Stuart Scott. Kenny “The Jet” Smith. Jesse Holley.
When the UNC men’s basketball team officially kicks off its season Oct. 14 with its annual “Late Night with Roy” event, they’ll each have yet another thing in common.
Each man was a Tar Heel in their college days, but once Holley finishes his duties as host of “Late Night” he’ll join the other two among a small group of people to do so.
Holley played basketball for two years under head coach Roy Williams–including during the 2004-05 National Championship season. He also was a star wide receiver on the UNC football team from 2003-06, who later went on to play three years with the Dallas Cowboys.
He earned his spot on the Cowboys only after winning a reality show on Spike TV called “Fourth and Long” hosted by legendary Cowboy receiver Michael Irvin.
These days, Holley works as a sports personality on 105.3 The Fan radio in the Dallas area–making him more than ready to host “Late Night with Roy.”
This year’s UNC team will showcase 10 returning players that night–including three starters–from last year’s National Finalists.
New freshmen Seventh Woods, Brandon Robinson and Tony Bradley will also be making their debuts.
A new format will be debuted this year at the “Late Night” event–with an evening-long competition between the Blue and White teams highlighting the night.
A champion will be crowned following the traditional scrimmage game, but it will include points tallied during various shooting drills and a three-point competition.
Of course, it wouldn’t be “Late Night with Roy” without some dancing.
The Blue and White teams will each be scored on the dances they perform with the Carolina Dance Team as well.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. the night of the event. Admission, as always, is free.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/jesse-holley-named-host-of-late-night-with-roy
After taking a little bit of time to enjoy its thrilling comeback win over Pitt last Saturday, the UNC football team had no choice but to get right back to business this week.
With a trip to Tallahassee to face No. 12 Florida State looming this weekend, the Tar Heels will need to overcome one of the most talented teams–and one of the most hostile environments–in college football in order to keep their three-game win streak alive.
The Seminoles boast the same 3-1 record as UNC after taking a blowout loss in Week 3 at the hands of Louisville and its Heisman candidate quarterback Lamar Jackson.
With all the talent and speed head coach Jimbo Fisher has on the field, however, Florida State is a team that could easily win each game it plays the rest of the way.
Its main weakness so far, though, has been that its defense has struggled limiting explosive plays this season–which happens to be the specialty of the UNC offense. Despite those issues, the Seminoles still aren’t fooling Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora.
“There’s a lot of talent over there, that’s what I can tell you” Fedora said about the Seminole defense. “They’ve got a lot of big guys that can really run. They can run.
“So I’m gonna just tell you,” he continued, pausing for emphasis. “They’re really talented.”
If previous games are any indication, UNC’s offense may have to put forth another superhuman effort to make up for the problems its own defense may present.
Although they stepped up when it mattered most last week, the Tar Heels continued to struggle mightly when defending the run. Just 10 of the 128 teams in the FBS give up more than the 240 yards per game UNC allows.
Part of that is due to facing top-class runners like Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Pitt’s James Conner, but that gauntlet won’t get any easier this week against Florida State’s Dalvin Cook.
Some analysts consider the blinding fast Cook—who currently ranks eighth in the NCAA in rushing with 495 yards through four games—to be the best back in the country.
Junior defensive tackle Naz Jones recognizes the level of competition the Tar Heels have faced, but also admitted if he were a coach he’d be the first one to test the team’s problem area.
“We’re not playing against just some random, average running backs,” Jones said. “We’re playing against the country’s best each and every week.
“He brings a lot to the table,” he continued, speaking about Cook. “It’ll be another situation like Georgia where they try to get the run game going early—just like any team would.”
Should Cook and redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois get into a groove for Florida State, Trubisky and the Tar Heels will need to do a much better job scoring of course—but also with keeping their defense off the field.
Last week, UNC won despite holding the ball for only 18 minutes and change—including just 33 seconds in the first quarter. Obviously the running game will need to produce more than the 18 yards it tallied against Pitt for that plan to be successful, but that should happen given that the Seminoles don’t blitz nearly as much as the Panthers did.
Having put together the two best games of his career over the last two weeks, Trubisky is confident the offense can take care of its job on Saturday.
“Putting up that many points in basically three quarters, we see where we could be and what kind of effort and tempo we want to play with as an offense,” Trubisky said. “I think we just need to learn from that and take it into next game because there’s still a lot more out there obviously.
“We need to be able to control the ball more, convert more third downs, keep our defense off the field and keep on finishing in the endzone.”
For most of the week during practice, Fedora even went so far as to play the Seminole War Chant over the loudspeakers in place of the team’s usual hip-hop playlist. Playing in one of the loudest stadiums in the country, he knows the offense will have to be prepared to execute without being able to hear much at all.
