Countdown UNC’s 10 Best Players: #6 Mack Hollins


In the days leading up to the start of college football season, Keeping It Heel will be counting down UNC Football’s 10 best players, continuing today with number 6, Mack Hollins. Come back to see who else makes the top 10. 

#10 — Dez Lawrence

#9 — Naz Jones

#8 — Jessie Rogers

#7 — T.J. Logan


Mack Hollins entered North Carolina’s campus prior to the 2012 season as a walk-on from Rockville, Maryland. After redshirting his first year, Hollins was named special teams captain as a freshman but did not catch a pass, serving mostly as a scout team WR.

His sophomore year, Hollins caught 35 passes for 613 yards, averaging 17.5 yards per catch. He also hauled in eight touchdowns and carded a longest catch of 91 yards against San Diego State. To cap it all off, Hollins grabbed honorable mention All-ACC accolades. Not a bad breakout season, huh?

Now, Hollins is the seventh best player on Carolina’s roster according to Keeping It Heel, and even that may be too low.

Hollins’ story from walk-on to star wideout is both amazing and inspiring. I will leave the storytelling of his rise to better storytellers than myself: Inside Carolina’s Evan Markfield and The Daily Tar Heels’  Dylan Howlett both wrote excellent features on Hollins last year that you should read. Instead, I will focus more on the football side to show what makes Hollins so special.

The first thing that makes Mack Hollins special on the football field is his size and length. His bio lists Hollins as 6’4″, 210 lbs, but I swear he looks bigger than that on the field, especially when compared to smaller defensive backs. Hollins also has massive hands and long arms that come in handy to collect errant throws.

It takes more than size and length, though, to be a great wide receiver at the college level. You also have to be able to create separation from defensive backs, and Hollins can do that with his elite speed. I will steal one quote from Inside Carolina’s profile of Hollins about his speed…

"So Hollins arrived on campus and quickly garnered a reputation for speed. Summer workouts saw him blaze past guys—scholarship guys—during running drills. Even though he lived with walk-ons and mostly associated with walk-ons, the more established players were starting to take notice of him."

His teammates began to take notice and after last season, the rest of the ACC learned too.

The best example of Hollins’ deadly combination of speed and size was on display against San Diego State.

Hollins, lined up on the far side of the field, does give a quick head fake to the corner. However, this is basically just Marquise Williams throwing the ball up and Mack Hollins running under it and leaving everyone else on the field left looking at the back of his jersey.

Hollins is more than a one trick pony. To go along with his speed and size, Hollins has another skill that utilizes and leverages his length for a major advantage — the ability to go up and get jump balls. Take this play against Georgia Tech last season.

Marquise Williams saw that matchup and on 4th and 6, in a key moment in a key game, Mack Hollins just went up and got the ball. The poor Georgia Tech cornerback was left plopped on the turf having just been disrespected by #13.

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This is the kind of play you may dial-up on 2nd and goal on the three yard line. In this case, the Tar Heels leaned on Hollins even from the 36 (!!!) yard line because they knew he is always going to win one on one matchups with a smaller, less skilled corners.

This is where Hollins’ value starts to show. Defensive coordinators have watched the tape on Hollins and now know they can’t leave just one cornerback on him in the redzone. Ideally, their defenses need to have a safety shading him over the top at all times. Even if Hollins doesn’t catch a pass all season, that threat will be extremely valuable. That opens up opportunities for Ryan Switzer, who isn’t exactly an easy one on one matchup either, and all Carolina’s other skill players to get favorable matchups for themselves.

The threat of Hollins running fly routes also keeps safeties in check. The minute the opposing defenses’ safeties start to creep up and help clog holes in the run game, Fedora and Co. and dial-up a play action pass to Hollins and make the defense pay. This is super valuable and could help open holes in the run game for the Tar Heels.

Every team needs a good deep threat to keep defenses on their toes. The Tar Heels have a lot of offensive weapons — a bruising running back in Elijah Hood, a shifty possession receiver in Ryan Switzer, and a red zone threat in Quinshad Davis. However, the Tar Heels have lacked a true deep threat so far in Larry Fedora’s reign in Chapel Hill until Mr. Hollins broke out against SDSU. Hollins went from a walk-on scout team contributor to one of the most valuable pieces of Larry Fedora’s powerful offensive engine.