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Heel Tough Blog: Tar Heels Defensive Lineman Deemed Ineligible for 2022 Season

Grant Halverson- Getty Images

Tuesday was a coaches media day for the Tar Heels as head coach Mack Brown and coordinators Phil Longo and Gene Chizik spoke to put a bow on 2022 spring ball in Chapel Hill.

One of the biggest storylines of the day was when Mack Brown revealed that the team will be without senior defensive lineman Tomari Fox for the entirety of the 2022 season. The suspension stems from use of a pre-workout substance that was not approved by the NCAA and forced him to sit out last year’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Fox appealed the initial news of the suspension back in December, but that appeal was denied. According to Jacob Turner of Tar Heel Illustrated, unlike the suspension prior to the bowl game, Fox will be able to practice and work out with the team.

Fox released this statement regarding the suspension.

The good news for the Tar Heels is that this happens at one of the few positions where a loss like this isn’t really devastating. The Tar Heels have plenty of defensive line depth, some that even passed him on the depth chart a year ago. Fox played in 302 snaps a year ago, down from the 598 that he played in 2020 as a full-time starter. With the move to a four-man front, it looked like he was destined to be inside at defensive tackle at nearly 290 lbs. and the depth there is tremendous. Both Myles Murphy and Raymond Vohasek should get plenty of run again this season, while Kevin Hester Jr. should get some major rotational run after a nice spring. Sophomores Jahvaree Ritzie, who will bounce back and forth between tackle and end, and Keeshawn Silver will also be guys to keep an eye on to earn some reps, as well true freshman blue-chipper Travis Shaw, who had a nice first camp for himself. That doesn’t even take into account the return of senior Jahlil Taylor and sophomore Kedrick Bingley-Jones, both of whom had to miss the spring due to injury but hope to be a full go by the fall.

In the end, this is a tough situation for a guy in Fox who seemed to just make an honest mistake unknowingly and it has cost him a season of his career. The good news is, Mack Brown said today that he does plan on staying with the team and coming back for the 2023 season. In the meantime, the Tar Heels will have to navigate life without, something that seems more than manageable to do with the amount of depth that they have compiled there.


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