Mitch Trubisky and Ryan Switzer: UNC Football’s Odd Couple

Just over a week into UNC football’s preseason training camp for 2016, new starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky and star wide receiver Ryan Switzer have been training hard to perfect their craft for the 2016 season.

The same applies off the field as well, however, as the longtime roommates have developed a relationship that extends far beyond football.

With Switzer coming from West Virginia and Trubisky hailing from Ohio, neither player had any North Carolina ties before committing to join UNC’s 2013 recruiting class.

They spent time together on visits to Penn State and West Virginia before Switzer ultimately chose to become a Tar Heel. Trubisky pledged his allegiance to head coach Larry Fedora soon after—which then earned him a call from his new buddy.

Mitch Trubisky has shown he's very talented on the football field. His biggest struggle comes at home, where he often finds that the trash "disappears" once every two days or so. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

Mitch Trubisky has shown he’s very talented on the football field. His biggest struggle comes at home, where he often finds that the trash “disappears” once every two days or so. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

The pair continued to grow closer, and have now lived together—along with tailback Khris Francis—for the last three seasons.

Despite how tight they are, though, Switzer acknowledges they deal with normal household issues just like anyone else.

“He’s gonna be the best man at my wedding,” Switzer said of Trubisky. “He’s meant a lot to me these past four years.

“Certainly, living with him has been an experience–he doesn’t like when I don’t do the dishes and I don’t like when he doesn’t take the trash out,” he continued, with a chuckle. “But it’s been fun though.”

Trubisky has received high praise since becoming the starter for his arm talent and ability to read and recognize different defenses. He also proved on multiple occasions last year that he can hit the deep route with ease when he notices single coverage downfield.

But as Switzer noted, if there’s one route Trubisky struggles with most, it’s the one from the trash can inside to the trash can outside—especially when he fails to read that the bag is completely covered.

Switzer's skills as a wide receiver have come a long way after he originally made his name as one of the nation's best punt returners during his freshman season. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Switzer’s skills as a wide receiver have come a long way after he originally made his name as one of the nation’s best punt returners during his freshman season. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

“I would say nobody in our house is good at taking the trash out,” a happily defiant Trubisky said when confronted about his friend’s remarks. “It seems like after two days it fills up. I don’t even know where we get all that stuff.

“Eventually someone will get sick of it and take it out,” he continued. “Sometimes it just disappears and I don’t know what happened to it–but it definitely is a problem.”

Asking Fedora about the similarities between two of his top offensive stars is a sure way to put a small grin on the grizzled coach’s face.

Sure, he doesn’t really care one way or the other about who cleans up around the house. But he does appreciate the irony of a friendship between a wide receiver who dances at practice and never shies from the spotlight and a quarterback who typically leads by example on the field.

“They’re two different people,” Fedora said after Friday’s practice. “They’re like—what was that old show?—the odd couple.

“That’s a perfect example of those two when they’re together. They’re the odd couple.”

The realities of life, however, have started to shift those roles ever so slightly.

Trubisky (right) has been working on all of the coaches' different schemes during training camp. With Switzer, though, he's been hearing for three years just to throw him the darn ball. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Trubisky (right) has been working on all of the coaches’ different schemes during training camp. With Switzer, though, he’s been hearing for three years just to throw him the darn ball. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Trubisky’s role as the head of the offense has required him to become more vocal in a way that’s more similar to how he is around his friends off the field. Switzer, meanwhile, got engaged this past offseason to UNC cheerleader Gabie Dinsbeer—which of course means less time to horse around with the guys.

“Anytime you get a special someone of the opposite sex, you kind of tend to gravitate to them a little bit more than your boys,” Switzer said. “But I think I’ve handled the balance well between my fiancée and my friends. Mitch and them have been happy for me.”

What hasn’t changed is that Switzer still goes over his own personal gameplan with Trubisky and will continue to do so even as the Tar Heels’ schedule heats up this season.

It’s the same one they’ve been going over since arriving on campus together as wide-eyed freshmen—regardless of whether Trubisky has actually been on the field or not.

“He hasn’t even been on the field the past three years, but I’ve always been asking him for throws,” Switzer said. “So that was all leading up to this year.