As for the defense, this week may not be the one where statistical improvement is made—but as long as the scoreboard looks OK, the head coach will be too.
“We’ve gotta do a much better job limiting the run,” Fedora said. “But as long as we score one more point than they do, we’ve got something to build off of and work from.http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-football-ready-for-battle-in-tallahassee-against-no-12-florida-state
The accolades for UNC field hockey’s big weekend continue to roll in.
A day after the team moved to No. 2 in the polls while sweeping conference Player of the Week honors, senior defender Julia Young was named the National Defensive Player of the Week.
UNC’s team captain helped lead a strong defensive effort that held each of the Tar Heels’ weekend opponents–No. 1 Syracuse and No. 2 Duke–well below its averages in scoring, shots and penalty corners.
The Tar Heels won each of those games by a score of 3-2.
Teammate Lauren Moyer, who took home the ACC’s Player of the Week award, was named an honorable mention for the national honor–which went to Northwestern’s Pascale Massey.
UNC returns to action at Henry Stadium on Sunday against Michigan, with the start scheduled for 1 p.m.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-field-hockeys-julia-young-named-national-defensive-player-of-the-week
Facing a crucial 4th-and-6, the second of the drive, during the team’s game-winning march down the field against Pitt last Saturday, UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky found junior wide receiver Austin Proehl for a first down on a perfectly executed comeback route.
The play capped a career day for the speedy, young pass-catcher–who has embraced the pressure of following in his father’s footsteps.
Any time you read or hear anything about Proehl, it’s become almost a requirement to add on the fact that he’s the son of Ricky Proehl—the wide receivers coach for the Carolina Panthers, and a 17-year NFL veteran with two Super Bowl rings.
Right now, Austin is in the midst of a season where, in just four games for the Tar Heels, he’s already just 100 yards shy of matching the amount he had in the previous two seasons combined. Against Pitt on Saturday, Proehl stepped into a larger role when Mack Hollins left the game with an injury and finished with a career-high seven catches for 99 yards.
As his playing time has increased, his talent has shown through and he’s started carving out a name for himself. Still, though, the constant comparisons to his dad don’t bother him as much as you might think.
“He’s gained that respect to the point where I’m Ricky’s son to reporters, I’m Ricky’s son to our analysts, I’m Ricky’s son to whoever’s doing the game,” Proehl said at Monday’s press conference. “A lot of people ask me if it bothers me—and it doesn’t.
“He’s earned that respect,” Austin continued. “And I love being his son. I love being associated with that.”
Watching Proehl out on the field, it’s tough not to notice the influence his father has had on his game. Despite being only 5-foot-10—two inches shorter than Ricky—and 175 pounds, he relies on superior route running and agility to make his mark.
Those same attributes are exactly how Ricky put food on the table while Austin was growing up.
Upon seeing the sharp cut his son made on his comeback route on that critical fourth down last Saturday—a move that left his defender grasping for air—the elder Proehl couldn’t help but be impressed.
“Somebody put a video on Twitter of Mitch’s comeback to me and my dad happened to see it,” Austin told reporters. “I got a text last night coming out of our meetings and he said, ‘Hey, great route. Call me afterwards, I got something for you.’
“It’s always that [type of reinforcement], and I love it,” he added. “Just him being able to critique me.”
That kind of feedback has been going in Austin’s ear since he was just a kid running around in the backyard, and out on NFL fields with big-name players like Kurt Warner and Cam Newton.
He’s used that advice to find success despite not exactly fitting the physically dominant stereotype placed on most football players.
“I don’t have big hands, and I’m not a big guy obviously,” Proehl said. “Those things like route running and catching every ball that’s thrown to me—I take pride in because those are opportunities to make a name for myself.”
For some players, the pressure of living up to that kind of legacy can be too much to handle mentally. For Proehl, it’s a resource he takes advantage of to help him become successful in his own right—rather than trying to escape Ricky’s shadow altogether.
It’s clear that his role in UNC’s offense will only grow larger as this season goes on, before he becomes the program’s go-to-guy next year–when the team’s top three targets, Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard and Mack Hollins, each graduate.
Judging by Proehl’s work ethic and background, however, Tar Heel fans should feel comfortable knowing they’ll be in good hands.http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-wide-receiver-austin-proehl-embraces-his-fathers-legacy
Outside of winning a major championship, you can’t really have a more successful weekend than the one UNC field hockey just enjoyed at Henry Stadium.
The Tar Heels first knocked off No. 1 Syracuse 3-2 on Friday in a double overtime thriller. Two days later, the team defeated its biggest rival–No. 2 Duke–in another 3-2 game.
As a result, UNC–which was ranked No. 5–moved up to No. 2 in the newest National Field Hockey Coaches Association Poll.
