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Heel Tough Blog: Midseason Grades

With the victory over Georgia Tech, the Tar Heels have hit the halfway point of the 2019 season. That means that is time to give out our midseason grades for each position group and tell you where each group stands as we make the turn towards the home stretch of the 2019 season. Let’s take a look at how each position graded out for the first half of the season.

Neil Redmond- AP Photo

Quarterbacks: A-

Sam Howell (Fr.): 453 snaps, 123-195, 1544 yds, 15-3 TD-INT, 56 rush, 15 yds, TD

Jace Ruder (RFr.): 8 snaps, 1-2, 7 yds, 4 rush, 22 yds

Vincent Amendola (Fr.): DNP

Donovan Brewington (Fr.): DNP

Howell has the Tar Heels feeling as confident about the state of the quarterback position as they have in a while. Outside of the first half against Wake Forest, Howell has been able to move the ball in crucial moments, especially in the fourth quarter, where he has simply been flawless. Two comeback wins and a near upset of Clemson were great highlights for Howell and he closed the first half of the season with his best performance of his young career a week ago against Georgia Tech. Jace Ruder is the only other quarterback to take a snap this season, most of which came against Wake Forest. Ruder is currently out indefinitely with a leg injury suffered on his only snap against Appalachian State, leaving true freshman walk-on Vincent Amendola as his backup. Barring injury or a blowout, Howell will likely play every snap the rest of the way.

UNC Athletic Communications

Running Backs: B+

Javonte Williams (So.): 204 snaps, 83 rush, 492 yds, 3 TD, 10 rec, 96 yds

Michael Carter (Jr.): 234 snaps, 84 rush, 387 yds, 0 TD, 13 rec, 107 yds, 2 TD

Antonio Williams (Sr.): 29 snaps 10 rush, 64 yds, 0 TD, 1 rec, 7 yds

Josh Henderson (Fr.): 1 snap

British Brooks (RFr.): DNP

Entering the season, many thought this would be a three-headed rushing attack, but instead the duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter has taken over with a phenomenal start to the season. The two have combined for 879 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry, but have only combined for three touchdowns, all of which belong to Javonte Williams. Both backs have had good seasons out of the backfield catching the football, especially Carter who has 107 receiving yards and two touchdowns so far. The duo has given the Tar Heels a running game that it really lacked a year ago, but the team would like to see the two become just a little more consistent. Antonio Williams is occasionally thrown in as the change of pace option, but, barring injury, it doesn’t appear as if receive a more significant role in the second half of the season. Both British Brooks and Josh Henderson have played in games this season, but almost all of the action has come on special teams.

Chris Seward- AP Photo

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-

Dyami Brown (So.): 445 snaps, 24 rec, 424 yds, 5 TD, 1 rush, 2 yds

Dazz Newsome (Jr.): 317 snaps, 29 rec, 367 yds, 3 TD, 1 rush, 2 yds

Beau Corrales (Jr.): 338 snaps, 18 rec, 213 yds, 3 TD

Rontavius Groves (Jr.): 175 snaps, 16 rec, 166 yds, 0 TD, 3 rush, 11 yds

Antoine Green (So.): 82 snaps, 2 rec, 64 yds

Carl Tucker (Sr.): 225 snaps, 4 rec, 50 yds, TD

Garrett Walston (Jr.): 159 snaps, 3 rec, 33 yds, TD

Emery Simmons (Fr.): 20 snaps, 2 rec, 19 yds

Jake Bargas (Sr.): 68 snaps, 1 rec, 2 yds

Noah Turner (Jr.): 2 snaps

Khafre Brown (Fr.): 3 snap

Corey Bell Jr. (Sr.): DNP

Brandon Fritts (Sr.): DNP (injury)

