Both players return in 2018 and added to the group is Williams, a former four-star recruit who played two seasons at Ohio State and is immediately eligible to play for the Tar Heels after transferring in April.
Even with Carter reportedly sidelined with a broken wrist for the time being, as reported by Inside Carolina on Aug. 14, UNC’s running game is comparatively sound to other offensive position groups.
Returning the bulk of your run production, as UNC does with Brown and Carter, is enough to make most coaches happy as it is. But Williams’ immediate eligibility, granted by the NCAA in July, should be a boon for UNC’s offense.
At 5-foot-11, 210-pound, Williams is bigger than Brown and Carter. Yet, head coach Larry Fedora says the New London native also has “got great quickness and balance.”
“I tell you, the great thing about Antonio has been his attitude,” Fedora said in a news conference on Aug. 6. “He’s got a smile on his face and an even bigger one now that he knows that he can play this year. So he will definitely be a factor for our football team this year.”
Last season, Williams was part of a star-studded backfield with the Buckeyes that included J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, both pro prospects. Carries for Williams were hard to come by at times, but he still ran for 290 yards on 57 touches (5.1 yards per attempt) and scored three touchdowns.
In Fedora’s offense, Williams will likely see the field more and has the chance to be an all-purpose back, especially with Inside Carolina reporting that Carter’s wrist injury, suffered in mid-August, is expected to keep him out “4-to-6 weeks.”
Don’t forget about Brown, though. The Durham native started each game in 2017 and led UNC in rushing yards (613) and carries (138). A reliable safety valve in the passing game, Brown’s 29 receptions were the second most on the team, and quarterback Nathan Elliott should be able to again count on him out of the backfield.
Once Carter returns from his injury, UNC hopes that the 5-foot-9, 195-pound back can duplicate the good things he did as a first-year and add to his game.
In UNC’s season opener against California, Carter kicked off an impressive debut season with a 47-yard run and two touchdowns, one of four games in which he had a run of 20-plus yards. By season’s end, Carter had amassed 559 rushing yards and averaged a team-best 5.8 yards per carry.
In a YouTube video posted by UNC athletics on Aug. 9, Carter said he’s hoping to show this season that he “can carry the load if I have to.”
Reserves Johnathon Sutton, a redshirt junior who ran for 81 yards on 14 carries as a third-stringer in 2017, and redshirt first-year Antwuan Branch both return and have great size – both are listed as 6-0, 230 pounds.
But first-year Javonte Williams, who enrolled early and practiced with UNC in the spring, might push for immediate playing time in wake of Carter’s injury and a new NCAA rule allowing for players to appear in four games while maintaining their status as a redshirt.
"A lot of people don't know this, but Javonte Williams at running back — really explosive guy, smooth, crisp with his cuts," free safety Myles Dorn said of the Wallace-Rose Hill High School product, who had runs of 35 and 26 yards in an Aug. 11 scrimmage. I think he'll be real good for us, too."
Carter referred to UNC’s running backs as Run-CMG, “the chain-moving gang.”
With its two leading rushers back, a talented transfer now part of the equation and a first-year impressing, the Tar Heels are hoping that they can pound the rock and, yes, move the chains.
@DTHSports | email@example.com