Good News Friday: Pre-season Honors Pour in for UNC Football

In covering the news and keeping the community informed, unfortunately we have to report a lot of bad news; but rest assured that every Friday throughout the summertime, when you tune into WCHL, we will have some good news to report to you!  That’s because it is “Good News Friday!”

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It is July 15th, and this week, the media is already talking A LOT about UNC Football.

The football season doesn’t start until September 3rd against Georgia in The Georgia Dome, before that stadium is turned into a parking lot, but this week, the national pre-season honors for UNC  are stacking up. On Wednesday, senior wide receiver Mack Hollins was named to the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, going to the nation’s top receiver.

Having a player on a pre-season watch list for a national award is not new for UNC football, with Tar Heel greats like Julius Peppers, Dre Bly, Hakeem Nicks, Harris Barton and Lawrence Taylor receiving similar recognition; but this year, the collegiate football world isn’t just looking at Mack Hollins.

Senior center, Lucas Crowley was named to the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, going to the nation’s top center.

Senior Kicker Nick Weiler was named to the watch list for the Lou Groza Award going to the nation’s top place kicker, let’s hope he hasn’t cut his hair!!

Junior tailback Elijah Hood was named to the watch list for the Doak Walker Award, honoring the nation’s top running back; The Maxwell Award, honoring the nation’s best overall player; and don’t be surprised to hear and see Elijah in the discussion as a candidate for the Heisman Trophy, having already been named a Heisman contender by various publications including Sports on Earth, Bleacher Report, and Pro Football Focus; with more to come.

The recognition is not just for players as Coach Larry Fedora was named to the watch list for The Bobby Dodd Trophy honoring the national head coach of the year.

We all know post-season recognition is a million times more important than pre-season recognition; and let’s hope there’s plenty of post-season recognition for the team, and for players such as new starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky. But with more pre-season acknowledgements possible for Ryan Switzer* and M.J. Stewart;  it’s SO much fun to be in the middle of July and have everyone talking about Carolina football!  AND THAT’S our ‘Good News Friday’ story of the week!

*UPDATE 1:35PM: Ryan Switzer named to the watch list for The Paul Hornung Award, honoring the most versatile player in the country.

Do you have any good news for us to share?  Send tips to NEWS@WCHL.COM using the subject line: Good News Friday.

The Answer to Brain Damage from Football is Certainly, Yes

If WCHL listeners are starting to feel that my commentaries about football and concussions are like banging their heads against a wall, they likely feel the way football players feel on a regular basis.

In a recent Congressional round-table about football and concussions, a representative asked whether “there is a link between football and degenerative brain disorders like C.T.E.” The NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety policy, said, “The answer to that is certainly, yes.”  Not “we are studying that,” not “we are spending millions of dollars on research,” not “while there may be a statistical relationship we are not confident of a true effect,” not “we have serious concerns with the accuracy of League of Denial, a documentary about the NFL’s efforts to conceal the consequences of brain trauma” not even a qualified yes.  “The answer to that is certainly, yes.”

Choose your favorite metaphor. The jig is up, the other shoe has dropped, buzzer beater, hail Mary, or walk-off home run. Short of the randomized clinical trials to rigorously examine the risks–trials that at this point would be unethical knowing what we now know–tackle football should end at the sub-professional level.  If adult men are adequately informed of the risks that they are taking and decide to assume those risks in exchange for the huge salaries that they earn as gladiators, they should be permitted to do so.

Personally, however, I would raise concerns about how and where we are failing as a culture that encourages adult men to make such choices about their brains. All the more of a concern when we acknowledge that professional football players disproportionately come from the African-American community and low income communities, already unfairly at greater risk for poor health.

The leaders of universities and state and local boards of education should be protecting brains, not accepting the cultural practices that allow, not to mention encourage, boys and young men to damage their brains.

— Lew Margolis.

Why, Exactly, Are Universities Playing Football?

Two recent, dramatic, football-related concussion stories should compel university trustees and faculty to ask, “why, exactly, are universities playing football?”

Lew Margolis

Lew Margolis

The first story is that a federal judge granted initial approval of a settlement against the NCAA over the handling of head injuries. Although the NCAA is still reviewing the terms, the agreement calls for a $70 million fund to monitor former athletes for signs of brain damage, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the growing scourge of football.

The second story is nothing short of stunning. The NFL, which has already agreed to provide up to $5 million per former player suffering from football-related neurological damage, reported a 32% increase in the number of concussions this season.

Epidemiologists will point out that this does not necessarily mean more concussions, but may well be the result of increased monitoring, largely in response to the outcry by players and perhaps the parents of youngsters who are beginning to have second thoughts about the wisdom of allowing their sons to play football.