“Mitch knows I’ll be open, and ultimately he’ll put the ball where it needs to be.”

http://chapelboro.com/featured/mitch-trubisky-and-ryan-switzer-unc-footballs-odd-couple

WWE Signs Former UNC Football Player Brennan Williams

During his time as an offensive tackle at UNC under head coach Butch Davis, Brennan Williams was given the opportunity to lay the smackdown on a defender each time the ball was snapped.

His sheer size and dominance led to him being taken in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. However, a microfracture in his knee stripped Williams of his pro football career before he ever took a single snap–despite two years spent working on a comeback.

In search of another shot to continue laying the smackdown for a living, he turned to the world of professional wrestling in late 2015.

Williams was an honorable mention All-ACC selection in 2012, before being picked in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. (UNC Athletics)

Williams was an honorable mention All-ACC selection in 2012, before being picked in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. (UNC Athletics)

Last week, the 6-foot-7, 300-pounder, realized his new dream–when he was officially signed by Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

The WWE is known nationwide as the top organization in the industry.

He’ll be placed into the WWE Performance Center in Orlando as he starts his training. After some quality time honing his craft there, it’s likely Williams will begin making appearances on the company’s developmental television series “NXT.”

Although “NXT” is only available to subscribers of the WWE Network, reaching that level would still mark a quick rise up the ranks for someone whose career looked bleak after a devastating knee injury.

None of it would be possible, though, if he hadn’t returned to live in Houston in the fall of 2015–after being released from the practice squads of both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots.

While there, Williams eventually found himself under the guidance of WWE Hall of Famer–and six-time World Heavyweight Champion–Booker T.

Williams (left) saw his wrestling career take off once he began learning under Booker T (right) in Houston. (Photo via HoustonPress.com)

Williams (left) saw his wrestling career take off once he began learning under Booker T (right) in Houston. (Photo via HoustonPress.com)

This led the former Tar Heel to join Booker T’s Houston-based wrestling promotion called “Reality of Wrestling.”

Having built a strong social media presence thanks to his love of japanese anime and live-streaming video games, Williams used his personality to create his wrestling character “Marcellus Black.”

Black wrestles with his face painted to look like an anime character, and uses the nicknames “The Great Black Otaku” and “The Shogun of the R.O.W.”

He also became known for his charismatic finishing move, the “Nico Nico Knee.”

Now that he’s made it to the big leagues, though, fans should expect him to undergo a complete character renovation–complete with a name change–once he makes it onto television. That’s typically how WWE handles signing talent from the independent circuits, in order to promote the new characters as its own creations.

At UNC, Williams was named an honorable mention All-ACC performer in 2012. In addition to his size and football pedigree, he also holds a black belt in taekwondo.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/wwe-signs-former-unc-football-player-brennan-williams

UNC Men’s Soccer Exhibition Moved to Cary

The fall season is all set to begin for many of the different UNC sports teams.

For the No. 8 Tar Heel men’s soccer squad, the hype train was originally supposed to get started with a top 25 preseason showcase in Chapel Hill against the No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks on Monday, Aug. 15.

Now, though, that game has been moved across the Triangle from Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill to Wakemed Soccer Park (Field No. 2) in Cary.

Admission will be free to everyone in attendance that night–with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

It will be the second of UNC’s three exhibition games before the regular season officially gets underway.

The Tar Heels will first travel to Rock Hill, South Carolina to play Winthrop on Friday, before closing out this portion of their schedule with a matchup at Davidson on Saturday Aug. 20.

UNC’s first regular season battle–and first game in Chapel Hill–takes place Friday, Aug. 26 against Cal Poly as part of the Carolina Nike Classic.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-mens-soccer-exhibition-moved-to-cary

UNC Agrees to Home-and-Home Football Series With UCF

It was announced Wednesday that UNC and the University of Central Florida (UCF) have come to an agreement on a home-and-home football series with the games scheduled for 2018 and 2020.

The teams have never previously met before in the sport.

Members of the American Athletic Conference since 2013, the Knights are coming off a winless season in 2015–one in which the team fired longtime head coach George O’Leary midway through the season.

However, the program will have two full seasons under new coach Scott Frost before it’s forced to take on the Tar Heels in Kenan Stadium on Sept. 15, 2018.

