For once, it’s been a relatively healthy off- and pre-season for the UNC Tar Heels (though, as we also saw this week, health isn’t the only way a team can get hurt in the offseason). Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible for a team to stay completely healthy, and earlier this week, we learned that cornerback Lejond Cavazos has suffered a meniscus injury that will require surgery and keep him out of action to start the season. Cavazos was one of the few players returning from last year’s cornerbacks group with some starting experience, so his loss adds even more turmoil to a group that’s going to be almost entirely rebuilt from last year to this one.
Cavazos transferred in to Chapel Hill in 2022 after two years at Ohio State and joined the cornerbacks rotation behind Storm Duck and Tony Grimes. He didn’t play much in the earlier parts of the year, but towards the end, after three-quarters of a season of the defense’s back end being relentlessly picked on, Cavazos started getting more snaps, including starting the last three games of the season. He had a few good reps, particularly against N.C. State, but overall played at or below the level of the players he’d replaced. According to the InsideCarolina report about his injury linked above, Cavazos wasn’t expected to return as a starter this season, having been apparently beaten out by transfer Alijah Huzzie and rising sophomore Marcus Allen. That doesn’t mean his injury is anything to sneeze at for UNC fans, however. Not only is depth vital because it’s impossible to have a locked-in starting lineup at a position with 100% turnover and a new position coach, Cavazos, as the oldest player in the room with starting experience at UNC, has to be a leader on the practice field for the position to have some organization and discipline. It’s been plenty apparent that those things have been missing from the defense’s back end ever since Mack Brown returned to Chapel Hill.
Meniscus surgery usually takes anywhere between a month and two months before an athlete is ready to return to action, so in terms of the actual football season, Cavazos could miss anywhere between 1 and 5 games. That said, his being unable to participate in the majority of fall camp is really unfortunate both for him and his position group. We hope the best for a speedy recovery and that UNC gets through this preseason with no further serious injuries.