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Heel Tough Blog: Georgia State Preview

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

Jim Dedmon- USA Today Sports

The Tar Heels will head on the road for the second consecutive week on Saturday to face a Sun Belt team as they return the favor to Georgia State after the Panthers' trip to Chapel Hill last year. This year’s team will hope to find the same success against Shawn Elliott’s squad that they did a year ago while also finding some answers for a struggling defense. If the Tar Heels can win this one, they could head into the bye week 3-0 with two weeks to prepare for Notre Dame.

Team Breakdowns

Tar Heels

The Tar Heel offense looks about as dangerous as it has ever been through the first two games of the season. Drake Maye is off to one of the better starts to a college career for a quarterback and has the nation buzzing with the prospects of just how special his career could possibly be. He currently leads the nation in passing yards and passing touchdowns and leads the team in rushing, all while drawing comparisons to Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert. While Maye deserves a lot of the credit, so do the other pieces of this offense. The receiver room looks about as deep as it has ever looked in terms of players capable of producing. Josh Downs is still clearly the star of the unit, but with him out of the lineup on Saturday, the young guys stepped up to make big plays. Kobe Paysour was outstanding out of the slot in place of Downs and the staff has to find a way to keep him involved even when the preseason All-American does return to the lineup. J.J. Jones is off to a nice start to his sophomore season, as well, and had a very nice showing on Saturday that should allow him to maintain a role even once Antoine Green returns. Gavin Blackwell was much quieter on Saturday than he was in the opener, but he still has the ability to be a significant contributor for this team after a promising fall and solid opener. The tight ends have looked tremendous out of the gate led by Bryson Nesbit, who certainly looks like the best receiving tight end the team has had since Eric Ebron out of the gate. Kamari Morales is also off to a really solid start and looks like he has taken the next step this season, too. The running game wasn’t nearly as productive on Saturday as it was in the opener, but it is still a unit that provides plenty of potential and excitement. The true freshman duo of Omarion Hampton and George Pettaway both found the endzone again on Saturday and showed some nice things, while D.J. Jones and Caleb Hood both made big plays for the team that were an important part of why the Tar Heels were able to come away with a win. The offensive line has some things to clean up in terms of penalties, they are off to a solid start overall and look much more stout than a year ago. Head coach Mack Brown said in his presser on Wednesday, though, that the offense hasn’t looked that sharp this week in practice and that he is “concerned”. Hopefully, this group can respond on Saturday because right now this is a unit that must produce at an extremely high level every single week to keep winning games.

The reason that the offense must stay highly productive is because of the fact that this Tar Heel defense is off to you one of the worst starts in program history. The 40-point fourth quarter by Appalachian State last week was the most points ever allowed by a Tar Heel defense. They simply need to step up, but right now it is a case of not trusting them to do so until they can prove it. It has to start up front where the potential still hasn’t transitioned into success. Guys like Myles Murphy and Des Evans have had slow starts to the season after being expected to break out this year. Those guys and some of the other young parts have to start to step up and be able to win the line of scrimmage the way that many were hoping they could heading into the season. Meanwhile, at linebacker, the flashes of promise have been there for the trio of Cedric Gray, Power Echols and RaRa Dillworth. It now becomes about consistency and cleaning up some of the missed tackle issues that plagued them on Saturday in Boone. The secondary is the position group whose struggles might be the most surprising because of the players who are struggling and how bad the issues have been. Storm Duck has been torched in each of the first two games of the season after some excitement about his return to the lineup after injuries plagued him the last two seasons. None of the other corners have looked particularly good either, though, something that has to change and quickly. At safety, communication doesn’t appear to have gotten any better; in fact, it may have gotten worse. Cam’Ron Kelly and Giovanni Biggers have both continued to struggle with inconsistencies and simply have to improve and do so quickly. The depth takes a hit if Don Chapman doesn’t play while dealing with his legal issue, but the return of Ja’Qurious Conley would be a boost, although it’s unlikely for this weekend.

