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Heel Tough Blog: Tar Heels to Role With Two New Kick Returners

Bob Donnan- USA Today Sports

On Monday, Mack Brown announced that the starting kick returner George Pettaway is forgoing the remainder of this season and will redshirt as prepares for spring ball next year where he’ll hope to earn a significant role in the backfield. That left the position up for grabs and it appears that the team already has their replacement for him ahead of Saturday’s matchup with the Syracuse Orange. 

Starting running back Omarion Hampton, who handled the role early last season, will get the first crack at the job. Last year, he returned seven kicks for an average of 21.6 yards, a number that will have to improve if he is going to stick there this year.

The secondary returner listed on the depth chart is redshirt freshman wide receiver Doc Chapman, who spent the fall battling to be the team’s starting punt returner. Chapman has tremendous straight-line speed as witnessed by his time as a track star in high school and has a chance to be the guy that emerges this season like Pettaway did last year. For now, he will take over that second returner role that has been handled by D.J. Jones and Caleb Hood so far this year.

Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of Hampton as the primary returner because of what happened to Ja’Qurious Conley back in 2021. Hampton is an extremely important piece in the backfield and it doesn’t seem worth the risk for him to return kicks. Hopefully Chapman or someone else can emerge and take over that role within the next couple of weeks.


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