The fact that more concussions are being reported, the more closely we look, is exactly, however, the reason for trustees and faculty to be concerned. In truth, medical science has only begun to understand the long-term consequences of the hundreds of brain-scrambling collisions that occur over the course of a single football season.

It may well be that collisions do not have to result in an actual diagnosed concussion to cause brain damage.  The closer we look the more we are understanding that the effects on the brain of collision sports like football are likely more extensive than we have assumed.

Trustees and faculty are the guardians of the missions of universities to champion critical thinking. Why do those who play this vital guardian role permit, not to mention, encourage a sport that damages brains?


— Lew Margolis.

Early Enrollees Get Head Start Before Signing Day

With college football’s National Signing Day quick approaching, eight members of the UNC football team have already shown their commitment to the university.

The newcomers were so eager to begin their Carolina careers that they started college early, enrolling in January.

Seven of the eight finished high school in December, while one transferred from junior college.

Linebacker JB Copeland is the lone junior college transfer, and offensive lineman Layton Barber turned down scholarship offers to walk on at UNC.

UNC has 18 other commitments from across the county and look to add to that total come Wednesday, when recruits officially put pen to paper.

Check in with and WCHL throughout the day for National Signing Day coverage.

UNC Early Enrollees:

Layton Barber – OL

Jordon Brown – RB

JB Copeland – LB

Logan Byrd – QB

Myles Dorn – DB

Jonathan Smith – LB

Garrett Walston – TE

Myles Wolfork – DB

UNC Adds Four-Star Wide Receiver

Four-Star wide receiver J.T. Cauthen announced his commitment to UNC over twitter on Tuesday.

“First off I would like to thank all of the schools and coaches that have recruited me over the past few years, I am grateful for the opportunities they have offered me it is truly an honor. With that said and after talking with my family and coaches. I have made a decision on where I will spend the next four years of my life getting an education and playing football. It is truly and honor also a blessing to say that I will be attending the University of North Carolina #goheels”

Cauthen is the third recruit UNC has secured in the class of 2017, OL Jonah Melton and WR Tyler Smith are also heading to Carolina.

Th 2016 recruiting class has 24 commitments with two four-star recruits.

UNC coaches expressed their excitement on twitter.

Cauthen is a native of Waxhaw, NC and a student at Cuthberson High School.

UNC vs. Clemson: ACC Championship

Clemson won the ACC Championship Saturday night with a 45-37 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels.  UNC fell to 11-2 and their next game will be the Russell Athletic Bowl.  See photos from the ACC Championship game below from Smith Cameron Photography.

Landon Turner Named Top College Offensive Lineman

UNC senior guard Landon Turner has been named the winner of the 2015 Jim Parker Award, which is given annually by the Touchdown Club of Columbus to the nation’s top offensive lineman.

Turner, a four-year starter and a preseason All-American, has been the anchor of the offensive line, which has made UNC one of the top offenses in the country.

They have allowed 12 sacks this season, which the fewest in the ACC and eighth best in the country.

The Tar Heels are averaging six yards per carry and have a total of 2756 yards rushing and 36 touchdowns. They are third in the nation in yards per attempted rush.

Both Marquise Williams and Elijah Hood have double digit rushing touchdowns behind this offensive line.

The award was named for former Ohio State lineman Jim Parker, who was named to the NFL All-Pro team for 10 consecutive years from 1957-1966.

The 61st annual Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards will be on February 6, 2016 at the Lifestyle Community Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio.

For more information visit

UNC Football Reserve Arrested in Raleigh

A reserve football player for North Carolina has been arrested on an assault charge hours after the Tar Heels beat North Carolina State.

Police in Raleigh say cornerback Tyreece Jiles got into a fight with an employee at a nightclub near downtown at about 3 a.m. Sunday. He was charged with simple assault and released from jail on a $1,200 bond. He is due in court Monday.

The university did not immediately comment.

Jiles is a 21-year-old senior from Cape Coral, Florida. He has made one career start and has one tackle in eight games this season. He’s listed as T.J. Jiles on the roster.

The Tar Heels will play Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game next week.

UNC announced late Sunday that Jiles has been suspended indefinitely.

Former UNC Offensive Lineman Ryan Hoffman Dies

Former UNC football player Ryan Hoffman, whose story of a battle with homelessness drew national attention after a profile in the New York Times, has died, his father has confirmed.

Reports from The Daily Ridge say that Hoffman was struck by a vehicle while he was riding his bicycle in Haines City, Florida.

The Haines City Police Department said the report was not yet ready to be made publicly available.

After news of Hoffman’s situation began to gain attention, UNC officials reached out to Hoffman in hopes of helping him receive treatment he needed. The NYT piece reported that Hoffman said he was struggling with cognitive problems that kept him from holding down a job. Those problems, Hoffman felt, stemmed from his years playing college football in the late ‘90s.

via UNC

via UNC

Hoffman was initially hesitant about receiving treatment.

