The Tar Heels season came to a conclusion on Saturday and the attention now shifts to the decisions of some important seniors who will have the option to return for another season in Chapel Hill. While nothing was revealed about the future of the biggest domino yet to fall, Dazz Newsome, Mack Brown did confirm the return of one senior and the possibility of another.
As confirmed by the football program on Monday afternoon, tight end Garrett Walston will be returning to the team for the 2021 season. The former 3✮ recruit in the 2016 class is coming off of the best season of his Tar Heel career where he caught 19 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns while also being a key part of the Tar Heels rushing success with his strong run blocking ability. His return will be a huge boost, as he will be able to help the Tar Heels running game that will be a much less experienced unit and will need strong run blocking ahead of them and will also be a known commodity for Sam Howell, who will likely be losing his top two receivers from each of the past two seasons. His return also allows more time for guys like Kamari Morales, Kendall Karr and John Copenhaver to continue to grow behind him, time that is needed with how little they have played.
According to multiple sources, Mack Brown said in his Monday press conference that senior edge rusher Tomon Fox is also considering a return for 2021. Fox, who tied Lawrence Taylor for fifth in program history with his 21st career sack on Saturday, has finished each of the last two seasons with 10.0+ tackles for loss and 7.0+ sacks, leading the team in both categories in 2020. While he does have some limitations as a run stopper, his pass rushing ability would be welcomed back without question, especially with the inexperience that sits behind him. His return would also mean that the Tar Heels would return all but one starter for a defense that will look to take a big step forward in next season.
Even if Fox was to return, Mack Brown was quoted as saying “we have a lot of scholarships available” when referencing transfer, so there doesn’t seem to be any concerns about scholarship numbers. Walston joins Grayson Atkins, Beau Corrales and Tyrone Hopper as players that will return to help provide some added veteran leadership to the 2021 team that have some hefty expectations. As for Fox, we’ll have to wait and see.