North Carolina fans have moved on from the 3-9 debacle that was the football season. But head coach Larry Fedora, his staff, and the players continue to replay in their minds why these past few months were such a disaster.
For the members of the UNC football family, there are some reasons for hope beyond “we can’t have that many injuries again” and “it can’t get worse.” Here are three things to look forward to as the Heels prepare for next fall.
1. The offense has a major piece in Anthony Ratliff-Williams
The sophomore from Matthews, North Carolina, was one of the few bright spots on an anemic offense. His return means that opposing defenses have someone they have to key on every game which could possibly open up opportunities for other North Carolina skill players. His presence also gives next year’s quarterback – whether it is Nathan Elliott or Chazz Surratt or whoever – a reliable target in times of stress. Plus, Ratliff-Williams (above, right) is a weapon in the return game, so he can steal points for the Heels in that fashion or at least enhance the team’s field position on change of possessions.
2. The younger players gained a lot of experience in 2017
This was certainly true at quarterback. Senior graduate transfer Brandon Harris was so bad that Surratt and then Elliott saw the vast majority of the snaps this past fall. Michael Carter and Jordon Brown got the bulk of the carries at running back and freshman receiver Dazz Newsome showed promise. The injury issues allowed defensive lineman Tomon Fox, cornerback Myles Woolfolk, and some other inexperienced defenders to get plenty of reps.
3. The 2017 Tar Heels never gave up
It was awful from day one. But despite the losses and the injuries, North Carolina never quit. Following the embarrassing 59-7 loss at Virginia Tech, the Heels played their best football to close out the season. They took then-unbeaten Miami to the final moments, beat Pittsburgh and FCS opponent Western Carolina, and had their chances late against an NC State squad that went 9-4 on the year. This shows that the team did not tune out Fedora and continued to play with pride. This bit of momentum should serve the team well as they enter into their offseason conditioning and spring practice.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.