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Heel Tough Blog: Stock Report- Week 10

Ryan M. Kelly- Getty Images

The Tar Heels continued their push towards an ACC Coastal division title this past weekend with a win in Charlottesville, the first of Mack Brown’s 14 years on the program’s sidelines. The win gave the Tar Heels their fifth road win of the season and put the magic number at one. As they head toward this weekend’s crucial matchup with Wake Forest, let's take a look at who is trending up and who is trending down.

Josh Downs

Downs was the best player on the field on Saturday afternoon with what was his most dominant performance of the year. He caught a career-high 15 of his 16 targets for 166 yards and a touchdown in what was easily the best performance of this season. This was huge for a Tar Heel team who saw both Antoine Green and J.J. Jones struggle against a staunch defensive back unit of the Cavaliers. He made the play of the afternoon by hauling in the 3rd & 2 that officially ended the game. Downs has firmly put himself on pace to reach 1,000 yards again this season and reach the double-digit touchdown mark for the first time in his career, despite playing in an offense that spreads the ball around much better than a year ago. With the offense needing to play some of its best football down the stretch with the opponents that remain, there couldn’t be a better time for him to round into All-American form.

Elijah Green

Green was tasked with filling the shoes of Caleb Hood on Saturday and he did that and more. His 91 yards on the ground were the most of any Tar Heel back since Omarion Hampton at Georgia State and there is reason to believe that he can be this year what British Brooks was last year. He ran downhill and did so with a purpose the entire game, registering only one carry that resulted in a negative. He also showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, something that was a question mark for him before the season, and finished the day with 113 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. Green proved that he is someone who can be trusted to contribute moving forward in this crucial stretch of the season.

Cedric Gray

Gray had another huge day on Saturday for while trying to help provide some resistance. He finished with a career-high 16 total tackles in the game and registered the team’s only sack and tackles for loss of the game. He also registered two pass breakups while in coverage and nearly came away with another interception. There isn’t much consistency when it comes to this Tar Heel defense right now, but Gray is one of the few elements that you can count on week in and week out.

Drake Maye

Maye didn’t have his best performance of the season on Saturday, but he still made the plays when he need to, leading the Tar Heels to yet another come-from-behind win. He finished the day with 367 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, with the majority of his production coming in the second half. His rushing touchdown where he ran all the way back to his left after rolling out to his right was the highlight that had people buzzing, but his throw on that 3rd & 2 play on the final drive may have been his best play of the night. While the Heisman favorites struggled, Maye put up another solid performance and continued to strengthen his candidacy and has been the talk of college football for most of the weekend.

Storm Duck

Duck has really stepped his game up in the second half of the season after a slow start to the year. Saturday was his best performance of the season, as he allowed just one of his seven passes to be caught and registered two big pass deflections. His pass breakup in the third quarter was an outstanding play that shows just how much better he has been playing lately. With one of the toughest tests coming this weekend for this Tar Heel secondary, this is the best time for Duck to be playing his best football since his freshman season.

Defensive Line

This unit looked like one that was missing three starters on Saturday, but it came at the hands of an offensive line that may have been the worst in the entire Power 5. Kaimon Rucker was outstanding in that second half against Pittsburgh, but was banged up himself and was quiet against the Cavaliers. The unit's interior was simply dominated the entire day by a running game that was one of the nation’s worst heading in and without its leading rusher. It makes sense that this is not the strength of this defense with all of the injury issues they are currently navigating, but they simply have to be better than this moving forward if they want to beat the opponents that still lay ahead.

Asim Richards

Richards entered the game having failed to allow a sack the entire season and just three pressures on the quarterback, but he had his trials and tribulations against the Cavaliers. He allowed his first sack of the season and allowed four pressures on Maye in this one, easily his worst showing of the year.

Chris Collins

Collins got the start with Noah Taylor out for the season and there was a clear drop off. He racked up just two total tackles on the day and missed the same amount of tackles, looking lost at times in open space. Taylor did so much for this Tar Heel defense out of that JACK position and filling his shoes is a lot to ask for Collins who just continues to show that he is at his best as a rotational player, not a starter.

Power Echols

Echols has had a really good season to this point, but on Saturday, while his linebacker mate was thriving, he had his worst game of the year. He had four total tackles, but he missed two and had the worst run defense grade of any starter on the Tar Heel defense against the Cavaliers. This defense needs Echols, who has been one of the steady forces of this unit, to recover quickly and play the way he has for the majority of the season in these final three weeks of the regular season.


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