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UNC vs. Campbell: Position Grades

While they took some time to get rolling, the Heels finally got right.

Campbell v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The last two weeks have been rough for Tar Heels everywhere, as UNC football suffered back-to-back losses to a couple of teams thought to be levels below Carolina. Therefore, it was nice to get a breather against a team that’s truly a level down, with the Campbell Fighting Camels of the FCS coming to town.

Judging by the angst on my Twitter feed and early heart palpitations, the Heels got off to a slower start than we would’ve hoped against another inferior opponent. However, they ultimately collected themselves and—following a missed Camels field goal—poured on 52 unanswered points to secure a 59-7 schneid-breaking win.

Given the context of playing an FCS team, we cannot justify the straight As that the score might suggest. Overall, though, this was a quality performance in a get-right game at the start of the season’s final chapter. Grades by position group are below.


Quarterback: A

After two weeks of “Drake Maye shines in a loss,” I’m sure I speak for all Tar Heels when I say that we’ll happily accept a relatively ho-hum individual performance in exchange for a W. Moreover, this really was only ho-hum by Maye’s lofty standards, as he turned in an efficient 16/23 for 244 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air. He also had some mighty crisp handoffs in this one.

While we all know how good we have it at quarterback in the present, Tar Heel fans were also treated to a glimpse of the future as Conner Harrell handled the offense for parts of the third and fourth quarters. Passing the ball, Harrell went a crisp 4/4 for 71 yards and a touchdown. However, it was his 61 yard touchdown scamper that flashed the brightest:

Jefferson Boaz also went a spotless 1/1 for 3 yards passing.

Running Backs: A+

Omarion Hampton continued to be an absolute Terminator at running back as he rushed for 144 yards on just 15 carries, most of which were of the “I’m going straight really fast and you can’t stop me” variety. For the math averse, that means Hampton was running on average just shy of a first down every time he took a handoff. All that without considering the 75-yard touchdown run he had wiped off the board in the first half by a fraudulent holding call. Hampton is now over 1,000 yards from scrimmage on the year, and nearing that number in rushing yards alone.

British Brooks also had a strong, complementary game gaining 64 yards on 10 carries, including some clutch third down runs.

Wide Receivers: A-

No receiver had a truly standout performance, but it was nice to see a wide variety of pass catchers get involved on the day. Tez Walker was efficient with his two receptions, turning both into scores (he now has six touchdowns in just five games). JJ Jones was also solid, with a touchdown of his own in the third quarter to put a bow on most of the starters’ days.

Once the starters took a seat, though, it was nice to see some young receivers get involved. Freshmen Tychaun Chapman, Andre Green Jr, and Chris Culliver all had catches, with the latter hauling in his first career touchdown on the other end of Harrell’s first career touchdown pass, a 41-yarder.

Tight Ends: B+

Perhaps the wide receivers would’ve had their grade bumped up to a clean A if we included Bryson Nesbit in the bunch. At this point, positional designations are beneath #18, who recorded 6 catches for 78 yards and was the most productive pass catcher on the day. He did have one or two quasi-drops in tight coverage, but was largely the same effective mismatch he has been all season.

John Copenhaver turned his only catch of the day into a 25-yard touchdown, while Kamari Morales produced a modest 2 for 13. Each was decent in the blocking game.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line should not beat themselves up too much after this one, but, given the level of competition, could’ve been expected to play a bit better. There was the aforementioned holding call on Hampton’s would’ve-been gamebreaking run that, while bordering on officiating malpractice, was indicative of a holding issue that has plagued the Heels’ line all season. They also allowed 2 sacks in a game that should’ve made for clean and easy pockets.

Still, there were clean and easy pockets for most of the day. You’ll see a whole bunch of them in this cut-up from Nate Tice. Further, I have to give credit for opening up massive running lanes throughout the game, allowing Hampton and Brooks to do their things.

There’s always room for improvement and certainly some things to clean up before facing a stout Dook front seven, but it was nice to see the Carolina line turn in a solid B game while rotating in some of the youngsters—namely Zach Rice—towards the end of the game.


