Eyes may be looking elsewhere for a big graduate transfer to choose UNC, but Mack Brown made sure to keep an eye on the big picture. Thus, on Sunday, this seemingly small news bit came out:
The news fits into the Mack Brown’s modus operandi for the offseason: don’t settle, keep getting better. Despite winning their last three games in convincing fashion, the fact remains that the Tar Heels finished 7-6, and special teams cost them at least one win. In fact, it could easily be argued that number was two if you count the block at the end of the App State game.
This is no small addition. Atkins was an All-American at the FCS level, already has a career long of 55 yards, didn’t miss a kick from 40-49 yards all season in 2019, and had a stretch from the end of 2018 to the beginning of 2019 where he made 18 field goals in a row.
This addition of Atkins will put some real competition on the practice field for incumbent Noah Ruggles. Ruggles recovered well after missing his chance to win against Virginia Tech and being demoted in favor of Michael Kim for a half, but having someone on the field who can kick it consistently past the 40 yard range will take a lot of stress off the offense. Ruggles’ longest on the season was 49 yards, but he didn’t have a make longer than 40 the rest of the season. He also had four kicks blocked last season.
The Tar Heels do lose one of their kickers as Michael Rubino, who handled kickoffs, will graduate this spring, so Atkins will slide into that spot.
This move follows the addition of Jovan DeWitt to head the special teams and linebackers, which tells you that in fact, yes, Mack knew special teams could be better as well. Brown has said that the coaching staff will look through the grad transfer portal to see if anyone is out there that would fit the team's needs, so it’s doubtful this will be the last move.