Yesterday morning ESPN released their college football post-spring top 25 power rankings for the 2022 season. The results of the power rankings were more or less what we’ve previously seen in these kinds of rankings, with teams like Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia holding down positions in the top ten, though Oklahoma is currently holding the top spot. However, Mack Brown’s Tar Heels have now officially entered the national spotlight, as ESPN writer Mark Schlabach has listed them as the eighth-best team in the country.
Previously in the way-too early rankings the Tar Heels were ranked the seventh-best team, but it goes without saying that slipping down to the eighth spot is nothing to be ashamed of. Mack Brown is now entering his third year in his return to Chapel Hill, and he is bringing highly-touted newcomers like Keeshawn Silver, Drake Maye, Ty Chandler, and RaRa Dillworth with him. During the spring game a couple of weeks ago, UNC’s freshmen specifically looked hungry and like they were more than ready to fight for playing time, as they played perhaps harder than any of us could’ve expect in a blue vs. white scrimmage. We should expect Brown to plug some of these guys in right away as the Heels begin their journey to return to the ACC Championship game, and maybe even that other event if things go well in Charlotte.
As Schlabach pointed out in his article, Sam Howell and his entire offensive line will be returning, but it is at the running back and wide receiver positions where the most questions lie. Ty Chandler transferred from Tennessee to hopefully replace some of the production that Michael Carter and Javonte Williams took with them to the NFL Draft, and the wide receiver corp lost two studs in Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome. However, Beau Corrales, Josh Downs, and Khafre Brown are talented receivers themselves, and we could see a player like incoming freshman Gavin Blackwell work his way into the rotation as well.
If there were a group that may have more of a question mark behind it going into this season, it would have to be the defense. Jay Bateman has finally gotten some of the depth that he has needed in order to open the playbook up a bit more, and what that will hopefully result in is more pass-rushing than last season. Though it’s really difficult to take much of anything away from spring games, linebackers RaRa Dillworth and Eugene Asante could be some names that we hear quite a bit throughout the 2021 season, as they were consistently found pressuring the quarterback all throughout the scrimmage.
When it comes to other ACC schools on the list, Clemson was listed at number four, and the only other (real) ACC team that makes an appearance on the list is Miami at number 25. While it’s hard to invest too much stock into way-too-early rankings like this, it does paint a rather vivid picture when it comes to just how incredible of a job Mack Brown in resurrecting a football program that was in a very dark place in Larry Fedora’s final seasons. This fall the Tar Heels should be heavily favored to win the Coastal division, but the question is and forever will be whether or not they have enough to take down Clemson, who are now without two of their best players in Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. Only time will tell, but this does feel like the most capable roster that UNC has had in ages.
What do you think of ESPN’s post-spring power rankings? Do you think they are ranked too high? Too low? Do you despise way-too-early rankings and would like to see them launched into the sun? Let us know in the comments below.