Heel Tough Blog: Three Seniors to Return for 2021


The 2020 football season has been a weird one to say the least. In the offseason, the NCAA put in a rule that allowed any player to receive an extra year of eligibility this season, no matter how many games the player played in during the season. As of Wednesday afternoon, it appears that three Tar Heels seniors will take advantage of that luxury and return for another season at Carolina in 2021.


As first reported by Inside Carolina, Grayson Atkins, Beau Corrales and Tyrone Hopper will all be returning for the Tar Heels next season and will not be honored on senior day on Saturday. Corrales will be back for his fifth year on campus, while Hopper is back for his sixth.

Corrales’ return could potentially be a big one for a Tar Heel receiving corps that could be looking at the possibility of losing their top two receivers this season in Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome in the offseason. Corrales was set up for a big season after finishing with 575 yards and six touchdowns as a junior, but his season was derailed by what is rumored to be a sports hernia injury following a career performance against Florida State. While Emery Simmons and Khafre Brown have been able to step up in his absence, it will be huge to have Corrales’ experience back, as well as his red zone ability.


As for Hopper, he won the starting job this offseason as an edge rusher, but he will likely have to win the job again in the offseason with all of the competition that will be around him. Tomon Fox will leave the other edge rusher position vacant as he graduates this year, but true freshman Desmond Evans and sophomore Chris Collins will be among those that will be challenging to beat him out for one of those two roles in the offseason, but, at the least, Hopper will be back to provide an experienced rotational option at the edge rusher positions. However, the expectation is that he will be a factor in the battle to start for most of the offseason.


Atkins will return for a second season with the Tar Heels after transferring in last offseason as a graduate student following the completion of his undergraduate degree at Furman. The former FCS All-American won the starting job out of camp and has been able to hold onto it despite some inconsistencies this season. With his decision to stay, the expectation is that he will be the favorite to handle the kicking duties for the Tar Heels in 2021.


As of right now, this seems to be the expected group of returning seniors for next year and the Tar Heels will have to make adjustments to fulfill the scholarship requirements for this upcoming season. The Tar Heels shouldn’t have much of an issue doing that, though, and the return of these players should be advantages for this 2021 team that will look to achieve some lofty goals.


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