North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora is well aware that last season was not good enough. It is true that injuries played a large part UNC’s 3-9 season, but so did underperformances in several areas on both sides of the ball.
As a result, spring practice in Chapel Hill should feature open competitions up and down the depth chart. Here are five Tar Heels to watch for this spring in their respective position battles.
Michael Carter, RB
The Navarre, Florida, back had nice stats for a first-year player. But 422 of his 559 rushing yards came in four games scattered throughout the season. Jordon Brown also returns at running back and if Carter (above, right) wants to become the primary ball carrier, he must show more consistency this spring.
Tomon Fox, DE
Here’s the difficulty for Fox. Carolina’s best defensive player in 2017 was weak-side defensive end Malik Carney. Also vying for snaps this coming season will be heralded redshirt freshman Jake Lawler. But Fox flashed some potential in 2017, registering 23 tackles and four sacks. Dajuan Drennon is gone at the other end and Fedora will want to get his best players on the field. But it’s unclear if any of the weak-side defensive ends can add enough size to move to the strong side.
Jonah Melton, OG
The Tar Heels certainly need help along the offensive line and Melton is hoping to do his part. R.J. Prince has used up his eligibility and Tommy Hatton has decided to retire due to injuries giving Melton a clear path to a starting job. Melton will have plenty of rust to kick off this spring as he has not played in two seasons thanks to an ACL injury in high school and last year’s redshirt year.
Tre Shaw, CB
The corner from Ellenwood, Georgia, enrolled last January and impressed many with his play last spring. After playing in all 12 games mostly on special teams, Shaw is ready to become a key member of the UNC secondary. The Heels need a replacement for M.J. Stewart and Shaw’s first step to claiming that position is to have another big spring.
Chazz Surratt, QB
As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Surratt had his share of ups and downs. Early on, he took the starting job away from the anemic Brandon Harris. But later in the season, Surratt was replaced by Nathan Elliott. If the Carolina offense is going to improve this coming fall, the Tar Heels need better quarterback play and it has to start with some progression this spring. Of those fighting for snaps, Surratt probably has the highest upside, which was why he was given the first crack when Harris failed last season.
— 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.