Not only that, the ACC awarded its Offensive Player of the Week Award to UNC’s Lauren Moyer and its Defensive Player of the Week Award to teammate Julia Young.
Against Syracuse, Moyer scored the team’s first two goals–with the second being the one that sent the game into overtime. She currently leads UNC in scoring with eight goals on the year.
Young, meanwhile, played a key role defensively in each game. She helped the Tar Heels limit Syracuse to its lowest scoring output of the year, while holding Duke to just six shots–which was its lowest shooting output of the year.
UNC is currently 8-2 so far in 2016. The team will get a chance to avenge its season-opening loss to Michigan when it hosts the Wolverines on Sunday at 1 p.m.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-field-hockey-knocks-off-nations-top-two-teams-moves-to-no-2-in-poll
Fresh off two of the most spectacular performances in school history during UNC’s thrilling comeback win over Pitt on Saturday, quarterback Mitch Trubisky and wide receiver Ryan Switzer were each named ACC Player of the Week at their respective positions.
Not only was Trubisky named the ACC’s Offensive Back of the Week, he was also honored as the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week.
In just his fourth career start, Trubisky completed 35 of his 46 passes for 453 yards and five touchdowns without throwing an interception.
The only UNC quarterback to ever throw for more was Marquise Williams when he threw 494 yards against Duke last season. Trubisky’s five touchdowns also tied the program’s all-time mark.
Over the past two games, the junior has put together two of the top four passing outputs UNC has ever seen–totaling 885 yards during that time.
The Tar Heels’ comeback against Pitt was the first time an ACC team overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter since 2012 when NC State rallied to defeat Florida State at home.
Trubisky played a large role in that, obviously, but so did his friend and former roommate Switzer–who earned the league’s Receiver of the Week Award by tying an ACC record with 16 receptions while gaining 208 yards.
Switzer made perhaps his largest mark on the win with two huge catches on fourth down during the 17-play, 63-yard drive that ultimately sent Kenan Stadium into a frenzy.
Now on a three-game winning streak, the Tar Heels have had their issues on defense–but offensively the team is in quite a groove.
Even with tailbacks Elijah Hood and TJ Logan shut down on Saturday–the team as a whole rushed for just 18 yards–Trubisky and Switzer found a way to get the job done.
Should they continue this level of play, the awards should keep on coming.http://chapelboro.com/featured/trubisky-switzer-earn-acc-player-of-the-week-honors
Midway through the fourth quarter of UNC’s crucial ACC matchup with Pitt (2-2, 0-1 ACC) on Saturday, a sea of fans wearing light blue made their way to the exits at Kenan Stadium.
Little did they know, Mitch Trubisky was getting ready to orchestrate the comeback of his life.
With his team down 13 points, the quarterback put together a pair of clutch touchdown drives in the final five and a half minutes—ultimately finding Bug Howard in the end zone with two seconds left on the clock to give UNC (3-1, 1-0 ACC) a stunning 37-36 victory.
It was the type of finish that left the crowd utterly speechless as to what they had just witnessed.
The Pitt rushing attack allowed the visitors to control the flow of the game all throughout—making the Tar Heel defense appear helpless. Meanwhile, UNC’s tailback duo of Elijah Hood and TJ Logan combined for just 33 yards against an aggressive Panther defense content to blitz on nearly every down.
Although Trubisky ended up with a career-high 453 yards and five touchdowns, the UNC faithful knew their quarterback would have to take matters into his own hands—provided their defense could finally get a stop.
After Howard scored his first touchdown with just over five minutes to play, the defense did just that, stepping up when it mattered most.
Then, over the next three minutes, Trubisky conducted a 17-play death march that included three fourth down conversions—remaining calm, cool and collected the entire time according to head coach Larry Fedora.
“That’s who he is,” Fedora said of his quarterback. “When good things happen, you don’t really see him going crazy and when bad things happen you don’t really see anything. He’s pretty even keel all the way.
“You don’t know what his emotions are, which is really an ideal situation for a leader,” the coach continued. “Because everybody on the team knows exactly where he’s gonna be all the time.
“He’s just solid as a rock, and I don’t think he ever doubted they were gonna make the plays.”
Two of the all-important plays on fourth down were passes to senior receiver Ryan Switzer, who exploited the space behind the blitzes all day to finish with a school-record 16 catches for 208 yards. The third went to Austin Proehl, who was only in the game thanks to an injury to starter Mack Hollins.
When it came down to crunch time, though, with the ball on the two yard line and the clock ticking—there was only one option. The 6-foot-5 Howard sensed a mismatch with his defender, so the Tar Heels decided that if they passed the ball in that situation the only move was to lob it up to the big man.
