Spring camp officially re-opened for the Tar Heels on Tuesday following a twelve day lay off for fall break. This was the first practice of the final twelve of spring camp which will conclude with the spring game on April 13th in Kenan Stadium. The team will practice three times a week for the next four weeks, practicing on Tuesday’s, Thursday’s and Saturday’s with media availability after each practice.
So with that, it’s time to look at the storylines that all Tar Heel fans should be keeping an eye on when spring camp resumes tomorrow.
Quarterback Race Might Be Seeing Some Early Separation
Although it is early, some who have been around the team for the first three weeks have said that there has been a little bit of separation early one in the vaunted quarterback battle. The separation for many is the redshirt freshmen, Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder, from the true freshman, Sam Howell. Howell has reportedly had some struggles early on, which is expected for a true freshman. Meanwhile, both Fortin and Ruder have looked very good and have taken steps forward in the offseason. It will be interesting to see if Howell can force himself back into the race or if Fortin and Ruder can continue to separate themselves from him.
Can the Renewed Energy Continue to Build?
It’s been one of the most noticeable differences this offseason and the question is will that energy remain at the same level when the team returns. One would believe so, especially with the new, energetic staff that is in place. Patrice Rene’s quote on Twitter should give fans a good feeling about the mindset of this team. “Thank you God for keeping my friends and I safe during our travels and activities while on break!! Happy to be in the HIll and extremely excited to get back to work!”
How Does the Backfield Work Itself Out?
Even though the Tar Heels offense will be labeled as an air raid offense, Phil Longo’s offenses at Ole Miss still averaged 149.5 yards per game on the ground, including 164.9 yards per game a year ago. The Tar Heels have a surplus of experience in the backfield, meaning there are plenty of options to go to when it comes to handing the football off. The question is, how do the touches sort themselves out? Redshirt freshman Devon Lawrence has converted to wide receiver for the fall, meaning there will be no one new inserted into what would expect to be a four man rotation. Michael Carter and Antonio Williams, the leading rushers from a year ago, expect to factor in heavily, but Javonte Williams strong close to the season and impressive mix of speed and physicality can not be ignored. Jordon Brown seems to be the outsider, especially with his carries dwindling as last year went along. With the new staff in place, though, every position was deemed to be a wide open race, so these four should continue to battle for reps as we head throughout the remainder of spring camp.
Will the Starting Offensive Line From the First Three Days of Camp Remain?
Although the staff has said that there are no official starters, the offensive line group that contained three returning starters along with William Barnes and Jordan Tucker were together from all indications throughout the first three practices and would be looked at as the likely No. 1’s. The question now becomes, will anyone be able to push for any of those starting jobs? Billy Ross will likely have something to say at right guard after he started every game there a year ago, meaning him and Barnes could battle into fall camp, but it will be interesting to see if the other four are able to lock up their starting jobs by the end of spring camp.
Defensive End or Outside Linebacker?
It’s the ultimate question for just about every Tar Heel who played defensive end a year ago. With the switch to a base 3-4 scheme, some players will be standing upright this fall when they rush the passer. Early chatter has said that guys like Tomon Fox and Chris Collins will likely stand-up, but injuries to Allen Cater and Tyrone Hopper mean this may not be the permanent arrangement. As spring camp goes along, though, it will be interesting to see which names stick where.