There will be some major changes within the North Carolina football program this year; more than just the departure of defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. There will be plenty of moving parts on the field as well.
Finding a replacement for quarterback Mitch Trubisky will be at the top of head coach Larry Fedora's priority list this spring. Along with that battle, there will be openings at wide receiver, running back, and at a couple spots along the offensive line. Defensively, tackle Nazair Jones opted for the NFL and the secondary will need some new pieces.
That creates plenty of opportunities for younger Tar Heels. Here are five newcomers that will push for playing time in 2017.
Michael Carter, RB, True Freshman
UNC loses leading rusher Elijah Hood. But the 5-foot-8, 191-pound Carter will never be a bruiser like Hood and will instead will take over T.J. Logan’s all-purpose role. The Navarre, Fla., native enrolled early and is already part of the program.
J.T. Cauthen, WR, True Freshman
With Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard and Mack Hollins all moving on, new receivers must be found. Like Carter, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Cauthen is on campus and will participate this spring. The Waxhaw, N.C., product was considered a three-star recruit, but he did have an offer list that featured Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Penn State, and Tennessee.
C.J. Cotman, CB, True Freshman
Unlike his classmates mentioned above, Cotman won’t enroll until this summer. But he is a dynamic athlete that could play on either side of the ball. He will most likely start at corner and will also be utilized in the return game.
Jay-Jay McCargo, OT, Redshirt Freshman
McCargo could play inside or he may get a look at the right tackle position that is vacant due to the graduation of Jon Heck. Either way, the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder that had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, and Michigan will get a chance to earn quality playing time.
Chaz Surratt, QB, Redshirt Freshman
The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder will have competition from Nathan Elliott and fellow redshirt freshman Logan Byrd. Surratt was the highest ranked recruit in the Class of 2016 and is a dual-threat option, meaning that if he is named the starter the Heels’ offense will look more like the one Marquise Williams ran in 2015 than the pro style-oriented attack that Trubisky guided last fall.
— 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.