Saturday, the Tar Heels will head back to Kenan Stadium for their second scrimmage of the fall and their second in five days. This will be another chance for the staff to let some important battles play out, including some major one that we previewed for you prior to camp. Heading into Saturday’s scrimmage, here is a look at some of the major battles going on right now around Tar Heel football.
When fall camp began, this quickly became one of the top battles, but it seems like there is now a clear leader due to a multitude of factors. Returning starter Brian Anderson appears that he will hold off the challenge for redshirt freshman Ty Murray, at least for the time being. This is in large part due to the fact that Murray has been banged up over the past few weeks, but that should take away from the fact that it seems as if Anderson may have created just a little bit of separation prior to those injuries setting in. The goal for Anderson now must be to establish some consistency, something that lacked from his game a year ago, or this battle could resurface during the season when Murray is healthy again.
When Mack Brown said earlier this month that they were looking at the possibility of adding a package for Jace Ruder into the offensive scheme for this upcoming season, it sort of felt as if the sophomore had the backup job locked up. As we have learned, however, that might not necessarily be the case, as true freshman Jacolby Criswell has reportedly made a strong push to earn the job. In Tuesday’s scrimmage, the two split the second team reps evenly and the staff is expected to go about Saturday’s scrimmage the same way. Right now, this battle seems neck-and-neck and Saturday will be a big chance for someone to gain an edge.
There is so much talent here and the expectation is that the Tar Heels will use a rotation at cornerback. Both Storm Duck and Kyler McMichael are reportedly playing the best football since they arrived on campus and Patrice Rene has also looked good, as well. As of right now, it appears that those three will rotate between the two outside cornerback positions, with both Tony Grimes and DeAndre Hollins providing good depth.
Free safety is another spot that has seen plenty of rotation during fall camp. Don Chapman and Cam’Ron Kelly have headlined the rotation and Trey Morrison has also seen some time here as part of his cross-training that has seen him move all around the secondary. True freshman Ja’Qurious Conley has had a nice start to his Carolina career, as well, and there is a chance that he could earn himself some reps this season, but this feels like a Chapman-Kelly battle for the starting job. Right now, there doesn’t seem either to have an edge over the other and Saturday will be a chance for both guys to try to create some.
The defensive line had plenty of question marks coming into fall camp, but there is now a sense of relief with what the staff has reportedly seen from the unit so far. At the 3-4 defensive end spots, it appeared it would be a lengthy battle for the starting job opposite Raymond Vohasek, who had already wrapped up one starting job, but that isn’t the case. Sophomore Tomari Fox has taken a strong grip on the job as one of the top defensive standout so far in fall camp and barring an injury, it would appear the younger Fox brother will be starting at one of those defensive end positions against Syracuse.
From the comments following the first scrimmage on Tuesday, it doesn't appear that the kicking game was a major focus of the staff in this one, but we have heard some small notes from Brown on this position throughout the fall. Currently, neither kicker has shown the consistency that Brown thinks is crucial for whoever wins the starting job after the unit struggled so much with it a year ago. Both Grayson Atkins and Noah Ruggles have reportedly had their moments, but the first one to settle into a groove in the next couple of weeks might be the one handling the duties against the Orange.
Yet another position where there just hasn’t been a ton of separation is that third running back spot that is up for grabs this offseason. Reportedly, no one has really jumped out to the staff yet, but the staff has noted that the two true freshmen, D.J. Jones and Elijah Green, both have shown some positive things, but need more work as pass protectors. Sophomore Josh Henderson and junior walk-on British Brooks appear to have more polished games than the two freshmen, so there is a good chance that, in the end, it will come down to them for this job.