Updated 12/26/2020 at 3:46 p.m.: North Carolina junior running back Javonte Williams announced on his Instagram that he will also be opting out of the Orange Bowl in preparation for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Williams amassed 1,445 total yards and 22 total touchdowns during his junior season. With he and Carter opting out and first-year D.J. Jones missing UNC's matchup against Texas A&M due to a lower body injury, the only remaining Tar Heels listed as running backs are junior British Brooks, sophomore Josh Henderson and first-year Elijah Green.
North Carolina's football team will be without its leading rusher, leading receiver and leading tackler when it takes on Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2.
Running back Michael Carter, wide receiver Dyami Brown and linebacker Chazz Surratt announced on social media Monday morning that they would all be opting out of UNC's bowl game to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. A UNC spokesperson confirmed their decisions to opt out in a press conference later Monday morning.
None of those three players were available for comment during the press conference, but members of the team who were present remained adamant that they supported and respected their teammates' decisions.
“I’ll miss those three, and I’m sure those three will miss not being at the game, but they made family and lifetime decisions for them, and that’s fair because we all have that right to do that," head coach Mack Brown said.
Although the head coach said he couldn't rule out additional opt outs in the future for certain, he added that he believes Carter, Brown and Surratt will be the only three missing from the Tar Heels' bowl game.
“We talked to every young person and we asked them, ‘Are you gonna play? Are you not gonna play? Please tell us before we get started because we’d like to be able to at least practice the guys who are going to play in the game,'" he said. "The answer is I have absolutely no clue, but I would hope and think that anyone who has decided not to play in the bowl game has already decided because we had a great practice today with everybody other than those three.”
A UNC spokesperson said during the press conference that Carter's standout partner in the backfield, Javonte Williams, practiced Monday and will play in the Orange Bowl, but the running back is awaiting feedback from the NFL before making a decision about if he'll return for his senior season.
There was no comment on senior wide receiver Dazz Newsome's future.
UNC's Orange Bowl berth will mark the largest national stage the Tar Heels have played on since the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1949, and the Cotton Bowl one year later.
For the seniors on this year's team, like Carter and Surratt, it's been an uphill battle from consecutive nine-loss seasons in 2017 and 2018 to get to this point.
“I feel like this team, and this senior group especially, has been through a lot here, you know, the 2-9 season, so I just thought we built something from the ground up, and we deserve to make it this far," redshirt senior outside linebacker Tomon Fox said.
Now, that group will have to face the No. 5 Aggies without Carter, who rushed for 1,245 yards this season, Brown, who racked up 1,099 receiving yards this year, and Surratt, who combined for 206 total tackles in his two seasons as a linebacker.
Although this leaves the team's younger players, like linebacker Eugene Asante and wide receivers Khafre Brown and Emery Simmons, with big shoes to fill, sophomore quarterback Sam Howell isn't settling for anything less than a victory in Miami.
“We’re not just happy with going down to the Orange Bowl," he said. "We’re going down there to win, so that’s our mindset.”
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