It’s game week in Chapel Hill and boy does it feel good to say that after the offseason we have had. The Tar Heels started their game week on Monday with the release of their depth chart ahead of Saturday’s matchup in what is set to be a cardboard cutout-filled Kenan Stadium against the Syracuse Orange. Here are some of the things that are noteworthy from the release of the first unofficial depth chart.
Chapman Wins Starting Free Safety Job
Replacing Myles Dorn will be no easy task this season, but the Tar Heels have decided that it will be sophomore Don Chapman who will be tasked with that challenge. Last year as a true freshman, Chapman played in all thirteen games, including starting four games opposite of Dorn, finishing the season with arguably the best performance of his career thus far in the bowl game against Temple. Chapman was able to hold off challenges from both Cam’Ron Kelly, who made the start at safety opposite of Dorn last year against Clemson, and Giovanni Biggers, both of whom are listed on the two-deep.
Storm Duck Locks Up Starting Job While Kyler McMichael and Patrice Rene Will Battle For Starts
One of the most intriguing battles of camp has been the battle for who will start at the two outside corner spots. Sophomore Storm Duck, who was forced into a starting early last season and thrived, has locked up one of those job after reportedly having a strong fall camp, leaving senior Patrice Rene and Kyler McMichael fighting for that second starting job. While it is likely that there will be a heavy rotation between these three for most of the season, both would still like to earn the start on Saturday. This looks like a battle that could go down to the wire based on the fact that there is an “or” next to McMichael's name. It is interesting, though that McMichael is listed ahead of Rene, though, which is what would lead me to believe that McMichael, who the staff has been raving about since his arrival on campus, might hold the slight edge. Something else also worth noting here is that Tony Grimes does show up here behind this battle meaning there is still a good chance that he could earn some rotational reps as the season goes on, an amazing feat for a guy that is supposed to be in the middle of his senior season of high school.
Conley Getting the Nod As No. 2 Nickelback
The Tar Heels have lost a lot of contributors here at the nickelback position this fall, leaving a bit of a question mark there behind starter Trey Morrison. With all that is out for this season, Ja’Qurious Conley, the true freshman from Jacksonville, NC, is where the Tar Heels will turn. Conley received some praise from the staff earlier in the fall for being all over the field, but we haven’t really heard much about him since then. Clearly, though, he has shown the staff enough to take a hold of that backup job and similar to D.J. Ford did a few years ago, this feels like a place that he can have some success at with his coverage and tackling ability and will also give him a chance to grow when he’s on the field.
Green Buried a Bit at Wide Receiver
In a bit of a shocker, junior Antoine Green has not appeared to secure a backup role at wide receiver this season. In last year's opener against South Carolina, Green was a starter, but he spent most of the season fighting off injuries after leaving the game against Miami. Now, according to the depth chart released today, he will be battling for the backup role behind Beau Corrales with redshirt freshman speedster Khafre Brown. This may say more about Brown than it does about Green, but it is definitely interesting to note considering the success that Green did see a year ago when he had the football in his hands. Meanwhile, it appears that sophomore Emery Simmons has locked himself in behind Dyami Brown, meaning there is a good chance that his role could expand this season.
Rucker Earns Spot on Two-Deep at End
True freshman Kaimon Rucker was rated outside of the top 1000 players in the country according to 247Sports Composite player rankings, but he is already doing his best to prove those ratings wrong. The staff has reportedly been very pleased with what they’ve seen from the Georgia-based pass rusher, enough so that he is listed as the backup to Tomari Fox at what is listed as the “end” position on the depth chart released today. It’s unclear how much of a role Rucker will actually have for the Tar Heels this season, but this is a great start to his young career for him.
Backup Quarterback Spot Remains in Question
This has become a storyline as camps have gone along and now it appears that the backup quarterback race may extend into the season. The Tar Heels had three scrimmages in the past two weeks and it appears that those have done little to separate the two. We’ve heard that the plan from the staff is to potentially have packages for both guys in this offense and this might not be a job that get solved unless something happens to starter Sam Howell.
Hopper Will Get His Shot to Start
Senior Tyrone Hopper has been one of the talks of fall camp and now he will get a chance to start. He is listed as the starter at the outside linebacker position opposite of Tomon Fox and everything that the staff has been saying about his play would lead you to believe that he will be playing some significant snaps for a Tar Heel defense that will likely use a combination of different schemes to keep defenses on their heels. The key for Hopper will be staying healthy, something he hasn't been able to do for the majority of his career.