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The Daily Tar Heel

In its first action since a 25-23 Sun Bowl loss to Stanford in December, the North Carolina football team competed in its annual Spring Game. The Tar Heels’ defense, playing as the White Team, bested the Blue Team, UNC’s offense, by a score of 80-70.

What happened?

The game began sloppily for the offense. Redshirt first-year Chazz Surratt started the first series of the game but had a few overthrows early.

UNC’s defense took advantage of a quarterback rotation that kept the offense from getting into too much of a groove. It swarmed the ball and had a number of deflections.

Senior safety Donnie Miles had a huge sideline hit on a receiver, and fellow safety Jaye Stackhouse followed suit with a powerful tackle of his own in run support.

Who stood out?

None of North Carolina’s quarterbacks jumped off the page with their play. Nathan Elliott, Surratt and Logan Byrd all split reps at quarterback with the first-team offense.

Surratt looked like the most mobile of the three quarterbacks and had a better feel for the offense than either of the other two. Elliott was the best passer, with three touchdown passes. However, he picked apart UNC’s second-team defense and struggled against the starting defenders.

Byrd showed off some deceptive speed on a quarterback sneak but otherwise was the least mobile of the trio. Manny Miles played the least of the quarterbacks but led a successful final drive for a touchdown.

On the defensive side of the football, defensive end Dajaun Drennon brought a consistent high level of play to the position. Tar Heel fans were just happy see Drennon back out there, as he struggled with injuries last season and didn’t see the field much.

No true first-year and early enrollee jumped off the page with his play in the spring game. Cornerback Tre Shaw, a four-star recruit from Georgia, played a lot of snaps and ran step for step with some of UNC’s fastest wide receivers.

Running back Michael Carter played a little bit, mostly with the first-team offense. He had a big role because running backs Stanton Truitt, a transfer from Auburn, and sophomore Jordon Brown did not play.

However, Carter didn’t show a whole lot of consistent, high-level play. Offensive lineman Jonah Melton also got a healthy portion of snaps throughout the afternoon.

When was it decided?

UNC’s first-team defense jumped out to a quick start in the first half of the spring game, establishing itself as the dominant side of the football Saturday.

Why does it matter?

This spring season was absolutely critical for head coach Larry Fedora and his staff. They will have to replace a ton of skill-position talent following last season’s 8-5 campaign.

The hope was a quarterback would grab control of the offense during spring practices and show off in the spring game, but that didn’t really happen. Instead, UNC will enter fall practice without a solidified certain starter at quarterback.

This was also an important spring for the defense as it adjusts to playing under new defensive coordinator John Papuchis. Saturday, the defense looked fast and dominated the short-handed and inexperienced offensive team.

When do they play next?

UNC kicks off its 2017 season on Sep. 2. The Tar Heels will play the California Golden Bears in Kenan Stadium.

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