The Tar Heels were back on the practice field Monday morning at the Bill Koman Practice Complex. Following what was already the team’s fifth practice of the fall, three more players, British Brooks, Des Evans and Alijah Huzzie, were made available to the media. Here are our biggest takeaways from what they had to say.
Huzzie is Settled In
Back in the spring, there were some nerves in the first few days of camp for the East Tennessee State transfer. Those nerves are no more. Instead, they were replaced by an eagerness to get back to playing football during the summer. It’s pretty obvious why he wanted to get back out there when you listen to how he is being talked about by everyone around this team. Head coach Mack Brown has been raving about him the entire offseason and his teammates have done the same here at the start of fall camp. He has positioned himself to be one of the leaders of this secondary both with his play and leadership skills and has fans dreaming of a drastic improvement from the secondary this season.
DBs Are Covering Well and Getting Our Hands on the Ball
The way that Huzzie talked about the secondary as a whole will only increase the hope that they could take a step forward this season. He was very complimentary of the group's ability to cover, talking about how they have been getting their hands on the football a lot throughout camp. He did say the team has let some opportunities to create big plays slip away that they need to make, but just to hear that the unit is covering better is a positive sign. Every comment in the fall has to be taken with a grain of salt, but any positivity for a unit that was as bad as it has been in almost two decades a year ago is noteworthy.
Marcus Allen and Tayon Holloway Could Be Poised for Breakout Season
If this unit does take a major step forward this year, it may very well be because of Allen and Holloway. Allen is set to be the starter opposite of Huzzie and he says that the sophomore’s coverage ability and length have really shown up so far in camp. Meanwhile, Huzzie points to Holloway as a player that has made major strides this offseason after coming back from the injury that cost him most of last season. He is another guy that Huzzie says has been doing a great job in coverage and it is starting to become apparent that he is making a serious push to be that first corner to rotate in at the outside corner spot.
Evans Had a Long Road Back From the Injury
Evans was very truthful about the challenges of his recovery from the injury he suffered last season. He admitted that it was tough on him because this was the first significant injury that he has ever had to deal with in his football career. Being on the sidelines for games was tough for him and keeping his mind busy off the field was important. His personal t-shirt company was the way that he was able to keep his mind off of the road to recovery and helped him establish a future option in case football was not in the cards moving forward. The good news is, he has worked his way back and looks set to be a key contributor for the team in the defensive front again this season.
Injury Has Given Evans a Different Perspective
Being off the field for the second half of last season has given Evans a different perspective on what might be the final season of his college career. He said that there is a chip on his shoulder this season as he looks to prove himself after a quiet first three seasons in Chapel Hill. Evans admitted to “going through the motions” at times, but he said that is no more. The hope is that this new mindset combined with the help from new assistant Ted Monachino could be what lights the fuse for Evans to have a big senior season.
Walking His Dog Helped Brooks With His Recovery
You read that right. Brooks told the media Monday that one of the biggest things that helped him regain strength in his leg after his knee surgery was walking his dog, Athena and going up and down the stairs at his home. He also mentioned the encouragement of teammates as a big motivating factor in his road to recovery. Brooks, who said it was an easy decision to come back for his seventh season at the college level, is a full-go now as he competes for snaps in a loaded running back room.
Brooks Wants to Be the Leader in the RB Room
Brooks’ one season as a coach seems to have rubbed off in how he answers questions about the depth chart as he did a good job of talking around the battle in the room. While he would not say what his specific on-field role would be for the season, he did say that he wants to be the leader of the room and a guy that can be counted on by both the staff and his teammates. He was named a team captain a year ago on special teams so that leadership ability is already there and with so many underclassmen in the room, it will be extremely valuable.
Pass Protection is the Biggest Area of Improvement for the RBs
This was the aspect that this running back room struggled the most with a year ago and was part of why the pass protection fell apart the way it did late last year. To hear that it is improving from Brooks is a great sign for a team that desperately needs to find better protection for their quarterbacks than what they have given them the past two years. If Brooks is right and the room has markedly improved in pass pro, this passing offense could be poised to build off of what they did a year ago.