Mack Brown said following the game on Saturday afternoon, that the Tar Heels weren’t a team to celebrate moral victories. After Saturday’s 21-20 loss to No. 1 Clemson, though, there is plenty to be excited about with the Tar Heel football team. Let’s see who and what is trending up and down in this Week 5 edition of the stock report.
⇧ Chazz Surratt
Easily the Tar Heels best player on the field Saturday, Surratt recovered nicely from a quiet week against Appalachian State against the defending national cahmpions. Surratt led the team in tackles with seven, despite not even getting the start at inside linebacker and his 2.0 tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and 1.0 sack were also all team leaders on Saturday and show just how pesky he was all day. Not only was he tackling well in space, but he also had a great day in coverage, highlighted by two pass deflections, including a diving deflection to prevent a connection between Trevor Lawrence and his tight end J.C. Smith. Surratt continues to impress with his performance in the first half of this 2019 season and is making a strong case for as the Tar Heels defensive MVP as we near the halfway point of the season. At the least, he has earned the right to start alongside Jeremiah Gemmel at inside linebacker going forward.
⇧ Tomari Fox
When Fox was initially listed as a co-starter at defensive end in the season opener, we knew that he was already making strides in his true freshman season. While he had been solid in the first four games of the season, Fox really shined on Saturday against a veteran Clemson offensive line. Fox didn’t blow up the stat sheet, but did a good job of putting himself in place to make plays, especially in run defense, throughout the day. Fox is developing into a nice piece along this 2019 Tar Heel defensive line and could develop into a star over the next couple of seasons if he can continue to progress.
⇧ Sam Howell
Another player who didn’t really stuff the stat sheets, but had a really solid performance, Howell bounced back he sputtered a bit against Appalachian State. While he only threw for 144 yards on Saturday, he made a beautiful throw to Dyami Brown on the first drive of the game and led the Tar Heels down the field on the final drive, giving them a chance to pull the major upset. Howell also threw two more touchdowns and no interceptions, the latter of which was an important part of why the Tar Heels were still in the game late. Howell just continues to show why he was so highly valued by this coaching when they took over back in December.
⇧ Storm Duck
Duck got his first start of the season on Saturday against the defending champs and held his own against one of the top wide receiving corps in college football. While he, like any corner who tried, had his troubles against Tee Higgins, he was one of the main reasons the rest of the Clemson team finished with just 77 yards receiving on twelve catches. Duck also added six tackles, five of which were solos.
⇧ Cam’Ron Kelly
The man who got the start in place of Myles Wolfolk on Saturday had a strong showing in his first career start. Kelly finished with five total tackles and helped the Tar Heels to shut down the middle of the field, something they had struggled to do since the season opener. Kelly shined for the Tar Heels, but they now have to hope that he is able to return from what appeared to be a right leg injury that sent him to the locker room in the fourth quarter.
⇧ Don Chapman
Chapman saw his first defensive snaps of the year against the Tigers and looked about as good as one could have hoped for. He had three nice tackles and did everything right in coverage. Chapman proved that he can handle some added reps and the injuries to Wolfolk and Kelly could actually give him a chance to start next week against Georgia Tech.
⇧ Jeremiah Gemmel
Surratt wasn’t the only Tar Heel linebacker that had great showing on Saturday. After getting ejected against Appalachian State, Gemmel seemed to play with an extra spark and that helped him rack up six total tackles and force a fumble. Gemmel continues his solid start to the 2019 season and is part of the promising tenure that has Tar Heel fans feeling encouraged about their linebacking corps for the first time in a while.
⇧ Michael Carter
The ups and downs of the 2019 season for Carter continued on Saturday, as he followed his worst performance of the season from a week ago with a big day against the No. 1 team in the nation. Carter led the Tar Heels with 16 carries for 99 yards for an average of 6.2 yards per carry for the Tar Heels. Now the question is, can he finally put together back-to-back good performances together next week in Atlanta?
For the first time in weeks, the health of this team isn’t trending down. Charlie Heck returned to action on Saturday after missing the game against Appalachian State with a broken hand and the difference was remarkable, especially against the Clemson defensive line that was off to another dominant start to the season. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Jason Strowbridge’s add reps along the defensive line helped that unit to have a nice day against a stout Clemson offensive line, after an ankle injury cost him the Wake Forest game and limited him against Appalachian State. The reason this aspect is not trending, however, up is because of the fact that two more of Saturday’s defensive starters did go down with injuries that prevented them from returning to the game. Starting defensive tackle Aaron Crawford’s injury doesn’t appear to be that severe with him participating in practice on Monday according to Mack Brown, but as we mention above, Kelly’s status is unclear and raises many concerns at safety, where Wolfolk is already out for an extended period of time.
⇧ Direction of the Program
Although it wasn’t a win, Saturday’s game continues to show that this Tar Heel football program is headed in the direction they want to go. A program that had won just five games in the past two year hung for all 60 minutes of the game on Saturday with one of the top two programs in the country and were one bad play call away from the biggest win in program history. The prior week’s struggle against Appalachian State may have brought about a slight bit of concern for some, but this game should show that Mack Brown and his staff are making major strides towards their ultimate goals already.