The special teams unit is off to a strong start of their own to this season. Placekicker Noah Burnette nailed his first two field goals of his career on Saturday and punter Ben Kiernan has shown some nice length on his punts so far this season. The return has been reliable so far despite limited opportunities. Enough can’t be said about how special the hands team was a week ago when the team needed it the most. The coverage units have also looked very solid thus far.

Georgia State

The Panthers will come into this one playing some of the best football in their program’s history, having won seven of their last nine games. Offensively, everything begins with the team’s ability to run the football, something that the Tar Heels were able to keep in check a year ago. That means the combo of Tucker Gregg and Jamyest Williams, who combined for 1,812 yards and 18 touchdowns a year ago, will be looking to prove last year’s game was a fluke. They’ll run behind an offensive line that returns three starters, anchored by super senior center Malik Sumter. Quarterback Darren Grainger will be looking to bounce back from a slow start to the season last weekend in Columbia and produce the way that he did after taking over as the starter last season. He is an unknown to the Tar Heel defense who didn’t face him for the majority of the game last season in Chapel Hill. At wide receiver, Jamari Thrash is the lone returning starter and he showed that on Saturday in Columbia.

The Panthers' defense will provide the Tar Heels with their stiffest test of the season so far. They have held each of their last four opponents to an average of 52 yards per game, including last week at South Carolina where they allowed just 79 yards on 32 carries. It all begins with that defensive front, which is a veteran-ladened unit. Javon Denis and Thomas Gore anchor the group in the middle, while Jamil Muhammad is now a full-time starter after producing at a high level a year ago as a rotational player. The linebacking corps is led by a couple of outstanding veteran inside linebackers. Blake Carroll and Jordan Veneziale form one of the best linebacker duos at the Group of 5 level and could wreak havoc if the Tar Heels aren’t careful. In the secondary, Antavious Lane is back after a tremendous finish to the 2021 season and was a preseason first team All-Sun Belt selection. At corner, both Quavian White and Bryquice Brown are back and White is coming off a sensational performance in the opener against South Carolina.

The special teams for the Panthers are dominated by two guys. Michael Hayes, the team’s punter for each of the past two seasons, will now handle all of the team kicking duties, while Quavian White will handle both the kick and punt return jobs.

Team Stats

Tar Heels

Off. PPG: 59.5 (6th)

Off. PYPG: 323.0 (26th)

Off. RYPG: 264.5 (21st)

Off. TYPG: 587.5 (7th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 61.5% (T-14th)

Tackles For A Loss Allowed: 9.0 (T-107th)

Sacks Allowed: 3.0 (T-91st)

Def. PPG: 42.5 (116th)

Def. PYPG: 320.0 (111th)

Def. RYPG: 172.0 (T-94th)

Def. TYPG: 492.0 (T-114th)

Def. 3rd Down %: 44.0% (94th)

Tackles for A Loss: 8.0 (T-33rd)

Sacks: 4.0 (T-13th)

Interceptions: 2 (T-15th)

Turnover Margin: +2 (T-10th)

Penalties Per Game: 8.5 (T-106th)

Penalty Yards Per Game: 87.5 (122nd)

Georgia State

Off. PPG: 14.0 (T-109th)

Off. PYPG: 111.0 (T-123rd)

Off. RYPG: 200.0 (T-45th)

Off. TYPG: 311.0 (T-108th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 29.4% (T-104th)

Tackles For A Loss Allowed: 6.0 (T-74th)

Sacks Allowed: 0.0 (T-1st)

Def. PPG: 35.0 (T-96th)

Def. PYPG: 227.0 (76th)

Def. RYPG: 79.0 (T-30th)

Def. TYPG: 306.0 (45th)

Def. 3rd Down %: 21.4% (T-20th)

Tackles for Loss: 7.0 (T-48th)

