As we enter May, it's time for the annual offseason series. This year, we're going in-depth with a look at the best player to ever where each jersey number. This is a ten part series where we will go ten numbers at a time for ten weeks. This week, we look at the best to wear numbers 81-90 in Tar Heel football history.
#81: Al Goldstien
The No. 81 is thin on success to say the least. Kendrick Singleton had a solid, yet unimpressive finish to his career and John Hammett and Bo Wood also saw similar success here. The good news is, the number was occupied by Al Goldstein, one of the best players of the Tar Heels 1950s era. In his three seasons on campus at Carolina, Goldstein caught 46 passes for 865 yards and four touchdowns, with most of the production coming in his final two seasons. In each of those final two seasons, he earned All-ACC honors, first team in 1958 and second team in 1959. In 1958, Goldstein coupled that first team All-ACC appearance with first team All-American honors, averaging 20.4 yards per catch on his 24 catches.
#82: Alge Crumpler
This is another number that just hasn’t seen a lot of overall success, but there are some solid names up top. Brandon Fritts had a nice three year start to his career before injury caused him to miss his final two seasons at Carolina and Bill Koman was one of the earliest players to occupy the number and is also one of the most productive to wear it to this day. Neither stacks up to our selection here, though. Alge Crumpler is one of the top tight ends in program history after a four year career where he caught 68 passes for 760 yards and five touchdowns. Crumpler earned second team All-ACC honors in both 1997 and 1999 and was a finalist for the Mackey Award and a first team All-ACC member as a senior in 2000. His most complete season may have been the 1997 season where he finished with 278 yards and four touchdowns on 24 catches and helped Jonathan Linton reach the 1,000 yard rushing mark.
#83: Dwight Jones
There is an obvious pick here, but both John Atherton and Gene Brown are players whose careers are just not talked about enough. Dwight Jones is our pick here, though, after his phenomenal four-year career at wide receiver in the jersey. Jones’s 152 career receptions are the eighth-most in program history, his 2,163 receiving yards are the seventh-most in program history and his 16 career receiving touchdowns are sixth-most in program history. The bulk of his production came in his final two seasons in Chapel Hill, including his senior season where he caught 85 passes for 1,196 yards and 12 touchdowns and earned second team All-ACC recognition. Those 85 receptions are the second-most in a single season in program history and the twelve receiving touchdowns are still tied for the most in school history for a single season.
#84: Mike Wilcher
Both Don Kemper and Judge Mattocks had nice careers in the No. 84, but this battle comes down to outside linebacker Mike Wilcher and wide receiver Bug Howard. Howard’s career seems to get overlooked a bit because of the fact that he played with both Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins during his career and he has a real case here. However, we’ll give just a slight edge to Wilcher. He had the tall task of replacing Lawrence Taylor and did so in impressive fashion in the final two seasons of his career. He combined for 20.0 tackles for loss in those final two seasons and as a senior in 1982 he finished with 68 total tackles on the way to earning first team All-ACC honors.
#85: Bob Lacey
The No. 85 is home to some of the best tight ends in program history. Both Charles Waddell and Greg DeLong are worthy of being recognized, but the conversation here ultimately comes down to Eric Ebron and Bob Lacey. Ebron is easily the most decorated tight end in program history, but Lacey was one of the best wide receivers of his era. He was as dominant as any receiver in the ACC in 1962, finishing second in the conference in receptions, while holding the top spot in receiving yards (668) and receiving touchdowns (5). He would follow that up with another strong season in 1963, where he would finish second in the country in receptions (52) and fifth in the nation in receiving yards (568). Those numbers would lead the ACC in both categories. Although his numbers today barely hold on to top 20 spots in the Tar Heel record books, he is still one of the top pass catchers in program history.
#86: Ebenezer Ekuban
Edwin Kahn had some very early success in the number at guard way back in early 30s and guys like Ken Taylor and Jon Hamlett had some nice production in the number that has been primarily dominated by tight ends. However, the man we’ll go with here is a converted tight end who had a great finish to his career at defensive end. Ebenezer Ekuban made the most of his move from tight end to defensive end prior to his junior season in Chapel Hill, finishing his final two seasons with 136 total tackles and 12.0 sacks.. As a senior in 1998, Ekuban finished with 96 total tackles and 7.0 sacks and earned first team All-ACC recognition, all while helping to stabilize a defense that was in the process of being completely rebuilt.
#87: Greg Ellis
This is the most decorated in this edition of the series and definitely has a solid case as the most productive in program history. Dick Buck and Stan Marczyk are old timers who you don’t hear a lot about, but had nice careers while donning the number. Ryan Sims had big shoes to fill when he took over the number, but put together a good career in the number that is also home to Brandon Tate, one of the best returners in program history and a solid receiver, as well. Paul Severin would easily be the pick if he wore any other number because of his success which included two All-American selections. However, there is no topping Greg Ellis here. To this day, Ellis still holds the program record for sacks in a career with 32.5 and his 50.0 tackles for loss are third in program history. In all four of his seasons at Carolina, Ellis finished with at least 5.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks and had at least 18.0 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks in each of his final two seasons. Ellis was a three-time first team All-ACC selection, picking up the honors in 1995, ‘96 and ‘97 and earned All-American honors in both 1996 (2nd team) and 1997 (1st team). Ellis was also a finalist for the Lombardi Award in 1997, as well, after finishing the season with 87 total tackles, 18.0 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks.
#88: Hakeem Nicks
The No. 88 is an extremely accomplished number, as well, as it is home to some of the best pass catchers in program history. Buddy Payne, Sam Aiken and Erik Highsmith all left their mark on the program’s record books, but our pick here is Hakeem Nicks. The Butch Davis-era star still sits second in program history for receiving yards in a career with 2,840 and receiving touchdowns in a career with 21, while his 181 career receptions are third in Tar Heel history. Nicks earned second team All-ACC honors as a sophomore in 2007, before exploding in his senior season, finishing with 68 receptions for 1,222 yards (most in a single season in program history) and 12 touchdowns (tied for the most in a single season), picking up first team All-ACC recognition. Nicks left after his junior season for the NFL or else he would likely top all of the career receiving categories with ease.
#89: Sherrod Peace
There are not a lot of big names here, but there are some very solid players here. Bob Hume was a nice pass catching weapon for the Tar Heel in the mid-60s, as was Bobby Blizzard in the early-2000s after his transfer from Kentucky. However, we’ll go with another former transfer as our pick here. Sherrod Peace spent just two seasons on campus at Carolina, but it was a strong two seasons. Helping to replace the historic Mack Brown-era defensive lines of the mid-90s, Peace combined with Ekuban, who we talked about above, and then a young Julius Peppers to help the rebuilt line have some success. Peace finished his first season in Chapel Hill with 57 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, while starting just nine of the team’s twelve games. His second season wasn’t nearly as successful, but he still was a steady force in the middle of the defense starting all eleven games for the team at defensive tackle, finishing with 36 total tackles.
#90: Quinton Coples
We fully shift our attention to the defensive line as we hit the final number of this edition. Nazair Jones and Kentwan Balmer had nice careers in the number, but this battle comes down to Vonnie Holliday and Quinton Coples. Although Holliday had a lot of success while occupying the number, Couples has the advantage here. Despite not being a full-time starter until his junior season, Couples is still tied for third in program history in sacks with 24.0 in his career. In each of his final two seasons at Carolina, Couples had at least 55 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks and earned first team All-ACC honors. He finished his career with 144 total tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss and 24.0 sacks.