If you are an incoming freshman at North Carolina, be ready. The Tar Heels are coming off a 3-9 season and have a new head coach, with a new system, that has no ties to last year’s team. If Mack Brown likes what he sees in you, even if you have just stepped foot on campus, you will play.
UNC has a freshman class that is well balanced both offensively and defensively, which is important since the Heels need help on both sides of the ball. But finding players that can spark the passing game was vital. Among Brown’s prized recruits are a coveted quarterback, a couple of exciting receivers that can hopefully offset the loss of NFL-bound Anthony Ratliff-Williams, and a tackle that should provide good protection in the years to come.
Here are five new Tar Heels (in alphabetical order) that can make an impact in 2019.
Eugene Asante, LB
While the new coaching staff wants to develop the passing game, building a defense that can hold up against the run for the first time in years also is essential. Asante is an outside backer that really stands out in his rush defense. Like most freshman, he needs to add size to play the position, but he has the skill set and instincts to be a four-down player in the ACC.
Khafre Brown, WR
The Charlotte native will give Carolina a burner on the outside that can stretch the field. At 6-foot and 176 pounds, Brown is going to have to get thicker and stronger to beat press coverage. But when he gets in space, watch out. His offer list of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida State, Ohio State, and USC was obviously elite.
Sam Howell, QB
Getting the Monroe, North Carolina, star to flip from Florida State in December was a huge early signing period coup for the new Carolina staff. The quarterback situation at UNC is murky and Howell — who enrolled in January — will be given strong consideration. The 6-foot-0, 225-pounder threw for more than 3,000 yards in each of his four high school seasons, rushed for more than 1,200 yards as both a junior and a senior, and accounted for 203 total touchdowns during his prep career.
Triston Miller, OT
At 6-foot-6, Miller has the frame to add size, which is good because he is very thin and needs to put on at least 25 pounds before he can make an impact. The good news is that he very nimble for a tall lineman and plays with intensity. If he gets to around 300 pounds by fall camp, he could crack the two-deep.
Emery Simmons, WR
Simmons is a similar size to fellow receiver Khafre Brown, though he is just a bit thicker. The Hope Mills, North Carolina, product is plenty quick enough, though perhaps not quite the blazer that Brown is. The two should complement each other well and Simmons is a step ahead because he is an early enrollee.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.