two players along the offensive line are considering returning next season, but will test their NFL Draft stock before making an official decision. Left tackle Asim Richards, who took home second team All-ACC honors late last month, and Corey Gaynor, who was an honorable mention, will both test those waters with the help of running backs coach Larry Porter. Richards graded out as the team’s best pass protector this season according to Pro Football Focus, allowing just two sacks on the year thus far. As for Gaynor, he too allowed just two sacks in the first thirteen games of the season and allowed the fewest pressures of the Tar Heels five full time starters. Richards has one year of eligibility remaining if he chooses to take advantage of it, while Gaynor has sent a waiver claim in an attempt to get an extra season of eligibility.

Four players will take to the final time in their collegiate career in San Diego. Graduate senior receiver Antoine Green will look to close his career out on a high note after a strong final season, where he finished second on the team in receptions (43), receiving yards (798) and touchdown receptions (7) and was second in the ACC and led the team in yards per reception (18.6). Starting left guard Ed Montilus was a bit of a shocker with him still having one year of eligibility remaining, but he told Brown and the staff that he has simply had enough football and is ready to move on. Montilus started all 13 games for the Tar Heels this season, grading out as the team’s second-worst offensive lineman overall and in run-blocking according to Pro Football Focus and was inconsistent in pass protection, allowing four sacks and 28 total pressures. Brian Anderson and Jahlil Taylor, guys who have dealt with injury issues late in their careers and fell out of the rotation in their position rooms, will also close out their careers.

Four other players have been participating in the bowl practices with the team, but will remain in the transfer portal and depart after the Holiday Bowl. Dontae Balfour, Kendall Karr, Dontavius Nash and Keeshawn Silver will all be available to play in the bowl game, but it’s hard to see any of them playing a major role after not doing so during the regular season.

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