Injuries have been a huge issue for the Tar Heels ever since the 2016 season and it appears the 2020 season will not be the end of those problems. Although the staff has said that they will not be releasing injury updates until Saturday mornings, we know that the Tar Heels saw four starters go down due to injury in this past weekend’s game against Boston College. If these injuries are long term, there would be some big holes to fill.
Just like a year ago, the position group most affected by the injury issues is the secondary. A unit that was once seen as the deepest on this 2020 team is now beginning to grow thin thanks to opt outs and transfers in the offseason and injuries in season. D.J. Ford, Javon Terry and Bryce Watts announced early in fall camp that they were sitting out the season, while Bryson Richardson and Drew Homschek announced their intentions to transfer later in fall camp. DeAndre Hollins has missed both games so far this season with an upper body injury and both Storm Duck and Ja’Qurious Conley, both of whom were starters for the Tar Heels on Saturday. The nickelback is the position that has been most affected now that Trey Morrison has moved to safety to replace Myles Wolfolk, who is no longer with the team after being deemed academically ineligible. Right now, converted wide receiver Welton Spottsville is the projected starter for the Tar Heels upcoming game against Virginia Tech this Saturday. As for Duck, if his injury is severe enough, the Tar Heels would be without their top cover corner, meaning that Patrice Rene, who has played sparingly since his ACL injury last year, and Obi Egbuna would have to take on extended roles. For this group that began the season with so much depth entering the season, it’s truly amazing how quickly that depth has disappeared.
On the offensive side of the football, the trenches have taken the hardest hit, as two of the Tar Heels’ starters are currently banged up. Joshua Ezeudu was expected to be back with the team this past Saturday, but didn’t make the trip to Chestnut Hill, as he has missed his second straight game with a lower body injury. On Saturday, right tackle Jordan Tucker went down with what appeared to be a lower body injury of his own, leaving some huge question marks for the unit. The Tar Heels are of course hoping both guys will be available for this weekend’s game against a team that wreaked havoc on Sam Howell a year ago. If Ezeudu returns with Tucker out of the lineup, he will move over to left tackle, while current left tackle left tackle Asim Richards would move into Tucker’s spot at right tackle. The real problem starts if both guys are not able to play, as walk-on Quiron Johnson, who took over for Tucker after the injury, would likely be the starter at right tackle. At the least, it looks as if Ed Montiluis will be starting for the foreseeable future and will need to improve upon what we’ve seen from him so far.
Another big concern is the injury to Raymond Vohasek. The news that true freshman Kaimon Rucker will make his first career start on Saturday looks to be related to the situation, as he’ll likely be taking the starting spot of Tomari Fox, who will likely make the move inside to nose tackle where he’ll probably rotate with Jahlil Taylor on Saturday. Losing Vohasek in the middle would be a huge blow, as he has been a force in the middle during the first two games of the season, constantly winning battles and making plays in the defensive backfield. The fact that Virginia Tech is the opponent on Saturday hurts, as well, as the Hokies currently average 319.0 yards per game on the ground.
The good news for the Tar Heels is that Mack Brown and his staff have already built some competitive depth in just a year and a half, but the defensive backfield and offensive line have taken some significant hits. The hope is that the injuries to these starters are that bad, but for right now, the Tar Heels need some new names to step up and the units that don’t have injury problem to help take the pressure off of the ones that are struggling right now.