When looking at college football’s recent championship teams, the quarterback position is usually occupied by someone who can put up gaudy numbers — and Sam Howell checks that box for North Carolina.
But no matter how talented the quarterback is, his skills are nullified without strong play from the wide receiver unit. The team's receiving corps was a large part of its potent offense that ranked 12th in the country with 468.8 yards per game in 2019. Here's a look at what to expect from the group this season.
After a modest rookie season in 2018, junior Dyami Brown burst onto the scene and became one of the nation’s rising stars last fall. He contributed 1,034 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, both of which led the team.
And as the year went along, Brown continued to improve. Once offensive coordinator Phil Longo gained confidence in Howell’s ability to lead the air-raid offense, Brown went on a tear in the last five games, racking up 557 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Coming into the 2020 season, he was named to this year’s Biletnikoff Award Watch List, which is given annually to the nation’s best wide receiver.
When evaluating Brown’s strengths, the first thing that stands out is his ability to make big plays. Last season, he averaged 20.3 yards per reception, which ranked ninth in the nation among qualified receivers. Much of his success can be attributed to his ability to create separation at the line of scrimmage, where he uses his speed to break away from cornerbacks on deep routes.
Coming into last season, senior Dazz Newsome started out as the Tar Heels' top receiver. After racking up 72 catches for 1,018 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019, he’s done little to relinquish that title.
Much like Brown, Newsome's success was boosted by a late-season surge in production, as he totaled 732 yards and eight touchdowns in his last seven games. He now joins Brown on this year’s Biletnikoff watchlist.
Leading the team in receptions, Newsome is arguably the best playmaker at his position. He was first in the nation in catching passes from the slot, where he was able to use his quickness and agility to maneuver through tight spaces.
Newsome considered the possibility of entering the NFL draft, but ultimately decided to return to Chapel Hill for his senior season. He's in reach of two of the school’s all-time records, sitting just 1,152 yards and 13 touchdowns behind Ryan Switzer and Quinshad Davis in those respective categories.
Very few teams in the nation boasted a third receiver as productive as Beau Corrales in 2019. After catching 40 passes for 575 yards and six touchdowns, he was the perfect complement to the duo of Brown and Newsome.
Corrales, at six-foot-three, frequently used his large frame to win one-on-one opportunities that opened up as defenses focused on other parts of the field. With his size making him a solid end zone threat, he also found success in short-yardage situations, where he could establish positioning to help pick up first downs.
If he produces at a high level, the rest of the offense can open up, and if he and Howell continue to grow, big things could be on the horizon in 2020.
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