UNC, meanwhile, hopes its recent success turns into something that lasts much longer. Should that happen, the Tar Heels could be a legitimate powerhouse in the ACC when it faces the Knights in Orlando on Sept. 12, 2020.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-agrees-to-home-and-home-football-series-with-ucf

U.S. Women’s Soccer Clinches Group at Rio Olympics

Despite a shocking 2-2 draw against Colombia on Tuesday night, the U.S. National Team took the first step to winning its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer.

Former Tar Heel standout Crystal Dunn scored the first goal in Tuesday’s game and then assisted on the second, highlighting the presence that the UNC program has over the current roster–with five of the 18 active members of the team having played their college careers in Chapel Hill.

Midfielder Tobin Heath has yet to score a goal in Rio, but has used her amazing passing and ball control to act as a conductor out on the pitch. She also picked up an assist to Carli Lloyd in each of the first two games against New Zealand and France.

Meghan Klingenberg and Whitney Engen were rock-solid in defense in USA’s 1-0 win over France, but the pair has been split up in the other two games as head coach Jill Ellis uses a rotating cast on the back line.

Midfielder Allie Long did a fine job as a starter in the first two games, before coming on as a substitute midway through the second half against Colombia.

Having now qualified for the quarterfinals as a result of their group victory, these former Tar Heels and their teammates will now face Sweden on Friday night.

The game will be a reunion of sorts as former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage–who led the country to the gold medal during the 2012 Olympics in London–is now leading her home nation.

Whether the U.S. continues its winning ways or falls victim to a stunning upset, the influence of the UNC program will still loom large.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/national-sports/u-s-womens-soccer-clinches-group-at-rio-olympics

Wayne Ellington Hosts Inaugural Philadelphia Peace Games

For Miami Heat guard, and former UNC standout, Wayne Ellington, life was turned upside down on Nov. 9, 2014.

His father, Wayne Ellington Sr., was shot to death in the driver’s seat of his red Oldsmobile in the Ellingtons’ hometown of Philadelphia.

In response, the younger Ellington has become a devoted advocate for gun safety–even taking home the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his tireless efforts. The honor is given annually to the player who displays outstanding service and commitment to the community.

Next up in Ellington’s continued campaign, though, is the inaugural Philadelphia Peace Games at Girard College on Saturday Aug. 20.

The event’s goal is to bring together at-risk youth and young adults while emphasizing gun violence, prevention and advocacy.

“Gun violence is a global epidemic and it is my hope and intention to develop public education campaigns to help wipe out the threat,” Ellington said in a statement. “My father was taken from us due to senseless gun violence. I will do anything I can to prevent other families from suffering through these tragedies, which are all too common.

“I was really moved at last year’s Peace Games in Chicago and I’m excited to make an impact in my hometown community.”

Four teams made up of at-risk youth will compete in a basketball tournament that will be open to the public. Appearances by local and national celebrities will also be made–in an effort to bring together people from different backgrounds for an open conversation exploring the dangers of gun violence.

The Peace Games are a part of Ellington’s “Power of W.E.” initiative, a campaign focused on the reduction of youth violence in Philadelphia.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/wayne-ellington-hosts-inaugural-philadelphia-peace-games

Eight Tar Heels Named to 2017 U.S. Women’s Lacrosse Roster

If two national championships in the last four years wasn’t enough to show the dominance of the UNC women’s lacrosse program, then Monday’s news should be.

Of the 36 players selected to play on the United States National Team in the 2017 World Cup, eight are either current or former Tar Heels.

For those who struggle with math, that’s nearly a quarter of the entire roster.

Maryland–which has also won two of the last four titles–was second with six players on the team. Next on the list was Syracuse with five.

“We’re always surprised at who the 36 are, because it’s not always the 36 we thought going into the tryout,” Team USA coach Ricky Fried said. “That speaks volumes to the process and to the coaches and evaluators involved. It’s a process that creates great value.”

Kristen Carr graduated UNC in 2010, and is now attempting to win her second women's lacrosse World Cup. (UNC Athletics)

Kristen Carr graduated UNC in 2010, and is now attempting to win her second women’s lacrosse World Cup. (UNC Athletics)

Midfielders Maggie Bill (UNC ’17) and Marie McCool (’18) join goalie Caylee Waters (’17) as three of the team’s nine players who are still currently in college.

