As the injuries continue to pile up for the North Carolina Tar Heels, especially on the offensive side of the ball, there are backups and reserves now in starting roles. How will these players respond with even more responsibility and playing time? True football players want to be on the field, and now is their chance.
Offense - Anthony Ratliff-Williams
One of the consistent shining spots during a disappointing 1-3 start, Ratliff-Williams must step up even more than he already has with the depletion at the wide receiver spot. Against Duke, Austin Proehl broke his clavicle and Toe Groves was carted off with a knee injury. Dazz Newsome’s status is uncertain again after missing the Duke game, and of course Thomas Jackson is out for the year.
Ratliff-Williams had a big day against Duke, and his plays near the end of the first half that led to the Tar Heels tying the game showed off his athleticism, hand-eye coordination, and explosiveness. He will have even more of an opportunity to show off his talent when he lines up opposite Jordan Cunningham as the starting receivers.
When missing so many critical skill players, special teams become even more important. Ratliff-Williams continues to make a difference on kickoff returns, and even with the injuries to the receiving corps, Coach Larry Fedora may not be able to afford to give up the advantage Ratliff-Williams provides returning kickoffs.
Barring any other injuries, Ratliff-Williams is on his way to being the receiving and all-purpose yards leader for the UNC offense this season.
Defense - Cole Holcomb
In the absence of Andre Smith, Cole Holcomb has stepped up as a leader of the linebacker corps. Against Duke, Holcomb led all UNC defenders with 13 total tackles. He added half a tackle for loss and a QB hurry that day.
Needless to say, it will take all three levels on defense to put together a win. However, against Georgia Tech’s spread-option offense, the linebackers play an essential role in reading the quarterback, A-back, and B-back.
Georgia Tech’s quarterback TaQuon Marshall has provided much of the scoring punch for the Yellow Jackets, leading the team with eight rushing touchdowns and 386 rushing yards.
With Marshall and A-back KirVonte Benson averaging over five yards a rush on the season, Holcomb and senior linebacker Cayson Collins must make the correct initial reads to limit gains. Support from safeties Myles Dorn and Donnie Miles will be needed to limit those catastrophic plays on the ground.
Which players do you have your eye on against GT? Let us know in the comments below.