When North Carolina’s football team came out for practice on Monday, they did so in full pads (due to the NCAA’s mandated five-practice ‘acclimation period’) for the first time.
That’s...progress! Though precious little can be gleaned from Instagram videos and short media sessions with tight-lipped Larry Fedora, its exciting to see people in Carolina blue hitting.
Without further ado, here’s what we’re tracking:
Jumpman Jumpman Jumpman
The boys are up to something, indeed. I don’t have copyrights to post photos from practice, but the Heels debuted their Jumpman logo practice helmets on Monday.
More importantly, Saturday’s “Meet the Heels” event introduced the world to Carolina’s new Jordan brand uniforms, and reintroduced Navy. Black is gone (hopefully) forever, finally.
Some of these shifts may be common knowledge if you follow the Heels closely year-round, so here we go:
- DE Jason Strowbridge to DT
- LB Tyrone Hopper to DE (after Malik Carney made the same move last year, it appears the Heels want to get faster off the edge)
- LB Jonathan Sutton to RB (need the bodies, and Sutton has been unable to work his way up the depth chart thus far)
- LB Kayne Roberts to RB (this one broke on Monday, as it appears freshman RB Antwaun Branch will be missing extended time)
The biggest one is the race to see who takes Mitch Trubisky’s spot at quarterback. LSU transfer Brandon Harris is still the favorite, as Coach Fedora was finally willing to speak positively about the senior after Monday’s practice.
Given how much Fedora’s offense values accuracy, this would be as big a development as an expected development can be—Harris absolutely should be the guy, if he’s ready.
It was telling that Nathan Elliott was the other quarterback made available to the media, which would indicate that he and Harris are the top two guys.
Two spots on the offensive line—LT and C--are sewn up by Bentley Spain and Cam Dillard. No surprises there. With Khaliel Rodgers’ retirement from football over the weekend, the guard spots get a little less noisy. Tommy Hatton, Nick Polino, Jared Cohen, and R.J. Prince are competing for those two spots, and one assumes William Sweet will take right tackle.
I’m not going to take a stab at receiver just yet, but to confirm that Austin Proehl has apparently locked down a starting role. At running back, people who might know something say that Michael Carter is turning heads. He, Jordon Brown, and Stanton Truitt will likely all see significant action early, but it will be interesting to see if Carter separates himself.
For the first time in the Fedora era, the defensive line has adequate depth and will not be forced to rely on green true freshmen.
As of right now, it would appear that Carney, Jalen Dalton, Aaron Crawford, and some combination of seniors Tyler Powell and Dajaun Drennon will start, with Tomon Fox, Strowbridge, and Jeremiah Clarke rounding out the two’s. There really is no excuse for the D-line to not be competent.
Linebacker is sewn up, which tends to happen when you have three returning starters.
In the secondary, it would appear Myles Dorn, M.J. Stewart, and Donnie Miles have three spots locked up. The fourth/corner opposite Stewart is in flux. Patrice Rene has the most experience, K.J. Sails played decently late in the 2016 season, and Tre Shaw has the best recruiting credentials.
By the time this drops, Carolina will have played its first fall scrimmage (Tuesday morning). There’ll be more to glean from that than from a thirdhand account of a week’s worth of unpadded practices, so stay tuned.