Running backs battle in UNC Spring Game

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Romar Morris breaks a tackle in UNC’s win against N.C. State last season. He scored three touchdowns in last year’s Spring Game.

In last year’s intrasquad Spring Game, North Carolina’s then-redshirt freshman Romar Morris stepped into the spotlight, scoring three touchdowns in the first half.

It appeared that Morris was poised for a breakout year.

But it would be another running back that burst on the scene in the football team’s 2012 campaign.

Infobox

Spring Game

Time: 3 p.m. Saturday
Location: Kenan Stadium
Info: bit.ly/Zq5pMV

With Giovani Bernard scoring touchdowns and making headlines, Morris’ standout spring performance was all but forgotten.

But in Saturday’s Spring Game, Morris will have another chance to remind the crowd at Kenan Stadium of his explosive capabilities.

But he won’t be the only running back vying for attention. He’ll be sharing the position with senior A.J. Blue.

“I think Romar has been the guy that’s really stepped out there,” said coach Larry Fedora on his weekly radio show Tuesday night.

“He’s really explosive and he’s the guy that can take it from goal line to goal line on any snap. Blue is more of a bruiser. He’s more of the leader along with Bryn (Renner) on the offense right now.”

Last season, Morris and Blue combined for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns. Bernard eclipsed his fellow running backs, amassing 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns.

With Bernard entering the NFL Draft after his redshirt sophomore season, Blue and Morris, along with newcomer Khris Francis will be in charge of replacing his production.

With Bernard leaving the Tar Heels, a hole also opened up on the special teams. Bernard electrified crowds with his punt returns, including the 74-yard return for a game-winning touchdown against N.C. State in October.

Fedora might not have to search too long to find Bernard’s replacement.

Each member of the trio of running backs is qualified to replace Bernard in the backfield, but even as a true freshman, Francis might be the missing link Fedora has been looking for.

“We always like to have a running back back there to make some big plays,” Blue said. “He’s definitely got a chance, once he gets comfortable. Punt returner is an uncomfortable position for most people but once he gets comfortable with it, I think he’ll be pretty good.”

Though Fedora hasn’t quite nailed down his depth chart for the fall season, the Spring Game will serve as a chance for the team to show off all that it has worked on in the offseason.

“I’d say really No. 15 (Blue) and No. 21 (Morris) are better than they were at the end of the season,” Fedora said.

“I think No. 1 (Francis) has really surprised me with what he’s been able to do basically as a high school senior. He’s really done some nice things. His eyes are real big but come fall camp it’ll be much easier for him.”

For Blue, Morris and Francis, the spring game is another chance to show off their skills in front of a crowd and make their case for the starting job before fall practice starts.

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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