The North Carolina Tar Heels football season kicks off on August 30th against the Liberty Flames at home in Kenan Stadium. To get you ready for the nationally ranked Tar Heel’s first game, Keeping It Heel will have an extensive football preview series previewing all of Carolina’s positions, games and reviewing 2013′s games. Check back to Keeping It Heel every afternoon for new preview posts. Today, let’s preview UNC Football’s running backs.
Departures: A.J. Blue
Blue rushed for nine touchdowns for the Tar Heels in 2012 but couldn’t finish out his senior season on a high note, rushing for just 298 yards and one touchdown last year. He was a solid goal line back, but never showed that second gear or extra spark consistently that running backs need to elevate themselves from starter to star. Romar Morris will take over Blue’s duties as goal line back, and this departure shouldn’t hurt too much.
Returning/Arrivals: Elijah Hood, Romar Morris, T.J. Logan, Khris Francis
Logan came on strong in the second half of 2013 as the Heel’s feature back after recovering from an injury that kept him out of Carolina’s first few games. He is preparing for this season by working on his pass catching and run blocking, a sign potentially that the Tar Heel coaching staff has approached him about taking a bigger role in the offense in 2014. Morris will be the goal line back, and Francis will factor in as more of a pass catcher and run blocker. He showed potential as a weapon out of the backfield after he became more comfortable with the offense in the second half of the season. Elijah Hood is the wildcard. He is the most highly touted recruit of the four, coming out of Charlotte, North Carolina. The home-state hero probably won’t factor much into the offense right away, but if injuries hold Logan on the sidelines, Hood could step in right away for the Tar Heels and be really productive. He has that extra gear or spark that A.J. Blue didn’t quite have, and will end up being a really good player by the time he leaves Carolina.
Is Running Back the deepest position on the team?
I would say without a doubt, yes. The Heels have four legitimate options at running back. Morris and Logan have been really good when healhty, and it appears that they will both enter the season 100% ready to go. Add the steady Francis and talented Hood, and you have the deepest position on the team. In fact, if this was an MLB team, UNC Football and their theoretical front office would be making calls about trading a spare running back for an offensive or defensive lineman.
How good will the run game be?
There is an important destintion between having talented running backs and having a strong running game. You can put nearly any running back that could fall forward behind Stanford’s offensive line last season and you will have a pretty solid running game. But behind UNC’s inexperienced group in 2014, the running game could go through some growing pains early in the season as the line gains experience. Having Marquise Williams at quarterback will help the running game operate, because of the stress his running ability puts on the defense, but the running game will be a work in progress at the start of the season and could come on strong in the second half.