Much of the preseason expectations surrounding the Carolina football team were centralized around one person: Elijah Hood. It has been another tailback, however, that has stolen the show early in 2016. T.J. Logan has gotten off to a fantastic start in the young season, and has arguably been the Heels best back through two games.
The high expectations for Hood were certainly warranted. An ACC first-team selection a year ago, Elijah Hood punished opposing defenses to the tune of 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns. To think he would pick up where he left off and carry the Tar Heel offense again in 2016 was the general consensus among college football experts and fans alike. Hood has in no way had a bad start to the season. Through two games he has 160 yards, two touchdowns, and boasts a 6.4 yards-per-carry average. These are good numbers, but not Elijah Hood-esque numbers.
Who has captured the spotlight so far is senior tailback T.J. Logan, who has done a little bit of everything for Carolina in its first two games. He has 134 yards rushing on only 15 attempts giving him a hefty 8.9 yards-per-carry with one touchdown. He has also caught a touchdown through the air scoring on a 24-yard pass from Mitch Trubisky this past Saturday. Where Logan has been a true difference maker, though, is in the return game.
Against Georgia, he opened up the second half with a 95 yard return for a touchdown. He followed up the next week with a big 58-yard return against Illinois in Champaign. Big plays in special teams are momentum-changing plays that can swing a game one way or another. With Logan returning kickoffs and Ryan Switzer returning punts, opposing coaches and fans hold their breath every time the ball is kicked.
T.J. Logan has always had the potential to be a game-changing player. The former four-star recruit out of Northern Guilford High School had a record-breaking high school career. Logan rushed for 3,146 yards and 47 touchdowns in his Senior year, capped by a 510-yard, eight touchdown performance in the North Carolina 3AA State Championship game. It is obvious Logan could run the football.
Throughout his career as a Tar Heel, Logan has been sporadic but has shown flashes of brilliance. Last year against NC State, Logan had arguably his best game in a Carolina uniform when he converted just six carries into 100 yards and two touchdowns. His two touchdown runs of 42 and 40 yards both came in the infamous 35-point first quarter that North Carolina fans will not soon forget.
T.J. Logan’s career at UNC has been best defined as the lightning to Elijah Hood’s thunder. A change-of-pace back who is a threat to take the ball the distance every time he touches it, has spent most of his time sparing Hood and on third and long passing situations. He is still the second-string running back, but has seen an increased work load so far in 2016. When asked about Logan’s great start, the coach stated, “We go with the hot hand. We know that both are going to play and they both know that we’ve been doing it this way since they got here and that hasn’t changed. It’s still about production. If you’re producing, you get the ball. If you’re not, then the next guy gets the opportunity to produce.”
Logan has had the hot hand the past two games, and this has led to an increased work load. Besides his 62-yard run against Illinois, Elijah Hood was limited to a mere 26 yards on 14 carries. Logan was the much more productive back and seemed to have a strong burst every time he rushed the ball. He even took a page out of Elijah Hood’s book when he ran over an Illinois defender in the second half of the game. “The difference I see in him is that he’s finishing runs off now.” Fedora said. If Logan can continue to use his speed to break away from defenders and then use his power to punish them at the end of runs, he becomes an extremely scary back that provides the perfect compliment to Elijah Hood.
T.J. Logan has had a tremendous start to his senior season, and it shouldn’t slow down any time soon. Logan seems poised to end his UNC football career on a high note, and if he continues to produce in the running game, passing games, and special teams, he will leave Carolina as one of the more explosive players in recent memory.