Roscoe Johnson (Jr.): DNP

Dom Samson (Jr.): DNP

Austyn Chestnut (So.): DNP

Austin Chrismon (So.): DNP

Mason Laurence (So.): DNP

Carson Burgess (RFr.): DNP

Gray Goodwyn (RFr.): DNP

Nick Quigley (RFr.): DNP

Will Crowley (Fr.): DNP

Kamari Morales (Fr.): DNP

Justin Olson (Fr.): DNP

Jeffrey Saturday (Fr.): DNP

Welton Spottsville (Fr.): DNP

The receiving has had a strong season, led by the breakout of Dyami Brown. The sophomore had a quiet start to his career a year ago, but has found the endzone in all but one of the Tar Heels first six contests. He currently leads the team in receiving and is filling the role as the Tar Heels primary deep threat well after the team lacked one in each of the past two seasons. Meanwhile, Newsome has continued to build on last year’s success and has become the top target for Howell, especially on the important downs. Newsome is still the Tar Heels most dangerous threat after the catch and that has been a huge plus for this Tar Heel passing game. Corrales has become that solid third option after being listed behind Green, but has taken advantage of the opportunity and might just be the team best redzone option. Groves has become a strong rotational option in the slot and has already put together the best season of his career. Green is battling back from his injury, but he did play in the Georgia Tech game, meaning he should be ready to go for the second half of the season. Emery Simmons and Khafre Brown are the only other receivers to take snaps this season.

The tight end position is the main reason this grade is not higher. The unit has shown major improvement in run blocking, but has combined for just eight receptions this season. A healthier second half from Carl Tucker, though, could be just what this Tar Heels need to start seeing more production from their tight ends.

Jeremy Brevard- USA Today Sports

Offensive Line: C+

Marcus McKethan (So.): 450 snaps

Jordan Tucker (So.): 412 snaps

Brian Anderson (So.): 394 snaps

Charlie Heck (Sr.): 376 snaps

Ed Montilus (RFr.): 359 snaps

Joshua Ezeudu (RFr.): 173 snaps

Billy Ross (So.): 76 snaps

Nick Polino (Sr.): 66 snaps

William Barnes (RFr.): 1 snap

Ty Murray (Fr.): 1 snap

Layton Barber (Jr.): DNP

Tobechi Nwokeji (So.): DNP

Avery Jones (RFr.): DNP

Nick Mackovic (RFr.): DNP

Jacob Setterlind (RFr.): DNP

Noland Brown (Fr.): DNP

Triston Miller (Fr.): DNP

Asim Richards (Fr.): DNP

Hunter Shope (Fr.): DNP

Wyatt Tunall (Fr.): DNP

A unit that struggled early in the season, they closed the first half of the season with their best two performances to this point. After allowing 19 sacks in the first five games, nine more than they allowed all of 2018, the unit allowed just one to Georgia Tech. Overall, the unit has had a good in run blocking situations, paving the way for a Tar Heel running game that is averaging 163.7 yards per game on the ground. Heck is the anchor of this unit and he was desperately missed in the game that he missed against Appalachian State. Tucker has been solid at the right tackle spot, making the biggest difference with his run blocking this season. The two starting guards, McKethan and Montilus, have had their ups and downs, but appear to be settling into their roles as the weeks have progressed. Anderson had a rough start after taking over for Polino after his injury, but his performance against Georgia Tech was an encouraging way to close the first half of the season for him. Ezeudu struggled in his one start at left tackle in the Appalachian State game, but has been a decent rotational option at the tackle and guard spots. Ross played major snaps against Appalachian State, but hasn’t played much outside of that game after starting every game a year ago. Barnes and Murray are the only other offensive linemen to take an offensive snaps. Others such as Asim Richards have taken some snaps on special teams.

