It only took two weeks for the Tar Heels to pick up their first significant injury of the 2019 season. On Monday morning, the Tar Heels announced that senior starting cornerback Patrice Rene will miss the remainder of the season after suffering an ACL tear in his right knee. The Tar Heels will now be without one of the top corners in the ACC for the remainder of the season, so let’s look at the players that will help to replace him as the season progresses.
Greg Ross Jr.
The most likely player to start the rest of the season, Ross is the most experienced option after starting six games a year ago and the season opener against South Carolina. Ross had a great game in the season opener, helping to hold the Gamecocks leading returning receiver to just two catches. Saturday wasn’t quite as strong of a performance, but the good news for Tar Heel fans is that Ross has eliminated those downfield lapses that he had a year ago. With more confidence in himself this season, he looks poised to make a big impact with Rene on the shelf.
Although he didn’t have as big of an impact as he did in the opener, Duck appeared to have earned that role as the second rotational corner prior to Rene’s injury, but he will become that primary rotational corner on the outside. There may be some concern with Duck being a true freshman, but he made an impression on this staff throughout camp and held his own in the first half against South Carolina. Although he will have to iron out some schematic issues that he had in the first game, there is a good chance he will be a significant contributor in the Tar Heels secondary this season.
There was a reason that the Tar Heel staff and fans were so eager to get this young man eligible for the 2019 season. With the injury to Rene, one would think this talented young corner would get a shot a playing time going forward. Kelly’s length and coverage skills could make him troublesome for opposing receivers. The big question now is, has he been able to grasp the scheme enough to where Bateman is comfortable putting him on the field in important moments.
This was one of the names that were brought up by Jay Bateman in his Monday press conference after the revelation of Rene’s injury. Egbuna has been an important member of the special teams unit early in the year, but he may now be called upon to make an impact in the secondary. Egbuna was brought in because of his playmaking ability on the defensive side of the football at the prep level. Don’t be shocked if Egbuna sees some rotational reps going forward.