Leading the old guard is a group that consists of midfielder Laura Zimmerman (’12) and four defenders–Kristen Carr (’10), Jen Russell (’10), Sloane Serpe (’14) and Courtney Waite (’15).

The next step for each of these players is to begin preparation for next year’s World Cup, which will be held in Guildford, England.

Unfortunately, only half of the 36 women chosen will make the final 18-player roster that will play in the event. They’ll also be under pressure to defend the title won by the U.S. at the last World Cup back in 2013.

With eight of the players from the 2013 team returning for another shot, Coach Fried likes the mix of talent he’s seen so far throughout training.

“The athleticism and skill displayed was, as always, at a very high level,” Fried said.

“What we’re more excited about is the ability of our returning players to make our younger players feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves by being here; that it’s more meaningful to be a part of a program than just part of a World Cup team.”

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/eight-tar-heels-named-to-2017-u-s-womens-lacrosse-roster

Chemistry A Huge Factor in UNC Football’s Recent Success

Chemistry definitely isn’t the easiest subject in school, but if there’s one thing most people know about it—it’s that when things go wrong, they typically blow up in your face.

It’s a good thing, then, for the UNC football team—which opened training camp Friday afternoon— that there seems to be a winning formula brewing.

There’s plenty of obvious reasons to believe this group of Tar Heels has what it takes to put together another 11-win season—such as returning at least seven starters on each side of the ball.

And then there’s the things that are less obvious–the off-field relationships and bonds that help build a deeper chemistry than a zone blitz or a fade route ever could.

Defensive tackle Nazair Jones (right) says the Tar Heels use the entire year--not just training camp--as a time to grow and build relationships within the team. (Avery Trendel)

Defensive tackle Nazair Jones (right) says the Tar Heels use the entire year–not just training camp–as a time to grow and build relationships within the team. (Avery Trendel)

Junior defensive tackle Nazair Jones says the absence of cliques—and honest love the team has for all of its members—is what truly makes this group special.

“I think this is one of the closest teams I’ve been on–since I’ve been here,” Jones said after practice. “It definitely has improved over the years.

“Everybody, we’re always together,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter what race, what position or anything like that.”

Following the 2014 season in which UNC went 6-7 and was blown out by Rutgers in its bowl game, a meeting was called for players to air their grievances.

Since then, it’s been nothing but success for the Tar Heels, as 2015 was one of the best seasons in school history.

Senior tailback TJ Logan possesses the explosive ability to be a star at many other schools, but has willingly taken a backseat to junior Elijah Hood the past two years. Part of that is because he remembers the sour feelings left over after 2014–and how important it was for the players to approach their relationships differently moving forward.

“I feel like [the success] started in the locker room,” Logan said. “Guys were like family [last season]. We just hung out with each other and went everywhere together—and I feel like this is the same type of team.

“Sometimes we go out to the movies with each other,” he added. “Or we might just go out and chill, play video games, do anything.”

Senior wide receiver Ryan Switzer is part of a tight-knit receiving corps--along with Mack Hollins and Bug Howard--that has seen playing time together in each of the past three seasons. (Avery Trendel)

Senior wide receiver Ryan Switzer is part of a tight-knit receiving corps–along with Mack Hollins and Bug Howard–that has seen playing time together in each of the past three seasons. (Avery Trendel)

Although training camp may seem like it’d be the perfect way to build relationships—with the entire team staying in a hotel throughout the process—that’s really not entirely true.

The way Jones puts it, this particular group spends so much time together throughout the year that the hotel setting feels like they’re just hanging out in a different dorm room.

It’s that team-wide familiarity which has helped make the transition for new starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky a whole lot easier.

“I don’t know what it is with this group, but we just gel easily,” Trubisky said, amidst a sea of reporters. “We have really good chemistry and we’re always together on and off the field.

“It helps because we trust each other.”

Despite the great success UNC was able to achieve in 2015, head coach Larry Fedora says his players were left with a bad taste in their mouths after closing out the season with back-to-back losses to Clemson and Baylor.