Sacks: 3.0 (T-30th)

Interceptions: 2 (T-15th)

Turnover Margin: +1 (T-29th)

Penalties Per Game: 8.0 (T-97th)

Penalty Yards Per Game: 75.0 (T-100th)

Injury Report

Tar Heels

OUT- British Brooks (lower leg), Ja’Qurious Conley (knee), Antoine Green (collarbone), Jahlil Taylor (lower body)

DOUBT- Don Chapman (off-field)

QUEST- Josh Downs (right leg), Caleb Hood (lower body), Spencer Rolland (lower body)

Projected Starting Lineups

Tar Heels Offense

QB#10 Drake Maye, RFr.

RB#26 D.J. Jones, Jr.

WR# 5 J.J. Jones, So.

WR# 2 Gavin Blackwell, RFr.

WR# 8 Kobe Paysour, RFr.

TE#88 Kamari Morales, Jr. OR #18 Bryson Nesbit, So. OR #81 John Copenhaver, So.

LT#72 Asim Richards, Sr.

LG#63 Ed Montilus, Sr,

C#65 Corey Gaynor, Sr.

RG#76 William Barnes, Sr. OR #52 Jonathan Adorno, So.

RT#75 Spencer Rolland, Sr. OR #76 William Barnes, Sr. Defense

NOSE#51 Raymond Vohasek, Sr. OR #98 Kevin Hester Jr., Jr.

3-TECH# 8 Myles Murphy, Jr.

END#10 Des Evans, Jr.

JACK# 7 Noah Taylor, Sr. OR #17 Chris Collins, Sr.

MIKE#23 Power Echols, So.

ILB#33 Cedric Gray, Jr.

CB# 1 Tony Girmes, Jr.

BS#27 Giovanni Biggers, Sr.

FS# 9 Cam’Ron Kelly, Sr.

CB# 3 Storm Duck, Jr.

STAR#16 DeAndre Boykins, So. Special Teams

K#98 Noah Burnette, So.

KOS#95 Jonathan Kim, Sr.

P#91 Ben Kiernan, Sr.

LS#61 Drew Little, Sr.

H#91 Ben Kiernan, Sr.

KR#28 Omarion Hampton, Fr.

PR# 9 Cam’Ron Kelly, Sr.

Georgia State Offense

QB# 3 Darren Grainger, Sr.

RB#26 Tucker Gregg, Sr. OR #21 Jamyest Williams, Sr. OR #23 Marcus Carroll, So.

WR#14 Robert Lewis, So.

WR# 0 Terrance Dixon, Sr.

WR# 2 Jamari Thrash, Jr.

TE#84 Kris Byrd, So.

LT#75 Bryson Broadway, Jr.

LG#73 Travis Glover, Sr.

C#62 Malik Sumter, Sr.

RG#64 Pat Bartlett, Sr.

RT#79 Montaviouys Cunningham, RFr. Defense

OLB# 1 Jontredy Hunter, Sr.

DE#98 Javon Denis, Jr.

NG#59 Thomas Gore, Jr.

DE#54 Tre Moore, Sr.

OLB# 9 Jamil Muhammad, Jr.

ILB#42 Blake Corrall, Sr.

ILB#40 Jordan Veneziale, Sr.

S#10 Jacorey Crawford, Sr.

S#34 Antavious Lane, Jr.

CB#20 Quavian White, Sr.

CB# 5 Bryquice Brown, Jr. Special Teams

K#39 Michael Hayes, Jr.

KO#39 Michael Hayes, Jr.

P#39 Michael Hayes, Jr.

SN#66 Seth Glausier, Sr.

HO#94 Kade Loggins, So.

PR#20 Quavian White, Sr.

KR#20 Quavian White, Sr.

Game Information

Location: Center Parc Credit Union Stadium, Atlanta, GA

Time: 12:00 PM


Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network (check local affiliates)



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