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UNC Football: What to look for at the Spring Game

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The Spring Game returns to Chapel Hill this weekend. Here’s what you might see from a new-look Tar Heel team

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

Spring football practice is about to wrap up for this Tar Heel football team. On Saturday at 5 PM, the results of that practice will be put on full display at Kenan Stadium. After a couple of years without a Spring Game, the football team will get onto the grass of Kenan Stadium for the first time in almost six months and show off their skills.

There’s a different feel to this spring game, and it starts at the top. This will be the debut for Mack Brown in his second stint as coach, and if you don’t think he’s excited for this game, then you clearly don’t look at social media:

There are plenty of football storylines to follow going into Saturday, and we will hit those as the weekend gets closer. We’ve already summarized Coach Brown’s pitch for you. So now that you’ve decided to go, what, you may ask, am I supposed to be seeing?

New Coaching Staff, New Attitude

As mentioned, this game brings back Mack Brown as coach, and since his hire the attitude change in the program has been obvious. The football Twitter account has been loaded with videos about practice, words from the staff, and the famous “Let’s Get This Work” chant that caught fire during the spring.

Saturday is a chance to see this new attitude out on the field. This is more than just in a football sense, too. As the video above mentions, a full two and a half hours before the game, the stadium will be open to the public, and members of the football family will be walking around, meeting fans. For a staff and team that seemed increasingly distant over the past few seasons, there’s been a clear effort to reconnect the football team to the campus and fans at large. If you’ve felt cut off from the team the last couple of seasons, going to Kenan on Saturday should help restore your connection.

Not Just Football

As mentioned, the gates at Kenan Stadium will be thrown open at 2:30 with plenty of activities for everyone. The Tar Heels have made it clear that they will fill the stadium with games, staff, and virtual experiences for everyone to enjoy. They’ll also be providing music and have several prize drawings throughout the Fan Fest.

Those activities also extend to outside Kenan Stadium as both lacrosse teams have scheduled games at the new soccer/lacrosse stadium. The men and women’s teams play their last regular season home games Saturday, both against Syracuse. If you haven’t had a chance to go to the new facility, Saturday will be a great day to check out part of the massive upgrades both of our champion Lacrosse programs will get to enjoy.

Recruiting

The Spring Game is a huge recruiting tool for the coaches, and if their momentum for 2020 shows anything, the new staff has hit the trail hard in getting some top talent back to Chapel Hill. One of the way to impress these recruits is to have them walk into a stadium loaded with people cheering on the current team. Just seeing that excitement and knowing they can be part of the potential UNC is showing could net a few more commitments to a class that is already one of the top classes in the country.

The recovery that this staff has done in recruiting has been nothing short of amazing, and going Saturday gives you a chance to to be a part of that. And based on the buy-in we’re starting to see from fans, look to experience an environment at Kenan we haven’t seen since the team was winning games consistently.

Goodbye Grass

You may have heard that artificial turf is going to be installed in Kenan. The link will take you to the reasoning behind the switch, but part of it stems from the fact that Brown was embarrassed at the state of the field after hosting the high school title games. That’s not, you would think, a good impression to make on the state’s top high school coaches when you’re trying to rebuild a lot of broken relationships. Thanks to two years of having to use Kenan Stadium for practice, I know that it becomes tough to get grass to take root and grow in late November. Installing turf will provide a consistent surface for everyone. But there’s still something kind of magical about seeing football played on grass...

The switch is scheduled to take place after Kenan hosts Commencement in May, so that means this will be your last chance to see the football team play on a natural grass surface in Kenan for at least a while. It’s possible that at some point a switch back will happen, but considering the investment it takes to install an artificial turf field, that switch likely wouldn’t happen for years.

So, if you’re a fan of the natural surface, soak in your last chance to see it on Saturday, as well as, maybe, a more inquisitive look at how what we see might translate to turf.

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This weekend is looking like it’ll be a glorious one weather-wise, so you really are running low on reasons to miss the events around the spring game this year. So head on over to Kenan on Saturday and check out the hard work the football team has put in so far to get ready for the 2019 season.