Javonte Williams looks to build off a solid first-year campaign that saw him rush for 224 yards and five touchdowns at 5.2 yards per carry. The departure of Jordon Brown brings the opportunity for the former track star to exhibit his blazing speed. Along with, Antonio Williams, and rising junior Michael Carter UNC has a solid group of running backs.
Patrice Rene, a rising senior cornerback, is thrilled with what he’s seen from the young quarterbacks as well. Nathan Elliott’s transfer and Chazz Surratt's position change have left rising sophomores Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder battling highly-touted first-year Sam Howell for the starting job.
“They all look great,” said Rene. “As a DB, sometimes you get a little peek at the quarterback to see if he’s really focused like a man, and all the balls are coming on point and in the right places.”
Rene also said he’s excited about the team's culture change after back-to-back tough seasons.
“Coach Mack has a vision and a great staff, and we bought in," Rene said. "Coach (Dré) Bly is a legend, a GOAT, a Hall of Famer, and to have him as my coach is just a blessing.”
Meanwhile, the Tar Heel linebacker corps faces questions. With leader Cole Holcomb gone, rising senior Dominique Ross is leading the charge for the group.
Though this will be his fourth year in the program, no one is newer to the linebacker position than Surratt. After two years taking snaps at quarterback, Surratt made the surprising move to linebacker and his teammates have been impressed by his play.
“Chazz is a real athletic guy and is out there making plays,” Rene said.
On the other side of the ball, running backs Antonio and Javonte Williams praised their new practice adversary.
“He surprised me a lot,” Javonte Williams said. “Last year he wasn’t physical, but now he is taking on lineman and hitting people. He made a huge step going to linebacker.”
“Chazz is moving real good, sideline to sideline he can run,” Antonio Williams said. “He’s a smart football player.”
The rise of several young Tar Heels and a new coaching staff has players and fans excited for what’s to come. Still, there's a lot of work to do, and a long way until the start of the season. Until the team opens its 2019 campaign against South Carolina on Aug. 31, a competitive spring game could signal a potential turnaround year for the Tar Heels.
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