Reaction to Official Depth Chart Release
On Monday morning, the Tar Heel Football account released the official depth chart heading into this week. There are a few surprises and a few things that we expected. Let’s breakdown what we saw on Monday’s depth chart.
Offensive Line In Flux
One of the biggest storylines coming out of camp is the condition of the offensive line. Senior left tackle Bentley Spain has been dealing with an injury, but is on the two deep as the starter at left tackle, which is a good sign. Sophomore Tommy Hatton, who started over half of the Heels games a year ago at left guard, is not with the team right now, as he is currently dealing with some family issues. Senior walk-on Jared Cohen, who rejoined the team this summer after leaving back in 2015, left the team once again on Friday, despite having a strong summer and fall. Cohen was in a battle to start at right guard and may have actually been favored to win the job. With all of that, Spain is now the only returning starter from a year ago and will join Cam Dillard as the only linemen who weren’t involved in close battles in fall camp. Nick Polino appears as if he will start at left guard in place of Hatton, after he himself started the Virginia Tech game. R.J. Prince has prevailed at right guard, and Coach Fedora told media personnel on Monday that Prince has had the strongest camp of any lineman. William Sweet has beat out Charlie Heck to start at right tackle to this point.
There Is Some Clearance, But Not Much, At Quarterback
The depth chart that was released has three quarterback listed to still be in the battle for the starting spot, with Logan Byrd noticeably absent. This, along with some rumblings from other media outlets, seems to point to the fact that Byrd is out of the starting quarterback race. While it is disappointing for Byrd, it is a bit encouraging for Heels fans that at least the race has been narrowed down a little. With just five days until the season begins, three quarterbacks are still battling it out. I don’t know how much you want to read into it, but the depth chart reads Harris OR Surratt OR Elliott. Could that be an indication of where the quarterbacks stand right now?
Starting Running Back Will Be Brown or Carter
We figured coming into the spring that this would probably be the case, but the injury bug has been biting the Heels running backs since spring. Jordon Brown suffered an injury early in the spring and Michael Carter suffered an injury in the spring game itself. Still, it seems that they have both healed for that to resume their battle and it will go right down to the wire.
The Receiving Corps is Set
All three starters from last years opening game are in the NFL right now, but the Heels have their starters for this season’s opener with five days left. Austin Proehl will start at the X, which is no shock at all considering how well he played a year ago. Sure handed Thomas Jackson will get the nod in the slot, after failing to catch just one of his 18 targets a year ago, beating out upstart freshman Dazz Newsome. Anthony Ratliff-Williams will start out the Z, beating out Devin Perry who’s had a nice fall. Noticeably absent from the depth chart is freshman Beau Corrales, who has been tearing it up in fall camp. A bit head scratching to say the least.
The Defensive Line Has Zero Starters Set in Stone
While the defensive line will probably be largely rotational, there have been no determined starters to this point. This really isn’t anything to be too concerned about, though, because sources have said that the unit has been the strongest unit the entire offseason. This unit will be extremely deep. At defensive end, Tomon Fox is ahead of Malik Carney and Tyler Powell is ahead of Dajuan Drennon, but both do have or’s next to their names. This week will determine who starts, but all of the lineman listed in the two deep should see playing time on Saturday.
No. 2 Corner Has Been Determined
We knew M.J. Stewart was going to start at one corner spot, but who would start opposite of him? Patrice Rene and Corey Bell Jr. split time there last year and battled it out once again, along with K.J. Sails and Tre’ Shaw this offseason. However, in the end, Bell Jr. beat everyone out and will start on Saturday. Rene should see time on Saturday, too, depending on how many snaps the Heels use a nickel corner.
Kicker Is Still Unsettled
Just like at quarterback, neither Freeman Jones or Noah Ruggles has taken control of the kicking duties as we head into the final week of the preseason. Jones is on top on the depth chart, but it doesn’t mean he’s the starter by any means, considering Coach Fedora said on Friday that they were separated by one kick. This means there is a good chance that we see both on Saturday.
Both Returners Are Set
Despite reports that multiple players were competing for both returning spots late last week, the depth chart today shows that Anthony Ratliff-Williams and Austin Proehl have locked up the starting spots at kick returner and punt returner, respectively.
While this depth chart is not set in stone for Saturday, this gives fans a solid look at who should be contributing against Cal.