UNC did successfully reach out to Hoffman and fly him back to campus in hopes of giving Hoffman the medical attention that was needed.

Teammates of Hoffman put together efforts to raise money to pay for Hoffman’s travel and treatment.

UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham says in a statement, “We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ryan Hoffman, a former Carolina football letter winner — and a great friend and teammate to so many Tar Heels. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”

Art’s Angle: Back to the Future

The Tar Heels returned to dominating Duke like they had over the last quarter century while showcasing a football program that looks like it could finally be reaching long-awaited new heights.

On a day when only an 80 percent chance of rain kept every seat in sold-out Kenan Stadium from being filled, the raucous near-capacity crowd and a crazy, overflow student section created the wild atmosphere UNC has been seeking for years, but never has been able to sustain.

The home team, clad in light blue and Alexander Julian argyle, demolished what was supposed to be the ninth-best total defense in the country from its very first snap and, despite how competitive Duke has become, made beating the Blue Devils for the 23rd time in the last 26 years look easier than ever.

What was billed to be a close game turned no contest in a hurry.

The day proved UNC fans will come out in droves if they have a football team worth supporting, and they go well beyond the elite group that can demand the limited supply of season basketball tickets to the Smith Center.  No one would like that more than Roy Williams, a UNC alumnus who bleeds Carolina Blue but also wants football to succeed to take the pressure off his program.

Carolina fans love a good game and a good party to follow. They watch the game, they know the game. On the Tar Heels’ first offensive snap, when Marquise Williams got the flea-flicker back from Elijah Hood, they were up screaming, “He’s Open! He’s Open!” as Ryan Switzer raced past the Duke secondary. The 89-yard bomb took 12 seconds, and the Blue Devils never recovered.

Later, the fans easily spotted, and yelled for, a holding penalty that nullified a Duke first down.

The gray skies never opened up once the old rivals kicked off. It kept from putting a damper on anything and everything that was planned.

During timeouts, UNC also put on a good show, introducing its latest Nobel Prize winner, Aziz Sancar, who shared the spotlight with a fellow Dukie chemistry scientist; the six Tar Heel beauties on the women’s World Cup soccer team, who glowed as much as the trophy they held; and Carolina legend Don McCauley, who 45 years ago this month rushed for 279 yards and scored five touchdowns in a 59-34 win over Duke. Saturday’s 66 points surpassed that day and were the most the Tar Heels had ever scored in Kenan Stadium, against Duke and any other ACC foe.

The Blue Devils gained more than 500 yards (compared to Carolina’s 704 in less than three quarters with the regulars in) but were never in the game after the Tar Heels scored with ease on their first three possessions. For UNC alumni and fans, who clamor to beat the Blue Devils in basketball and other sports, it further restored order to a football series they owned until losing two straight on the last possessions of those games in 2012 and ‘13. The Heels pushed the reset button a year ago, and have now outscored Duke 111-51 in the last two matchups.

The outcome was not in doubt at halftime, or earlier, but the Tar Pit kids and much of the crowd stayed around to the sweet end, some obviously hoping the Tar Heel reserves could crack 70 points, which would have added to the Blue Devils’ embarrassment. Both teams quit trying to score midway through the fourth quarter, using up entire play clocks and keeping the ball on the ground. UNC had had enough time to score nine touchdowns by seven different players plus a Nick Weiler field goal.

The Heels’ eighth straight victory keeps them ahead in the championship race that continues this Saturday on Senior Day against Miami. Should they win, and Duke helps out by defeating Pitt, they will earn their first Coastal Division title since the ACC split up 10 years ago. Carolina would play Atlantic Division champion Clemson, which eliminated lone contender FSU later in the day, on December 5 in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

For a program that has not won more than eight games since 1997, and has never won 11 in the regular season, the Tar Heels’ emergence will surely move them up from No. 21 in the polls and put them into the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time. That recognition comes easier with a tradition of winning, which Carolina football does not have on the national level.

But thanks to a record-shattering quarterback and more scoring weapons than the New England Patriots, UNC is about to get those football props. Capturing the Coastal is within reach and running the table will require winning at Virginia Tech and N.C. State the last two weeks of the season. Such road games are always dicey, and Carolina could still fall from the national spotlight.

But, thus far, how Coach Larry Fedora managed to get this team there with the clouds that have hung over his program like they did over Kenan Stadium Saturday conjures up this question: What could Fed do if the skies ever cleared?

That result, by going back to the future, was on preview for all their fans and a national television audience to see and celebrate; fans who are obviously willing to help turn Carolina Football into a very big deal, if given the reason.