Not only have they bonded over movies and video games, but also those tough outcomes.

As their boss on the field, Fedora hopes the chemistry is at a point this season where the Tar Heels can have a crazy game blow up in their face—but still keep moving through it.

“They’ve put in a lot of work,” Fedora said. “So that chemistry and the bond they’ve built from January all the way to this point—and all the things we do in the program—will make us a better and more cohesive unit when adversity does strike.

“And it’s coming.”

http://chapelboro.com/featured/chemistry-has-played-huge-role-in-unc-footballs-recent-success

Saturday Allows Fans to Meet the Heels at Eddie Smith Fieldhouse

For UNC fans trying to make plans this weekend, look no further than the Eddie Smith Fieldhouse on campus.

There, you’ll be able to get up close and personal with some of your favorite Tar Heel players and coaches at the annual “Meet the Heels” event–which will take place Saturday between 4 and 6 p.m.

If that’s not enough, the get-together is also free of charge and boasts another great selling point in that there will be free parking available in six nearby campus locations.

Those places are: Stadium Drive, the Raleigh Road Visitors Lot, Boshamer Lot, Cobb Deck, School of Government Deck and the Bell Tower Deck.

The first hour of the event will allow fans to meet the men’s soccer team and get things signed by them, while also providing the chance to have pictures made with the two UNC mascots–Rameses and his little buddy RJ.

Following that, head football coach Larry Fedora and his team will be available during the second hour.

Autograph hounds should be forewarned, however, that the football session is limited to one signed item per person.

Activities such as balloon twisters and fun inflatables–as well as food trucks from places like Al’s Burger Shack and Backyard Bistro–will also be available.

The event will also come just one day after the Tar Heels–who face enormous expectations this season–officially open up their 2016 training camp.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/saturday-allows-fans-to-meet-the-heels-at-eddie-smith-fieldhouse

Two Assistant Coaches Join UNC Baseball Staff

Following the departure of former assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Scott Jackson in July, the UNC baseball team announced a pair of new hires for its staff on Thursday.

Robert Woodard and Jesse Wierzbicki–who each helped lead the Tar Heels to the College World Series during their careers–will rejoin their former head coach, Mike Fox, in the dugout this season.

A key cog in both the 2006 and 2007 runs to Omaha, Woodard is also the winningest pitcher in school history at 34-5. He also never lost a home start during his time in Chapel Hill.

Jesse Wierzbicki--a part of the Tar Heels' 2011 College World Series team--was an undergraduate assistant at UNC in 2015. (UNC Athletics)

Jesse Wierzbicki–a part of the Tar Heels’ 2011 College World Series team–was an undergraduate assistant at UNC in 2015. (UNC Athletics)

After a short professional career in the San Diego Padres organization, Woodard spent 2011 and 2012 as an assistant at UNC–before later becoming the pitching coach for UNCW and Virginia Tech.

“To say today is a special day for my family and me would be an understatement,” Woodard said in a statement issued by the university. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve been passionate about the University of North Carolina, its programs, its tradition and the amazing people I have met who make this university so great.

“It is hard to put into words what it means for me to rejoin this coaching staff with Coach Fox and Coach Forbes, two of my closest friends and mentors for almost twenty years.”

His former coach was just as excited to have him back.

“No player in my tenure at North Carolina has had more of an impact on the program than Robert Woodard,” Fox said. “His career numbers speak for themselves.”

Wierzbicki spent two years at UNC after transferring from Walters State.  He was part of the Tar Heels 2011 College World Series team before later spending three years with the Houston Astros organization.

A return to UNC in 2015 saw Wierzbicki earn his bachelor’s degree while serving as an undergraduate assistant with the baseball team. After spending 2016 as an assistant at Elon, he’ll be coming back home for 2017.

“It’s a honor and blessing to be back in Chapel Hill working with the Carolina baseball program,” Wierzbicki said. “To receive an opportunity to coach at my alma mater is a very proud moment. I’m very appreciative of Coach Fox and the rest of the coaching staff for bringing me on board.

“I’m looking forward to the beginning of the school year and meeting the team.”​

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/two-assistant-coaches-join-unc-baseball-staff