A 48-21 win against N.C. State on Saturday put the No.15 North Carolina football team near the halfway point of its regular season. The Tar Heels now have five games behind them with a 4-1 record, and six games to go before the season’s end.
“We know we have to bring it every game,” sophomore defensive back Ladaeson DeAndre Hollins said at a Tuesday morning press conference.
Hollins made an important tackle on third down on the first drive of the N.C. State game to get the Wolfpack off the field. He and other young players have been essential in UNC’s success in the first half of this season.
“I keep my head down and keep working," Hollins said. "That’s who I am as a person."
He explained that young players like himself have learned a lot from what the older players and coaches have been teaching them.
Emery Simmons proved this to be true on Saturday. The sophomore wide receiver had to step up and start in the game against the Wolfpack due to senior Beau Corrales being out with a lower body injury.
“I feel like I was ready for that role, and it worked out good this weekend,” Simmons said.
The Parkton, North Carolina, native has always been aware that he is the next man up for the Tar Heels wide receiving corps, and said that was his reasoning for picking the jersey number 0. He played well on Saturday, with 38 receiving yards on five receptions.
“I did my due diligence," Simmons said. "The coaches can trust me now to put me on the field."
Junior wide receiver Dyami Brown said there was a certain energy missing with Corrales’ absence on Saturday, but he admired Simmons’ hard work both on and off the field to fill his role.
“Emery worked hard throughout the week, you know, with Beau being out," Brown said. "So he just became the next man up. I think he said in an interview early on before the season started that his role was to be the next man up, you know, and make sure there is no drop-off. That’s what he did. He came out the whole week working hard. He stayed after practice and came in early before practice."
Other veteran players like Jordan Tucker, a junior offensive lineman, are satisfied with how both the younger and older players are coming together to ensure a successful season for the Tar Heels.
“Those dogs wanna fight and I’m ready to fight with them,” said Tucker. “We’ve really been gelling and moving.”
It’s hard to discuss the success of UNC’s football team without discussing the influence of head coach Mack Brown. Simmons said it was Brown who influenced him to commit to UNC after a complicated recruitment process, with Simmons first committing to Indiana, then UNC, then Penn State, before settling on North Carolina.
“It was Coach Brown that made me come back,” Simmons said. “What I love about Coach Brown is he’s just a genuine guy. He cares about his players."
The Tar Heels’ next game is against Virginia on Saturday at 8 p.m. For UNC to stay in the race for an ACC Championship appearance, its veteran and young players will have to continue to mesh well against the Cavaliers.
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