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Heel Tough Blog: Week 9 Stock Report

Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

After starting the season 6-0, the Tar Heels are in danger of a full collapse after suffering two horrendous losses in a row as double-digit favorites. The team fell to Georgia Tech 46-42 on Saturday night, the third straight loss to the Yellow Jackets in as many years. Now, Mack Brown and company have to hoping that they can use Campbell, a mid-level FCS program, as a way to swing the momentum of this season and the program as a whole back in the right direction. Let’s take a look at who’s trending up and trending down heading into that game with the in-state FCS foe.

Run Defense

The Tar Heels' run defense took a major step back against Virginia, but it paled in comparison to what happened on Saturday night. The team allowed a season-worst 348 yards rushing to a Yellow Jackets rushing at that wasn’t even averaging half of that number coming in. Even more depressing is the fact that 246 of those rushing yards came in the fourth quarter alone to the tune of 11.2 yards per carry. It really can’t get much worse than that.

Defensive Line

The team’s struggles to stop the run were a direct reflection of the team’s inability to win up front when it mattered the most. The interior of the unit is back to their early season form as they were a big part of why the team allowed 172 yards on just 16 carries inside the tackles. Those problems on the interior combined with a group of edge rushers that still couldn’t seal the edge, making it impossible for the team to get a stop in the fourth quarter.


Cedric Gray and Power Echols are usually the reliable forces that hold this defense together, but Saturday was not a great showing for them by any means. Gray had nearly as many missed tackles (4) as he had total tackles (6) on the night and Echols had similar issues defending the run game throughout the night as well. The team desperately needs them to bounce back if they are going to recover from this brutal showing defensively. 

Marcus Allen

The run wasn’t the only thing that the Tar Heels had issues stopping on Saturday night. The second quarter was a clinic through the air for Georgia Tech and Allen was the player who was picked on the most. He had his worst night of the season so far, allowing six catches on seven targets for 96 yards and a touchdown. The good news is, he was active in other areas, finishing tied for the team lead in total tackles with nine and there is no reason to believe his struggles in coverage will carry over moving forward.

Alijah Huzzie

Allen wasn’t the only corner that had a rough night in Atlanta. Huzzie allowed six of his seven targets to be caught for 72 yards, the bulk of which came from slot receiver Malik Rutherford who had a big night. This is the second time in the last three weeks that the transfer nickelback has been picked on a bit and while it doesn’t seem like a long term concern, the team can ill afford another performance like this in a big game.

Don Chapman

While Allen and Huzzie had rough showings, the worst performance in the secondary came from Chapman. He was only targeted three times in coverage the other night, but two of those turned into Georgia Tech touchdowns. The other was an interception, which is great, but the Tar Heels can’t afford to have Chapman be this hit and miss on the back end.

Noah Burnette

Burnette missed his first field goal since taking over in the Minnesota game and it could not have come at a more inopportune time. With 7:00 left in the fourth quarter on Saturday night, he pulled a 39-yarder wide left that would have extended the lead to six. While it ultimately wouldn’t have mattered, it is a little concerning considering this was the time last year that he started struggling to hit important kicks. Hopefully that isn’t the case this season.

Nate McCollum

McCollum continued his recent stretch of rough play on Saturday night against his former team. He was targeted just three times the entire evening, registering one catch for two yards. After a great start to his Tar Heel career, McCollum has just six catches for 32 yards in the last three games. While it didn’t hurt the offense against Georgia Tech, the team need him to get back to being a consistent threat out of the slot with some tough defensive teams on the horizon to close the regular season.

Omarion Hampton

Hampton entered the game as the conference’s leading rusher and built upon that with another huge performance. He ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries and added 41 yards receiving on four catches out of the backfield. This is the third time this season that Hampton has ran for 150 yards and gotten to the 190-yard mark from scrimmage and shows why the Tar Heels need to continue to feed him the football.

Drake Maye

Maye was criticized for missing too many throws against Virginia, but he looked really good on Saturday night. He only threw the ball 25 times the entire night because of the success the team had on the ground, but he still completed 17 of them for 310 yards and two touchdowns. He also had his most productive night of the season on the ground, as well, running for 58 yards and touchdowns on ten carries. Maye might not be in the Heisman race any more because of the losses they have suffered the last two weeks, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t playing tremendous football.

Bryson Nesbit

For the first time this season, Nesbit was able to string together two straight strong performances. After a productive day against Virginia, he finished with a team high 89 yards receiving and a touchdown on three catches. Nesbit’s production has been huge for the team the last couple of weeks, especially with how quiet McCollum has been recently.

Stick Lane

Lane only played 21 snaps, but he was extremely impactful in those limited reps. He had five total tackles, including four solos, and allowed just one catch for two yards in twelve coverage reps. Lane was a summer arrival out of the transfer portal and was banged up in fall camp meaning he had to learn some things about the system in season, but it feels like he is up to speed and should be playing more snaps, especially if Don Chapman continues to struggle.

Doc Chapman

Chapman saw his most significant action of the season and made quite the impression. His 52-yard kickoff return was not only the biggest kick return of the season for the team, but actually exceeded the total number of kick return yards at the team had total in the first seven games of the season. He followed that big return with his first career receiving touchdown on a 35-yard catch over the middle of the field that extended the lead right back to ten after it was cut to three on the prior Georgia Tech drive. If McCollum continue to struggle, don’t be shocked if Chapman starts seeing more opportunities.

Tom Maginness

Maginness had such a bad performance against Virginia that he was replaced late, but he was given the chance to bounce back on Saturday and did just that. He put together the best performance of his young career so far, averaging 50.0 yards on his three punts, helping flip field position for the team a couple of times. Hopefully this is the type of punting that we are going to see for the season from Maginness because this defense needs as much field as possible to defend right now.


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