Mack Brown and the North Carolina Tar Heels' staff hit a home run this recruiting season. During his first full cycle, the Tar Heels' head coach compiled a class that ranked 19th nationally and third in the ACCby 247Sports. Plus, Brown made a strong closing push in 2019, giving Carolina a good young nucleus to build for '20 and beyond.
Led by quarterback Sam Howell, UNC returns a solid core that should improve on last year's 7-6 finish. But there are some holes that need to be filled and those talented youngsters — both true and redshirt freshmen from the two recent recruiting hauls — are in line to contribute in a major way.
Here are five Tar Heel newcomers that need to be watched this season.
Josh Downs, WR
Carolina brings back its big three at receiver in Dazz Newsome, Dyami Brown, and Beau Corrales. But Downs is a talent that may push his way into the lineup as a true freshman. The Suwanee, Georgia, product made his way to campus in January after an impressive showing at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
Kendall Karr, TE
Garrett Walston should continue to be the starting tight end, but a backup must be found, and there are two early enrollees that will contend for that opening. John Copenhaver is the higher-rated prospect, but he will miss the spring sessions with a shoulder injury, giving Karr the first opportunity to impress. The Cramerton, North Carolina, native chose to stay in-state despite fielding offers from Auburn, LSU, Oregon, and Penn State.
Ty Murray, C/G
Brian Anderson is projected to retain his starting center position, but it is far from a lock. There is also a bit of uncertainty at left guard, and Murray is a possibility there as well. Regardless, he will see plenty of snaps this fall as a redshirt freshman after impressing the Carolina staff during his first year on campus.
Kristian Varner, DE
Desmond Evans, the No. 2 prospect from the Tar Heel State according to 247Sports, is the jewel of Brown's latest class, but he's not the only defensive lineman who could make a splash this fall. With Evans not expected to arrive until the summer, Varner and true freshman Kedrick Bingley-Jones will split snaps this spring to see who can make the early claim for a starting spot. Bingley-Jones is the sixth-ranked prospect from the state and a top-150 recruit overall but Varner has spent a year on campus, getting stronger and learning the system.
Kyler McMichael, CB
The Tar Heels are deep in the secondary, especially at corner. But if you've watched Carolina over the past couple of seasons, you know that injuries have crippled the defensive backfield. That's where McMichael comes in. The transfer from Clemson will be in the rotation, as will fellow transfer Bryce Watts, a former Virginia Tech Hokie.
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of @TarHeelFootball)