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Will UNC’s Mack Hollins still thrive with Mitch Trubisky?

With Mitch Trubisky throwing the football now, can one of Marquise Williams’ favorite weapons continue to wreak havoc on ACC defenses?

North Carolina v North Carolina State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Wide receiver Mack Hollins has simply been a revelation since walking onto the North Carolina football team a few years ago. In his first year for the squad, he caught 35 passes for 613 yards and eight touchdowns. Last year, as UNC’s explosive offense really hit its stride, he improved upon those numbers and even led the country in a receiving stat. Hollins finished with 30 catches for 745 yards and, again, eight touchdowns. The mind-boggling and nation-leading stat? An absurd, video game-like 24.8 yards per catch.

Hollins, at 6’4” and 210, is extremely fast and still big and strong enough to go up in the air and snatch the ball on deep throws. He and Marquise Williams clicked spectacularly, with Williams having faith in his receiver to go run after the ball. In a two game stretch last season against Pittsburgh and Duke, Hollins caught seven passes for a whopping 246 yards and two touchdowns. The relationship and understanding between Hollins and Williams was like few have ever seen before in Chapel Hill. Williams would lob it up, seemingly as far as his massive arm would let it go, and Hollins would rip it out of the sky.

Now, Mitch Trubisky steps into Williams’ spot. The receiving core is loaded, but it remains to be seen if Trubisky can recreate that deep-ball magic with Hollins. Trubisky and Williams are different types of quarterbacks, as Williams primarily used his athleticism and speed to frustrate ACC defenses. His accuracy continually wavered, especially in short to medium range throws. Flinging it as far as he possibly could with just enough accuracy was, also, one of his strengths.

Trubisky is much more prototypical than Williams. He should be more accurate in the pocket and more efficient in methodically yet quickly moving the chains. His arm isn’t as strong as Williams’, and he won’t be as elusive in evading defenders. Coach Larry Fedora and the staff have already discussed how they expect Trubisky to excel in those key shorter and medium distances. Where does that leave one of the best deep threats in the country?

Hollins just being on the field will present challenges to any defense. Somebody always has to account for him, leaving more room open in the middle for other receivers, as well as providing ample space for running back Elijah Hood. Trubisky has to be able to hit Hollins enough on deep routes to continually worry a defense. If the two can do that, North Carolina should again have a blistering offense that can destroy a team in a myriad of ways.

But, if Trubisky struggles on throws longer than 20 yards, the effect of Hollins stretching the field will be lost some. His speed, leaping ability, and strength are all for naught if he can’t run under passes like he’s used to. Again, Trubisky doesn’t have the same arm strength, but hopefully his accuracy can overcome that. Hitting the deep ball even one or two times a game can be a world of difference for the Heels.

All of this isn’t to say that Hollins is some one-trick pony. He’s not just a game-breaking deep threat, although it’s what has earned him so much praise and accolades in Chapel Hill. He’s got strong hands and is extremely difficult to tackle once he has the ball. He’s worked on his game immensely in his time at UNC and, whether or not he gets a ton of deep balls, Hollins will still be an impactful part of the offense. Continuing to connect on long throws, however, could vault him into an elite class of college football receivers.

Nobody should expect Hollins to average close to 25 yards a catch again, and that would be almost insane. What he and Williams were able to accomplish was historic and exciting, but there’s hope now that the Tar Heels can have a more balanced offensive approach. Hollins has the tools to be a much more versatile wideout this season as long as Trubisky gets him the ball. The long ball probably won’t connect as often, yet Hollins could have an even greater impact.