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UNC Football: Wide receivers will need to step up against Miami

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After a promising but limited first game, UNC's pass-catchers need to get more involved this time around

NCAA Football: South Carolina at North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in the exaltation over UNC's first win over a non-Pitt FBS team in the past 2+ years, maybe, is that though true freshman quarterback Sam Howell played really well, his role was fairly limited against South Carolina. The offense was more open in the second half than in the first, but by the end of the game, he'd thrown just 24 passes, completing 15. The run game, of course, picked up the slack, with more than 40 attempts on the ground as they feasted on the holes the UNC offensive line created and the Gamecock linebackers' inability to bring them down on first (or second, or sometimes third) contact.

Coach Mack Brown has made no bones about his conviction that running back is UNC's best position group, and he will definitely continue to lean on the trio of Michael Carter, Javonte Williams, and Antonio Williams as the season goes on. But offensive coordinator Phil Longo also said this week that the coaching staff is now going to "let Howell completely loose":https://twitter.com/jonmalexander/status/1168547418138263553 ahead of the Heels' matchup with Miami. And after Brown described Miami's linebacking group as maybe the best in the country, it's safe to assume that the UNC running backs won't be able to rack up 150+ yards after contact for the second straight game.

This puts a bigger burden on the UNC receivers to perform and carry a larger share of the offensive load on Saturday night. Like Howell, they were good but limited in Charlotte. No UNC receiver caught more than 4 passes, and while that meant the ball was spread out as much as it could be with only 13 receptions to non-running backs, the group didn't have to consistently win their battles. Dyami Brown's incredible touchdown catch was noteworthy, sure, as was Dazz Newsome maintaining concentration to catch a ball Howell fit through about 6 South Carolina players, but we didn't need any consistency from the group. They looked capable, but Saturday is where they need to prove their ability alongside the rest of their position group. One catch apiece from Beau Corrales and Antoine Green, UNC's premier deep threats, isn't going to cut it for most of the season, and besides, with Sam Howell's arm, that tandem has a lot of fun potential this season. They'll need to start showing it more consistently to avoid Miami stacking the box.

The UNC wide receiver group is electric but hasn't seen a ton of game action, barring Brown and Newsome. Saturday would be an excellent time for a group coming-out party.