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Heel Tough Blog: What Does the Roster Look Like for the Mayo Bowl?

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Yesterday was a day full of roster news for the Tar Heels as four players announced their decisions to head to the NFL and the program revealed five others will be out for the bowl game with injuries. With that news and the 17 players who have announced they are entering the transfer portal, it may be tough to figure out who will be available for the team when they take the field on December 27th against West Virginia. Let’s look at each room and who will be available for the team in a couple of weeks as the team searches for a ninth win that could give the Tar Heels something positive to build on going into the offseason.


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Available (2): Conner Harrell, Tad Hudson

Available but Transferring (1): Jefferson Boaz

Transferring and Will Not Play (1): Russell Tabor

Sitting Out for Draft (1): Drake Maye

Some people might not be happy that Maye isn’t playing, but this is probably what is best for the team long term. Harrell will get the chance to start the game and set the tone for the quarterback battle that lies ahead this offseason with Max Johnson. If he can show out in this game, it could give him an early advantage against the experienced Texas A&M transfer.

Running Back

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Available (5): British Brooks, Omarion Hampton, Caleb Hood, Kellan Hood, Jordan Louie

Transferring and Will Not Play (2): Elijah Green, George Pettaway

Despite not having two scholarship players, the Tar Heels are in good shape here. Hampton will carry the bulk of the load like he has the entire season and could see one of his heaviest workloads of the season with Harrell at quarterback. The interesting thing to watch will be how they distribute the carries behind Hampton. Will they go with Brooks as the primary backup one last time or use this game to get a better look at Caleb Hood?

Wide Receiver

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Available (15): Paul Billups II, Gavin Blackwell, Aiden Cloninger, Chris Culliver, Josh Espindola, Thomas Flynn, Christian Hamilton, Michael Hall, J.J. Jones, Nate McCollum, Brooks Miller, Kobe Paysour, Cyrus Rogers, Grady Sherrill, Landon Stevens

Out with Injury/Illness (1): Tylee Craft

Sitting Out for Draft (1): Tez Walker

Transferring and Will Not Play (2): Doc Chapman, Andre Greene Jr.

Despite being without their best player and two other young depth pieces, this is still a room that is in surprisingly good shape. Paysour return is huge and will give the Harrell an extremely reliable target to throw to. Jones and McCollum will both be starting as they have the majority of the season and should be Harrell a really solid corps to throw to. Blackwell could get another chance to contribute in the same building where he started the season with one of the starting jobs. This could also be a great chance for Culliver and Hamilton to step up and prove how bright the future is for this room.

Tight Ends

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Available (3): Cort Halsey, Deems May III, Cal Tierney

Out with Injury/Illness (3): John Copenhaver, Bryson Nesbit, Julien Randolph

Transferring and Will Not Play (1): Kamari Morales

This has to be the room that the staff is most concerned about at this point. With Nesbit, Copenhaver and Randolph shelved and Morales already committed to a new school, the Tar Heels will be without a single scholarship player at the position in this game. Expect a lot of four and five wide receiver sets on passing downs and extra offensive linemen on running downs. This will also be an opportunity for Deems May III, who was the fourth tight end on the depth chart throughout the year. 

Offensive Line

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Available (15): Jonathan Adorno, William Barnes, Bo Burkes, Chance Carroll, D.J. Geth, Trevyon Green, R.J. Grigsby, Jarvis Hicks, Carter Kulka, Willie Lampkin, Nolan McConnell, Malik McGowan, Ed Montilus, Diego Pounds, Spencer Rolland, Eli Sutton

Out with Injury/Illness (1): Zach Rice

Sitting Out for Draft (1): Corey Gaynor

Transferring and Will Not Play (1): Justin Kanyuk

Losing Gaynor, who was one of the most consistent pieces on the offensive line this year, is a blow, but this unit should be in solid shape heading in. Lampkin will likely kick over to center, a spot that he thrived in at Coastal Carolina in 2022, meaning that Barnes will most likely take back over at right guard where he played snaps earlier in the season when Lampkin was on the shelf. Montilus, Pounds and Rolland will all be in their normal starting spot means this unit should be in pretty good shape heading in. 

Defensive Line/Jacks

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Available (14): Beau Atkinson, Damon Bremer, Corey Doreen, Des Evans, Tomari Fox, Amari Gainer, Jaybron Harvey, Kevin Hester Jr., Rodney Lora, Jahvaree Ritzie, Kaimon Rucker, Travis Shaw, Joel Starlings, Tyler Thompson

Heading to Draft but Playing (1): Myles Murphy

Out with Injury/Illness (2): Jacolbe Cowan, Malaki Hamrick

Transferring and Will Not Play (1): Kedrick Bingley-Jones

This is the room that is probably least affected by all of the roster moves. Murphy choosing to play means that all of the main contributors will be available for this game and it now comes down to how the staff uses him with the knowledge that he will be gone after the game.


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Available (9): Amare Campbell, Power Echols, Jonny Fritz, Jake Harkleroad, Caleb LaVallee, Cade Law, Gibson Macrae, CJ Murphy, Michael Short

Sitting Out for Draft (1): Cedric Gray

Transferring and Will Not Play (4): Milad Aghaiepour, Jalen Brooks, Deuce Caldwell, Sebastian Cheeks

Gray’s absence is a huge one and will leave some big shoes to be filled from both a production and leadership standpoint. Campbell should start alongside Echols, giving us our first good look at him to see if he has what it takes to be a starter next season. Echols will have to take over that leadership role, something that he seems capable of doing. Cheeks would have had a chance to play some important reps in this game, but those opportunities will now fall into the hands of true freshmen LaVallee and Short.

Defensive Backs

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Available (16): Ty Adams, Derrik Allen, Marcus Allen, Giovanni Biggers, Jack Blythe, Don Chapman, Armani Chatman, Kaleb Cost, Lejond Cavazos, Ayden Duncanson, Christopher Holliday, Stick Lane, Reggie Love II, Tre Miller, Jaden Selby, Naari Short

Available but Transferring (1): D.J. Jones

Out with Injury/Illness (3): DeAndre Boykins, Will Hardy, Alijah Huzzie

Transferring and Will Not Play (2): Major Byrd, Tayon Holloway

This is far from the thinnest room for the team heading into this game, but they will be without some key players. Hardy, Holloway and Huzzie being out means three of the team’s key rotational players will be gone, meaning the team will likely lean heavily on the starters they use at these spots in this game. At safety, it won’t be too much of an issue with Biggers, Chapman and Lane ready to share the reps. Marcus Allen and Chatman will probably play almost exclusively at outside corner, although this would be a great chance to see where Miller and Duncanson are as true freshmen. The biggest concern is nickel corner where Jones will do Mack Brown a favor and play in the game to help the depleted position. With him departing for the portal afterward, it will be interesting to see how they divide the reps between him and Cost.

Special Teams

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Available (7): Liam Boyd, Noah Burnette, Garrett Jordan, Drew Little, Tom Maginness, Todd Pledger, Spencer Triplett

Out with Injury Illness (1): Ben Kiernan

Transferring and Will Not Play (2): Ryan Coe, Cole Maynard

In terms of the pure special teams bodies, this room is in really good shape. Coe and Maynard were both backups, although the team will have a new holder with the latter’s departure. The bigger concern lays with the coverage and return units. The team will be using a new kick returner with Doc Chapman gone and no Alijah Huzzie means it will fall to Nate McCollum, who has been hobbled most of the year with injuries. Meanwhile, the other spots on these units will be pretty vacant with so many of the contributors here in the portal.


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