It has been another slow news week around Tar Heel football, but that will all change on Friday with the return of a group of current Tar Heel players to campus and Jahvaree Ritzie set to announce his commitment. Let’s preview both of those major storyline and tell you about some others you may have missed.
Ritzie to Announce Long-Awaited Commitment
We at the Heel Tough Blog have been expecting a commitment from Ritzie for a while now, but on Friday, that prediction will finally come true. The 2021 4✮ SDE will announce his school of choice on Friday night at 6:30 PM from his home in Kernersville, NC. Heading in, the Tar Heels are the heavy favorites, as they have been for a while in this recruitment, and it would honestly rank among one of the most shocking commitments in years if he was to pick anyone but the Tar Heels. Of the seven crystal balls that have been cast on the 247Sports website, all of them are currently in favor of the Tar Heels, including three of which are deemed highly confident picks. If Ritzie commits to Carolina, he will become the Tar Heels second commitment in this cycle from Glenn High School and would be the thirteenth overall commitment from the state of North Carolina in the class. Ritzie, a player who has made major climbs up the 247 rankings over the past few months, would not only be a huge edition for the defensive line class, but would also be a significant pick up because of how interactive he is with other recruits on social media. We’ll have all of the latest leading up to and full coverage of Ritzie’s commitment on Friday night right here on the Heel Tough Blog website.
First Group of Players Return to Campus
Friday, the first group of players and the coaching staff are expected to return to campus, as the roadmap to the return of football begins. While there is not an official list in place, sources have said that the first group that will return to campus will likely be full of starters and veterans. One player that has been confirmed as one of the first group members is true freshman wide receiver Josh Downs, who is expected to be one of, if not the only freshman in the first wave. All of the players and staff members that return on Friday will be immediately tested for coronavirus and will be tested 7-8 days later, as laid out in the guidelines of return to campus plans that Bubba Cunningham released a couple of weeks ago. Keep an eye on the Heel Tough Blog website over the next couple of days for the full group of players that will be returning in this first wave.
Power Echols Making His Voice Heard
Racial injustice has rightfully become a big story in the United States and around the world over the past couple of weeks following the horrific death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. Among those taking a stand for the Black Lives Matter cause is current 2021 4✮ ILB commit Power Echols. Last Tuesday, Echols addressed a group of peaceful protestors in front of the Government Center in downtown Charlotte. In his passionate speech, Echols talked about how his generation is “tired of being sick and tired” and closed his speech by saying “we have a calling on our lives...specifically to be the generation of unification.” Check out the full video of his powerful speech below.
Howell Now With 30/1 Odds To Win Heisman
On Monday, SuperBookUSA released their latest odds for the 2020 Heisman Trophy and quarterback Sam Howell is among those on the list. Howell is now part of a group of four at 30/1 odds to take home the prestigious trophy, one that includes fellow gunslinger Bo Nix, who he’ll face in the second game of the season this upcoming season. Those odds have him tied for the 12th best odds, as he looks to become the first Tar Heel to ever take home the Heisman. Howell enters his sophomore season looking to build off of a freshman season where he threw for 3,641 yards and a true freshman and program record 38 touchdowns.
Tar Heels Crack Trigg’s Top Ten
Tight end remains a big need in this 2021 class for the Tar Heels and their highest rated target at the position released his top ten list earlier this week. The Tar Heels are one of the ten schools still in the running for 4✮ TE Michael Trigg from Tampa, FL. They are joined by Auburn, Illinois, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina and USC, while early favorite Florida State was surprisingly missing from the list. Right now, Auburn is probably seen as the slight leader, but this is a recruitment that is still wide open. There is still time for the Tar Heels to make a push here and we wouldn’t rule it out, but the Tar Heels are definitely more closely tied to 3✮ TE Bryson Nesbit at this time.
Boaz Earns NCHSAA Male Athlete of the Year
Jefferson Boaz has already received plenty of recognition this offseason for his amazing senior year and on Monday he added another award to his trophy case. The NCHSAA named Boaz their Male Athlete of the Year following a big year on both the football field and basketball court. He threw for 4,599 yards and totaled 82 touchdowns while helping lead the Cardinals to a 1AA state championship, their first ever football state title, in the fall. On the basketball court, Boaz led the Cardinals in scoring and rebounding, averaging a double-double, 23.9 point per game and 11.1 rebounds per game, as the team finished 18-7 and went to the second round of the 1A state playoffs.
Maye Earns Charlotte Observer Male Athlete of the Year
Boaz wasn’t the only Tar Heel quarterback commit to receive an award on Monday. 2021 quarterback commit Drake Maye received Male Athlete of the Year honors from Charlotte Observer following his amazing junior year at Myers Park High School. On the football field, Maye threw for 3,512 yards and total 56 touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions, leading the Mustangs to a 12-1 season and the regional semifinals of the 4AA state playoffs. He would follow that up on the basketball court by averaging a double-double, 16.1 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game and leading the team in both categories. The Mustangs finished the season 18-9.
Wide Receiver Room Named After Hakeem Nicks
The program announced on Tuesday morning that the Kenan Football Center’s wide receiver room was set to be named after former star wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Nicks was a three-year standout star at wide receiver from 2006-08, catching 181 passes for 2,840 yards and 21 touchdowns. All three of those career numbers are top three in program history and his 2008 season is widely regarded as one of, if not the best, seasons by a wide receiver in program history. Following his career at Carolina, Nicks went on to have a successful seven year NFL career, where he would win a Super Bowl title with the Giants in 2012. Nicks has been spending a lot of time around campus since his retirement from the league in 2015 and he seems to have built a nice relationship with Mack Brown, the Tar Heels current head coach. Nicks is the second former player to have a position room named after him, joining his former teammate, Da’Norris Searcy, whom the defensive backs room is currently named for.