With former North Carolina wide receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome off to the NFL, now sporting their respective Washington and Chicago uniforms, fans might be wondering which players in Carolina Blue will be locking in passes from junior quarterback Sam Howell this season.
Although the Brown-Newsome tandem will be difficult to replace — as the duo accounted for nearly a third of the Tar Heels' total yardage in 2020 — head coach Mack Brown should still be encouraged with the depth of the position this fall.
With several talented returning players and other potential breakout candidates on the roster, Howell should have a plethora of receiving options that could once again help the offense be productive through the air in 2021.
The name Beau Corrales should ring a bell for North Carolina football fans, as the senior was UNC’s third-most productive receiver during the 2019 season. With a total of 40 receptions, 575 yards and six touchdowns, Corrales was a key target for Howell and seemed poised for another strong season in 2020.
Corrales' skills were on display in the first five games last fall — including a career-high 141-yard outing at Florida State — before a midseason injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. Corrales is utilizing the extra year of eligibility offered to players to offset the COVID-19-impacted season and will be expected to be a leader for the other relatively young wide receivers. Corrales' return should not only benefit the team but also himself, as he has been given a unique opportunity to re-do his senior campaign.
Graduate tight end Garrett Walston is another veteran who decided to come back for the 2021 season, and a strong season of quality play this fall could improve his chances of solidifying a place among the NFL's next draftees. In 2020, Walston started 11 of the team's 12 games at tight end and scored UNC’s first touchdown of the season against Syracuse off an 11-yard pass. Throughout the season, Walston split out for a total of 19 catches and 255 receiving yards.
In late July, Walston was added to the John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List, which is given annually to a standout tight end. This season, his receiving ability will not only be an aide to the rest of the offense, but his presence will also help with the development of other tight ends on the roster, including Kamari Morales, John Copenhaver and Kendall Karr.
In a press conference during training camp, junior wide receiver Emery Simmons said that he wants to step out from behind the shadow of Newsome, Brown and Corrales and showcase his speed and strength this upcoming season.
In his first two years on the team, Simmons totaled 273 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but one of those touchdowns came early in a game last year vs No. 2 Notre Dame when he leapt up and caught the ball right over the head of a Fighting Irish defensive back. Already praised for his route running and solid hands, Simmons has bulked up and completed bouts of speed training during the offseason to improve his quickness on the field.
Josh Downs and Khafre Brown
Two other receivers that fans will likely hear over the loudspeaker are sophomore Josh Downs and redshirt sophomore Khafre Brown. Downs seems poised for a breakout season after stepping up during the Orange Bowl last season to score two crucial touchdowns and total 91 receiving yards off his four catches against No. 5 Texas A&M.
Khafre, Dyami Brown’s younger brother, added key depth to the position group in the absence of Corrales in 2020, leading the team with an average of 22.5 yards per reception. His 337 yards and 15 catches last year have been enough to slate him as a starter, and if he follows in the footsteps of his older brother, the Tar Heels' receiving corps will once again be in good hands.
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