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Sunday September 26th

Column: What to look forward to at Carolina Football's spring game

Sophomore quarterback Sam Howell (7) prepares to throw the ball at the football practice on Saturday Mar. 27, 2021 at Kenan Stadium.
Buy Photos Sophomore quarterback Sam Howell (7) prepares to throw the ball at the football practice on Saturday Mar. 27, 2021 at Kenan Stadium.

UNC announced last week that the annual spring football game will be on April 24. Fans will be allowed to attend, and tickets are already sold out. 

Here are the things that I am most looking forward to about Carolina Football this season:

Heisman Howell

Bet on it — Sam Howell wins the Heisman this year. Taking a step forward in 2020, Howell looks to continue to build on what could be his last year at UNC before going to the NFL. I am looking forward to seeing how Howell handles the expectations placed on him, and the spring game could be the first indication of that. 

UNC students have long believed Howell could be a Heisman candidate; however, now that he is in the national spotlight, he needs to rise to the occasion.

While local media has consistently covered Howell, many have doubted him. However, like UNC students, Vegas likes Howell, opening the odds on Heisman Howell at +800 — the third-best chance to win.

In the backfield

With both key running backs headed to the NFL draft, UNC is relying on some new talent in the backfield. Ty Chandler, a transfer from the University of Tennessee, is a promising new addition and looks to lead the backfield. The Orange Bowl starter, British Brooks, could continue to build off of that performance. 

The running back position could devolve into a running back by committee, where no back gets a lion’s share of the snaps. This makes the spring game an interesting preview into Mack Brown and Phil Longo’s thought process.

Wide receiver corps

Both Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome are headed to the NFL, leaving two empty spots on the starting offense. The competition for replacing both of them is imperative for Howell to have a Heisman-level season. 

The throwing quarterback needs an amazing supporting cast and guys who can make plays downfield. I am looking forward to how the wide receiver groups shake out for the spring game.

The defense

Losing Chazz Surratt in the center of the defense is key, but the entire starting defense that played in the Orange Bowl is returning. I am not super excited about that fact, as they gave up 41 points, but they did play very well for the first three-quarters of that game. If they play that same way, the shutdown defense would be an amazing counter punch to a lights-out offense.

Specifically, Tony Grimes blew me away. In a decimated secondary, Grimes stood out as the lone gem. I am looking forward to his development, and I hope to see an active spring game where Grimes shows off the talent that we saw flashes of last year against Miami and Texas A&M.

These key pieces can play a crucial role in making UNC a true College Football Playoff (CFP) contending team in 2022, something no sane person thought possible following Larry Fedora’s last two years.

I am looking forward to seeing how Mack Brown and the team shape up at the spring game for one reason — hope. 

I think this is the year that UNC football can truly make a run at the ACC title and CFP, and hopefully, we can get a glimpse of this talent at the spring game.

@jc_leser

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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