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Heel Tough Blog: Weekly Storylines- May 15th

Another week around Tar Heel football is in the books as we continue to steam through the second part of the offseason. Here is a look at the biggest storylines around the team from the past week.

Cedric Gray Named to Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List

Andy Mead- ISI Photos

Gray will come into the 2023 season as one of the top linebackers in all of college football following an outstanding junior season a year ago. On Tuesday he was named to the preseason watch list for one of the sport’s most prestigious defensive awards, the Lott IMPACT Trophy. Last season, he finished with 145 total tackles, 82 of which were solo tackles, ranking top three nationally in both of those categories. He also led the Tar Heels in tackles for loss (12.0), forced fumbles (3) and fumble recoveries (2) and was second in interceptions (2). With him set to be the leader of the defense again this season, he could certainly be a factor, at least from the performance angle for this award. The trophy, according to the official website, is given to the defensive player that displays the best combination of Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity. For more on how Gray and Power Echols are leading the charge as this defense tries to improve, CLICK HERE.

Michael Merdinger Commits to Tar Heels Following Offer

Robson Lopes- Photo You 4 Life

The Tar Heels had been searching far and wide for their quarterback in the 2024 class and last Sunday, they found their guy. Merdinger, a 3✮ from Fort Lauderdale, FL, committed less than 24 hours after his offer and gives the Tar Heels another player in this recruiting class with a lot of upside. He has yet to be a starter at the high school level, throwing for just 721 yards and nine touchdowns, most of which came in mop up duties last season. This offseason, though, he has been gaining a lot of momentum highlighted by a tremendous performance at the Elite 11 camp in Orlando. For more on Merdinger’s commitment, CLICK HERE.

Remaining 2024 Targets Beginning to Set Official Visits

@javariusg- Instagram

The month of June is fast approaching and the Tar Heels have some work to do in a class where they have struggled to land blue-chip prospects. This week, four of the team’s remaining targets officially announced when they will be taking their official visits to Chapel Hill. 3✮ TE Timothy Lawson will make his trip to campus the first weekend of month while Merdinger, 4✮ CB Zion Ferguson and 3✮ WR Javarius Green will all be a part of what is expected to be a massive weekend of visits to close out the month June 23-25. Ferguson, who is currently committed to LSU, is a guy that the team has been pushing hard to flip for a while now and it looks like they have a legitimate shot to do so with this visit. Green has flown under the radar with the other higher rated receivers that the team has extended  offers to, but the Tar Heels have quietly established themselves as the favorite in the race. Lawson is a tough one to read right now in terms of a leader, but the Tar Heels are joined by TCU, Duke and Purdue as schools that he will officially visit.

Austin Proehl in Rookie Minicamp With the Panthers

USA Today Sports

The four Tar Heels who were drafted a couple of weeks ago are in rookie minicamp. They aren’t the only former Tar Heels to be attending one right now, though. Just like we saw a year ago with Ryan Switzer, former receiver Proehl received a veteran invite to rookie camp with both the Panthers and Eagles last weekend. Proehl, who spent this spring season with the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks, decided to go back home and is currently attending the Panthers camp. He has work to do to make their roster, but the hope is that he can at least do enough to earn a training camp invite somewhere. 

Former Tar Heel LB Andre Smith Signs with Falcons

@AndreSmith_9- Twitter

Proehl wasn't the only former Tar Heel to receive good news regarding their future at the NFL level. Smith, who spent the majority of last season on the Titans practice squad, officially signed with the "Red Stallions" on Sunday. Last year, he played in five games for Tennessee, finishing with six total tackles. So far in his NFL career, Smith has racked up 33 total tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss and one fumble recovery.


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