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Heel Tough Blog: Week 7 Stock Report

Nell Redmond- USA Today Sports

The Tar Heels remained undefeated on Saturday night with their biggest win of the season so far over the Miami Hurricanes in Kenan Stadium. After trailing at halftime, the Tar Heels outscored the Hurricanes 21-0 in the third quarter to run away for their fifth double-digit win over a Power 5 opponent this season. With the team beginning to prepare for the final game of their three-game homestand against Virginia, here is a look at who is trending up and trending down.

Tez Walker

You could not have scripted a better performance for Walker in just his second game in a Tar Heel uniform. Walker led the team with six catches for 132 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday night with each touchdown coming on plays of 18 yards or more. With his three touchdowns, he is now tied for the team lead this season and he becomes just the second wide receiver in school history to catch that many touchdowns in a game against a ranked opponent (Hakeem Nicks in 2008 vs. Boston College). This game showed exactly why he was named preseason All-ACC over the summer.

Omarion Hampton

Hampton had another spectacular game on Saturday night when the Tar Heels desperately needed it. The sophomore running back ran for 197 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries and also hauled in two catches for 20 yards and a touchdown. This is the second time this season that Hampton has finished a game with 200 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns. He also sits atop the ACC in rushing yards per game after this and is tied for the touchdown from scrimmage.

Kaimon Rucker

Rucker continued his remarkable 2023 season against the Hurricanes. He finished second on the team in tackles with six and led the team with 2.5 sacks and had three more quarterbacks hit. Rucker finished with eight total quarterback pressures, meaning he has now surpassed his total from last season in just six games, something he did in the sacks and tackles for loss department last week.

Cedric Gray

Gray has had another outstanding season, but this was clearly his best performance of the year. He led the team in tackles with ten, seven of which were solos, and also came away with two huge turnovers that changed the game. His fumble recovery in the first quarter prevented Miami from tying the game at 7 early and potentially leading by double-digits at halftime. His interception in the third quarter immediately put the Tar Heels in scoring position and allowed the team to extend their lead to double-digits, something they never relinquished. Gray has simply dominated the Hurricanes in his career, registering 29 total tackles, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a forced fumble.

Myles Murphy

Murphy had the best game of his season last week and built off of that on Saturday night. He had another tremendous night winning inside and finished with three more tackles and a tackle for loss. His biggest play of the night came when he recovered the fumble on the low snap from Miami center Matt Lee that the offense unfortunately could not cash in on. The Tar Heels have needed someone to step up in the middle of this defense and Murphy appears to have embraced that challenge.

Jahvaree Ritzie

After playing just three snaps a week ago against Syracuse, Ritzie put together his best performance of the season against Miami. He had three total tackles and was the player that forced the fumble on the goalline that Gray recovered. He also finished the game with four total pressures, his highest mark of the season so far.

Amari Gainer

Gainer played arguably his best game since coming over in the transfer portal on Saturday night. He racked up four total tackles, all of which were solos, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit. This was a much-needed performance for Gainer after a pretty quiet first five games of the season.

Tom Maginness

Maginness played for the first time since coming over from Australia in the offseason and had a tremendous showing in place of the injured Ben Kiernan. He averaged 38.3 yards on his six punts, landing two inside the 20 and punting one 50 yards. This was a really good performance from Maginness and gives you confidence that he can handle this job moving forward with Kiernan out for the rest of the season.

Alijah Huzzie

Huzzie had the worst game of his Tar Heel career on Saturday night. He allowed seven of his eleven targets to be caught for 99 yards and two touchdowns, including one where he got put in a blender by Jacolby George. This is far from a reason to now be concerned with Huzzie moving forward, but it was an off night for him.

Nate McCollum

McCollum had his quietest night since returning in full from his early season injury in this one. He caught just three passes for 19 yards on seven targets, the fewest receiving yards that he has had in a game he has started since September 10th of last year. Like with Huzzie, it’s hard to believe that this is something that will carry over if Drake Maye isn’t under the type of pressure that he was on Saturday.

Tayon Holloway

Holloway had another tough outing against the Hurricanes the other night. The redshirt freshman allowed four of his five targets to be caught for 78 yards, the second time this season that he has allowed over 75 yards in coverage. Holloway had shown improvement after getting torched in the season opener against South Carolina, but it feels like this is just going to be part of it when he is out there against dynamic receivers.

Don Chapman

Chapman was another member of the secondary who played his worst game of the season thus far. He wasn’t nearly as involved in run defense as he has been so far this year and he was beat over the top on the 54-yard fourth quarter touchdown grab by Brashard Smith that gave Miami some hope late. Chapman has had a really good year so far and the hope it that he will be able to bounce back from this performance.


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