Updated: Apr 11
With the coronavirus still leaving the world devoid of sports, but there has been some activity around Tar Heel football. Here are all of the latest storylines surrounding Carolina football.
Longo Not Worried About Offense, Veteran Players; Instead Concern is With Young Guys
Offensive coordinator Phil Longo had his first virtual press conference since the COVID-19 outbreak on Monday. He discussed many different things about the offense, including the question of how the installment of new offensive concepts has been going. Longo seemed rather confident, saying that he is “comfortable” with where the offense as a whole is, especially with so many veteran players returning. While they haven’t been able to physically install new concepts into the offense, Longo says many of the guys have been hard at work watching film of this year’s opponents, led by quarterback Sam Howell. The worry that Longo has is how much the young guys will be able to factor in. Spring is the time where you can do a lot of teaching with the inexperienced guys and the early enrollees, but all of that will now have to be done in the fall. The Tar Heels are a veteran squad, but a lot of the depth, especially along the offensive line, is lacking in experience. One spot that will see a major effect from this will be left tackle, where the Tar Heels are tasked with replacing stalwart Charlie Heck. Sophomore Asim Richards was the favorite to win the job and, while he played in nine games a year ago, much of his experience came on special teams and late in blowout affairs. Guys like him now must grow up quicker than normal to be ready for an extremely challenging start to the 2020 season.
Howell Doing His Best to be Ready for the 2020 Season
Phil Longo wasn’t the only member of the Tar Heel football team to do an interview this week, as Sam Howell took to Zoom on Wednesday to talk to the media. Howell spoke on everything that he has been doing during this downtime to get prepared for the upcoming season, starting with a lot of film study. Not only has he been watching film from last year and on this season’s opponents, he has also studied a lot of Joe Burrow’s tape from a year ago, a season in which Burrow claimed the Heisman, set the single-season NCAA touchdown record and captured the national championship. Howell has also been working with a lot of the local Charlotte-area Tar Heels with some on-field work, primarily with wide receiver Dyami Brown. It’s tough times that we’re in right now with a lot of uncertainty, but the good news is, Howell is doing everything he can to prepare himself for the season.
Tony Grimes Down to Eight Schools
Grimes announced his final eight schools list. As expected, the Tar Heels safely made the list for the Virginia-based corner who is ranked as the top cornerback in the country according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Grimes told Rivals.com's Adam Friedman that the Tar Heels have built some major momentum in his recruitment because of how well they’ve communicated with him. The relationship with Dre Bly seems to be growing by the day and Grimes and his family seem to enjoy how enthusiastic the fanbase is on social media. The key for the staff is to get Grimes on campus for an official visit at some point when the temporary dead period is lifted. If they can do that and impress, you have to believe with all of the momentum that the Tar Heels have, they would have a fighting chance against the powerhouses like Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State.
Payton Page Hints at Top Three
Shortly after Grimes released his top schools list, Page sent out a tweet hinting at the fact that he could be close to cutting his list down to three schools. Back in January, Page, the No. 28 overall player in the 2021 class according to 247Sports Composite rankings, set his top five with the Tar Heels amongst it as one of the two favorites along with Clemson. As of right now, expectations are that the Tar Heels should have no trouble making that top three, but it seems like the gap between Clemson and the Tar Heels has grown. If the Tar Heels do make it into his top three, they will have some time to make a late push, but they will have to do so quickly if they are wanting to land his commitment.
Raneiria Dillworth Resets April 17th Decision Date
After announcing he would delay his decision last month, Dillworth, the No. 19 OLB in the 2021 class and No. 13 player in the state of North Carolina, will go through with his original plan to commit on April 17th. This comes as a little bit of a shock, as Dillworth seemed determined to take some visits before making his decision. Instead, he decision comes down to Carolina and Alabama. While Alabama had gained some major momentum to surge slightly ahead of the Tar Heels last month, the relationship with the staff and current commits has helped the Heels regain the lead for him. The lone crystal ball prediction for him is in favor of the Tar Heels, but that was cast back in early February. Right now, the Heels probably have a slight edge, but there is still a week left in his commitment. Can the Tar Heels real in this special talent and another in-state commitment?
Colby Smith to Announce Top Five Next Thursday
Smith, the No. 19 player in the state of North Carolina in the 2021 class, is set to announce his top five next week. This a pretty significant step for the West End, NC product who is one of the Tar Heels top remaining offensive line targets in this class. The Tar Heels are expected to be comfortably in his top five along with rival NC State and Tennessee. The Tar Heels are in good standing with Smith and although offensive tackle isn’t a major need in this class with 4✮ OT Eli Sutton already committed to the class, he would help to continue to add depth at a position where you can never have too much.
Christopher Holliday Commits as a PWO
The Tar Heels added a preferred walk-on to mix last Wednesday in the form of another Tar Heel legacy. Holliday, the son of former Tar Heel wide receiver and current associate athletic director Corey Holliday, announced via social media that he would walk-on to the Tar Heel football team after receiving the prestigious Morehead-Cain scholarship from the university for his performance in the classroom, headlined by an amazing perfect score on his ACT. On the football field, Holliday was a standout safety at Jordan High School in Durham, NC. As a senior, Holliday finished with 66 total tackles, eight interceptions and two fumble recoveries, earning all-conference honors in the Tri-8 4A. Holliday will join the team in fall camp.
Carl Torbush Inducted Into Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame
The former Tar Heel head coach and defensive coordinator was inducted into the state of Tennessee’s sports hall of fame in Nashville recently. Torbush was the Tar Heels defensive coordinator for all nine of Mack Brown’s seasons in his first stint in Chapel Hill, building one of the nation's best defenses over his time at the post. Under his tenure, the Tar Heels posted three consecutive defenses that finished #1 in the ACC and he was the leader of a Tar Heel defense that finished 1st and 2nd in scoring defense in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Torbush would take over as head coach of the Tar Heels in the final game of that 1997 season after Brown’s departure, posting a 17-18 record in his three-plus seasons as the Tar Heels head man before being fired at the conclusion of the 2000 season. He left a good taste in Tar Heel fans' mouths, though, as his last game the Tar Heels head coach was a 59-21 beatdown of the Duke Blue Devils. Chapel Hill was one of an amazing twelve stops in his coaching career, including a stop back at his alma mater, Carson-Newman, the school where he was a standout baseball and football player during his playing career. He last coached a game in 2017 as the head coach of the East Tennessee State Buccaneers, a team he coached from 2015-17, finishing with an 11-22 career record at the school.
Former Tar Heel OL Tom Burkett Passes Away
In some unfortunate news, the Tar Heels lost a member of the Tar Heel family on Thursday. Burkett, a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Hall of Fame, was a standout lineman for the Tar Heels in the mid-70s under head coach Bill Dooley. Burkett was a three year starter at Carolina before heading to the NFL. He was drafted in the 10th round of the 1977 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, but injury never allowed him to actually play for the Browns. Burkett would move back to the Winston-Salem area after his short career in Cleveland and had lived in the area since then. Burkett was 65.