Jeffrey A. Camarati- GoHeels

Defensive Lineman/Pass Rushers: B

Aaron Crawford (Sr.): 317 snaps, 29 ttkl, 6.5 TFL, 3.0 scks

Tomon Fox (Sr.): 330 snaps, 24 ttkl, 6.5 TFL, 4.5 scks, FF

Jason Strowbridge (Sr.): 247 snaps, 13 ttkl, 2.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, FR

Allen Cater (Sr.): 205 snaps, 12 ttkl, 2.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, PD

Tyrone Hopper (Jr.): 113 snaps, 10 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sck

Tomari Fox (Fr.): 172 snaps, 9 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

Raymond Vohasek (So.): 60 snaps, 6 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

Xach Gill (So.): 94 snaps, 4 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

Jahlil Taylor (RFr.): 76 snaps, 2 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

Jake Lawler (So.): 14 snaps

Nolan DeFranco (Jr.): DNP

Hunter Sheridan (Jr.): DNP

Chris Collins (So.): DNP

Quiron Johnson (So.): DNP

Dilan Gonzalez (RFr.): DNP

Lancine Turay (RFr.): DNP

Wisdom Asaboro (Fr.): DNP

Kevin Hester (Fr.): DNP

Brant Lawless-Sherrill (Fr.): DNP

Kristian Varner (Fr.): DNP

This was the strength of this Tar Heel defense entering the season, but injuries have prevented this unit from being as effective as many thought they could be. Crawford has had a phenomenal start to his senior season and looks as if he is on pace to make even more noise in the second half of the season with some favorable matchups. Tomon Fox is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss and leads the team in sacks, but needs to find a little more consistency after disappearing after the Miami game before re-emerging against Georgia Tech. Strowbridge was off to a solid start before suffering an injury against Miami and hasn’t been as effective since, but this bye week might be exactly what he needs to get back to form. Cater has began to gain some momentum as a RUSH linebacker after a bit of a slow start to season with strong showings against Clemson and Georgia Tech. Hopper has settled into his role well so far at outside linebacker and Tomari Fox has gotten his career off to a positive start in the first six weeks. Vohasek got the start at defensive end early in the season, but has now settled into the rotational role behind Tomari Fox after struggling to get penetration. Both Gill and Taylor have done a decent job in their backup roles, but haven’t been overly productive so far, however, they should only continue to improve as the season progresses. Lawler is the only other pass rusher/defensive lineman to see defensive reps this season, although a few others have seen significant special teams reps.

Chris Seward- AP Photo

Linebackers: B+

Chazz Surratt (Jr.): 274 snaps, 46 ttkl, 5.5 TFL, 3.0 scks, 2 PD

Jeremiah Gemmel (So.): 339 snaps, 39 ttkl, 2.5 TFL, 0.5 sck, FF, PD

Dominique Ross (Sr.): 203 snaps, 20 ttkl, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sck, 3 PD

Jonathan Smith (Sr.): 49 snaps, 3 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

Khadry Jackson (Fr.): 10 snaps, 2 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

Matthew Flint (RFr.): 3 snaps, 1 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks

Eugene Asante (Fr.): 7 snaps

Parks Cochrane (Fr.): DNP

Jake Harkelroad (Fr.): DNP

The biggest question on this Tar Heel defense entering the season, this linebacking corps is now a strength of this defense. The three-man rotation the Tar Heels have used most of the year has worked wonders, led by the new star of the defense in Surratt who looks like he has been playing out of position for years with just how well he has played in the middle of the Tar Heel defense. He has combined with Gemmel, who has finally been able to build on a good showing in the offseason under the new staff, to form a fearsome twosome at inside linebacker that has helped the Heels to hold opponents to just 160.8 yards per game this season. They combined with the veteran Ross, who was great in the rotational role and is now even being used a little bit at outside linebacker, to form a group that has played about as well as a linebacking corps has since Butch Davis left campus. The only concern is the depth at this point. Main depth option Jonathan Smith is no longer with the team after some academic issues and some dissatisfaction with his role and Flint is out for the season with leg fracture, leaving Asante and Jackson as the main depth options. Both have seen limited reps, but could be counted on late in the year if any injuries occur. Cochrane and Harkelroad haven’t seen any defensive reps yet, but have seen some on special teams and need to be ready, especially if Jackson is needed at safety because of the injury issue there.

