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Thursday May 26th

Trio of running backs set to lead UNC at Saturday's spring game and beyond

<p>Antonio Williams (24) runs with the ball against Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium on Nov. 10, 2018.</p>
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Antonio Williams (24) runs with the ball against Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium on Nov. 10, 2018.

The North Carolina football team had a disappointing season last year, but that was not because of a shortage of talent.

The Tar Heels had talent at the majority of the position groups, but many were sidelined due to injury or suspension. The most skilled may have been the running back group.

This season, UNC will likely have a three-headed attack at running back with rising senior Antonio Williams, rising junior Michael Carter and rising sophomore Javonte Williams.

Running back Michael Carter (8) outruns Duke safety Jeremy McDuffie (9) at Wallace Wade Stadium on Nov. 10, 2018.

All three earned meaningful playing time last season, but Javonte Williams did not get the experience of the other two. Despite this, Antonio Williams had high praise for the up-and-comer.

“Javonte is a dog,” Antonio Williams said. “ … I think he’s going to be a ridiculous running back here at Carolina this year and whenever I’m gone.”

Javonte Williams had 43 carries last season for 224 yards and five touchdowns. He is expected to be the third option at running back after Jordon Brown announced his intent to transfer from the program. 

“With Jordon gone, I think I’ve just gotta step up and take his spot and just continue to get better,” Javonte Williams said.

Javonte Williams will most likely get more carries this upcoming season, but the majority of the load will be carried by Antonio Williams and Carter. Antonio Williams has emerged as a leader for both the offense and the team as a whole.

Running back Javonte Williams (25) tries to escape an NC State defender on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018 in Kenan Memorial Stadium. NC State beat UNC 34-28 in overtime.

“Although he is very good on the field, his ability to just take over and lead," Javonte Williams said, "like when he came in from Ohio State, the way that he just gravitated toward everyone, and everyone just started following him - I think that’s his best quality.”

The transfer from Ohio State had 91 carries for 504 yards and five touchdowns last season. The senior leader will likely split the bulk of the carries with Carter this upcoming season. Carter was the most successful of the three last season, rushing the ball 84 times for 597 yards and two touchdowns.

Antonio Williams and the other leaders will look to showcase what they have in store for the upcoming season at the Spring Game on Saturday. 

“We are very excited to go out there and preform,” rising senior cornerback Patrice Rene said. “A lot of guys are very competitive, ready to go and ready to change the culture here.”

North Carolina cornerback Patrice Rene tackles Virginia running back Jordan Ellis on Saturday.

The new culture under head coach Mack Brown will be on full display on Saturday and the players have bought in to his plan.

“Guys are tired of losing, and we wanted something new,” Antonio Williams said. “We knew what he had to offer us was a winning way. It was a winning strategy. When we were told that we could win if we just follow him, why would you not?”

Although the team is eager to win, there will be no winning on Saturday. There will not be teams. Instead, the game will be offense against defense. Points will be awarded based on which end zone they are scored. The game will consist of 60-70 plays and will likely last about an hour and 30 minutes.

Nevertheless, the talent at running back and other positions will be on full display. The Mack Brown era will officially have begun.

@matt_chilson

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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