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The impact of UNC’s Mack Hollins missing the first half against Georgia

A look at how the loss of Mack Hollins for one half will affect the Tar Heels in their season opener on Saturday.

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

The University of North Carolina will be without senior playmaker Mack Hollins for the first half of their matchup against Georgia this coming Saturday. Hollins’ absence from the first half is due to a targeting penalty he received for a hit on a Baylor player in the Tar Heels’ bowl game nine months ago.

We can debate all we want about whether it truly was targeting and whether a rule should even exist that hampers a player in any way in a game nine months from said penalty. However, as dumb as it is, that is the rule. Mack broke it, and now he and UNC are paying the price.

The ripples of this suspension can be felt throughout the football team on many different sides of the ball. Coach Larry Fedora was quoted as saying that they will miss Mack more on special teams than at wide receiver. This claim is backed up by the fact that Hollins plays on all four special teams, and has been the special teams captain his first three years with the program.

It is backed up even further when you factor in that every UNC wide receiver learns all the receiver positions on the field. This, in theory, would mean that they could just plug in someone else to do his job for the first 30 minutes of action.

However, it can be agued that losing Mack will hurt the offense, and Mitch Trubisky, more than anything else. Not trying to take credit away from Hollins’ special teams play, but the Tar Heels will find another player (or four) to do his job. He is the captain and the leader of the special teams, but they aren’t on the field as often as the offense. Losing him for such limited field action shouldn’t impact the game the way his absence will be felt on offense.

Mack’s importance on offense is magnified when you consider how porous UNC’s defense was last season. If it’s anything like last year, UNC may not be able to stop Georgia, and may rely heavily on the offense to outscore the Bulldogs.

On top of this, the offense won’t find another 6’4, 210 pound wide receiver to stretch the field the way Hollins did all last season. They can’t just plug in some player to average an NCAA best 24.8 yards per catch to keep the Georgia defense honest.

Mack’s ability to catch the home run ball would usually force Georgia to keep a safety back instead of bringing him up. His absence allows the safety to creep up and affect UNC’s short passing and running game. The loss of Hollins causes a domino effect that could greatly impact UNC’s offense in more ways than one.

Mack’s importance on offense will affect Mitch Trubisky as well. He will be needed to help ease in a “rookie” quarterback against one of the nation’s best passing defenses last season. A team whose defense will only be better with the addition of defensive guru-turned-head coach, Kirby Smart. I realize Trubisky is no rookie, but he’s never had the luxury of being able to call it his team. This role is new to him, it brings a lot of pressure, and he will be embracing it on a massive stage against an extremely tough Georgia squad.

Trubisky will need all the help he can get from his wide receivers against Georgia’s stout passing defense. Luckily for the Heels, they have other wide receivers on offense that will help make plays for the first half of UNC’s date with Georgia.

Hopefully, Mack will return in a blaze of glory and bring some type of spark to UNC in the second half. Until then, UNC will have to try and manage without one of their leaders, and explosive playmakers.