UNC Athletic Communications

Defensive Backs: B-

Myles Dorn (Sr.): 389 snaps, 43 ttkl, 3.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 1 INT, 2 PD

Myles Wolfolk (Jr.): 257 snaps, 24 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 3 INT, 0 PD

D.J. Ford (Jr.): 252 snaps, 24 ttkl, 1.5 TFL, 0.0 scks, 1 INT, 0 PD

Trey Morrison (So.): 279 snaps, 21 ttkl, 0.5 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 INT, 3 PD

Greg Ross (Jr.): 265 snaps, 19 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 INT, 2 PD

Storm Duck (Fr.): 158 snaps, 13 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 INT, PD

Cam’Ron Kelly (Fr.): 51 snaps, 7 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 INT, 0 PD

Patrice Rene (Sr.): 73 snaps, 6 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 INT, 0 PD

Don Chapman (Fr.): 71 snaps, 5 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 1 INT, 0 PD

DeAndre Hollins (RFr.): 31 snaps, 3 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 INT, 0 PD

Javon Terry (RFr.): 7 snaps, 3 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 INT, 0 PD

Obi Egbuna (Fr.): 7 snaps, 2 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 INT, PD

Graham Eklund (Sr.): 1 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 INT, 0 PD

Tre Shaw (So.): 1 ttkl, 0.0 TFL, 0.0 scks, 0 INT, 0 PD

Bryson Richardson (So.): DNP (injury)

Drew Homschek (RFr.): DNP

Val Edwards (Fr.): DNP

If you want to see a unit that has been torn apart by injury, look no further than the secondary. Richardson was deemed out before the season started, but Rene (torn ACL) and Kelly (torn ACL) have joined him as the season has gone along. Wolfolk (broken foot) and Morrison (broken arm) are currently out for an indefinite period of time, while Shaw’s status is still in question due to an undisclosed injury. The good news is that Dorn has been able to stay healthy, and while he has had some moments where he’s been beat in coverage, he has been phenomenal everywhere else and is having a great overall start to his senior campaign. Ford is the only other starter that remains healthy from the opener. He has had a solid, but inconsistent start, but will be counted on more in the second half of the season, as he’ll play both nickel and safety. Duck has been fantastic after being thrown to the wolves against Clemson and Mack Brown is expecting big things from him in the second half of the season. Ross will have to start once again, but will start the second half off of his worst game of the season. Chapman will start at safety until Wolfolk can return and his first career start was a successful one. Egbuna, Terry and Hollins will all help to provide depth at corner, while also moonlighting at safety. As for the guys who haven’t received defensive snaps, they must be ready in case more injuries occur. Even with all of the injuries issues, this group is still having a solid season, only allowing 211.0 yards per game through the air.

Jim Hawkins- Inside Carolina

Special Teams: C

Michael Rubino (Sr.): 25 KO, 60.1 avg, 13 TB

Michael Carter (Jr.): 10 KR, 24.8 avg

Trevor Collins (Jr.): 27 snaps

Dazz Newsome (Jr.): 6 PR, 8.2 avg

Garrett Walston (Jr.): 2 KR, 6.0 avg

Cooper Graham (So.): 27 holds

Noah Ruggles (So.): 15-15 XP, 8-12 FG, Long of 49

Ben Kiernan (Fr.): 34 punts, 41.8 avg

Drew Little (Fr.): 34 snaps

Special teams was a gigantic question mark entering the fall and it remains one as we hit the midway point. Carter and Newsome have both been solid, yet unspectacular with neither getting many opportunities so far this season. Ruggles has been solid from short range, but has struggled with the deeper kicks. Kiernan had some ups and downs early in the season, but has become the most consistent member of this special teams unit and a weapon to help flip field position and give this Tar Heel defense a field to defend. Rubino has been solid on kickoffs, but the staff would like to see that touchback percentage increase with the struggles the unit has had on kick coverage. The biggest area of concern for this unit is the kick and punt coverage units and with all of the injuries at key positions, this unit will be playing a lot of young and inexperienced guys the rest of the season.

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