Defensive Line: A-

On the other side of the trenches, UNC’s defense line played a largely solid and disruptive game. The ACC Network’s color commentator kept pointing out how big Campbell’s offensive line was across the board. While he uttered quite a bit of nonsense on the day, this observation lined up with what I saw via naked eye. My naked eye also observed the Heels’ front pushing the line of scrimmage backwards for most of the game, a claim supported by Campbell’s paltry 2.4 yards per carry mark.

In pass rush situations, Des Evans chipped in a sack while Beau Atkinson had halfa’ one, too.

Linebackers: A

While the Tar Heel defensive line picked up 1.5 sacks, they were overshadowed by the 3.5 contributed by the linebackers thanks to Cedric Gray (2), Kaimon Rucker (0.5), and freshman Amare Campbell (1). No word on if the youngster took this game personally against his namesake, but he played like it.

The inside-out duo of field-roamers, Gray and Power Echols, each picked up 9 tackles as they were characteristically consistently close to the action. Sure, Echols gave up the Camels’ sole touchdown in the first quarter, but I’m going to chalk that one up to coaching as there’s no reason to have your linebacker manned-up on a slot receiver on 3rd and 19.

I was glad to see Campbell and Sebastian Cheeks get reps in this one, as Gray and Echols can use the rest at this point in the season.

Secondary: A-

The secondary gave up some catches underneath in the first half, but buckled up throughout the game. They made some big plays all over the field, as Marcus Allen secured his first career interception and Will Hardy recovered the fumble on Campbell’s broken fake punt (that faked themselves out). They’ll need to turn in a similarly strong performance next week against that school down the road.

Special Teams / Coaching

Special Teams: B+

UNC’s special teams this season have been — if not shaky — difficult to trust. Confidence was tested early as kickoff-man Liam Boyd’s second attempt was brought out of the end zone 38 yards and nearly broke for more. However, the coverage unit settled down and there were no more scares on the day.

Tom Maginness didn’t have too many chances to improve on his punting this game, but his 3 boots resulted in a respectable 44-yard average. Drake Maye, on the other hand (other foot?), showed off his leg for the second time this year with a pooch punt that was oh-so-close to being downed at the one.

Carolina’s returners didn’t get much work on the day as Campbell’s kickoff team kept claiming touchbacks. Alijah Huzzie turned his sole opportunity into 9 yards.

The special teams star of the day for UNC was undoubtedly Noah Burnette, who was 1/1 from 43 yards on his lone field goal attempt. More notably, however, was Burnette’s unblemished, prolific output of 8 made extra-points on 8 attempts. Always happy to have a steady foot.

Coaching: C+

While the players all performed somewhere on the spectrum of good to great today, I’m not as sold on the coaching performance. Sure, they passed—they helped lead their superior athletes to a blowout win over lesser talent—but barely.

Who’s fault is it that the team came out flat to start the game? An empty Kenan sure didn’t help, but good coaches motivate their teams without crowd noise (just ask Lance Leipold about his first few years in Lawrence, Kansas).

The coaches caused a three-and-out on our first drive against Campbell by throwing Hampton out wide and getting way too cute with it. The coaches implemented the only 4-2-5 defense in the world without the flexibility to deal with an adept zone-read quarterback. Finally, the coaches tried to substitute with nine seconds and no timeouts left, costing UNC a field goal to end the half.

Yes, the Heels won. They beat Campbell by 52. After a couple concerning drives early, the team made adjustments and ran away from the Camels. But there are still unsettling tendencies and mistakes all throughout the coaching staff.

Don’t let the ending of this blog leave you with a sour taste. The players played well! That will mean more than anything the coaches do vs Duke, Clemson, and State. However, I’m assigning the coaches a whole heap of homework to make sure they learn their lessons before the real tests in the seasons’ final weeks.

The Tar Heels are 7-2. They got right. Now it’s back to the books.