“Before the last drive, Fedora came to me and said ‘Hey, we’re coming to you, you better make it happen,’” Howard told reporters afterwards.
“And 50-50 balls are my deal,” he added, with a smile creeping across his face. “I make those jump balls 80-20.”
Players like Switzer and defensive end Mikey Bart said they all took notice of the fans leaving early and booing the team each time it punted during the fourth quarter.
In response, the team stood strong together and refused to give up or point fingers during the moments where it seemed nothing was going their way.
Listening to Bart speak afterwards, it seemed the postgame locker room vibes were very similar to UNC’s conference opener last season in Atlanta—when the team rallied from down 21-0 to stun Georgia Tech.
“We know we’ve got each others backs, we just don’t say it [as much as we should],” Bart said. “And that’s kind of where it all started, last year against Georgia Tech. It’s just been carrying on.”
This year’s Tar Heels remain on the right path to repeat as ACC Coastal Division Champions, especially now that they hold the tiebreaker over Pitt—which finished second behind UNC in 2015.
As they watched their main goal slowly slipping away during the late stages of the game, the fight-or-flight response kicked in.
Now, the Tar Heels will head to Tallahassee next week with a much clearer picture of who they are.
“We learned a lot about our football team tonight,” Fedora said. “What we talked about before the game is we had an opportunity to establish the identity of this football team.
“And I can say there’s a lot of grit in this football team—for one—a lot of toughness, and all the intangibles that we need to be successful,” he continued. “Our guys had a great week of preparation, and that was the key.”
The tough early season gauntlet continues for UNC next week, when it travels to face No. 13 Florida State and its star tailback Dalvin Cook.
Last season UNC football instituted a “Seats for Service” program that allowed fans to purchase $10 tickets for military members and their families. The idea was to give some of these Tar Heel fans a chance they don’t get very often–watching their team play between the pines at Kenan Stadium.
Following a terrific response to the program, the university has expanded the “Seats for Service” initiative for 2016.
The deal is also now open for active service members including the National Guard and Reserves, veterans, police officers, fire fighters, EMS providers and other first responders.
Children of fallen service members, police, fire and emergency responders will also be part of the program.
“For several years Carolina Athletics has partnered with the University of North Carolina ROTC units and the Atlantic Coast Conference to honor service members as part of our Military Appreciation Day activities,” says Senior Associate Athletic Director Rick Steinbacher.
“We’ve welcomed back to Kenan Stadium former Carolina student-athletes who have gone on to exemplary military careers as well as current students who are veterans and active duty service personnel,” he continued. “The Seats for Service campaign is a way for Carolina fans to provide memorable game day experiences for some of our bravest Tar Heels who serve us both and home and abroad.”
These tickets can be purchased online by using the following link.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-football-expands-seats-for-service-program
The time is now for the UNC football team, as it enters ACC play this weekend with an important home game against the Pitt Panthers—a physical group that Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora expects to try and exploit UNC’s struggling run defense from the get-go.
Earlier this week, Fedora boldly proclaimed that Pitt—which is 2-1 and coming off a shootout loss to Oklahoma State—is the best team the Tar Heels have faced all season.
Whether that’s really true depends on your feelings about No. 11 Georgia, but if there’s one thing both schools have in common it’s that they thrive when their running backs get into a rhythm.
Georgia’s Nick Chubb scampered for 222 yards against a Tar Heel run defense that finds itself ranked 106th nationally out of 128 teams.
So far in 2016, Pittsburgh has managed to grind out a whopping 239 yards per game on the ground—good enough for 21st in the country.
“It’s gonna be a long day and it’s gonna be extremely difficult,” Fedora said. “So we know we have to—I shouldn’t say stop the run, because I don’t know that anyone can stop it—but we’ve got to slow them down.
“We’d love to be around 75 percent less than what their average is,” he continued. “And if we can do that then we feel like we’ll be having some success.”
To meet Fedora’s goal, UNC’s defense will have to play at a level it’s yet to reach this season.
The main problem is that the team’s play calling on that side of the ball has been limited by a rash of injuries on the defensive line. With arguably their two best D-linemen–Dajaun Drennon and Naz Jones–questionable to play yet again this weekend, the Tar Heels may find themselves struggling to deal with the same issue.
“It limits [us] because now [we’re] putting younger guys out there that really can’t do as much as [we] would like [them] to do,” Fedora said about all the injuries up front. “So you have to look at the lowest common denominator and ask ‘What can they handle?’ And then do that.
“Because it doesn’t matter if you’ve got all these great calls,” the coach continued. “If you can’t execute them, then you’re wasting time anyway.”
Of course, most of the time UNC is on defense it will be up against a man who is as strong as they come.
James Conner has long been one of the ACC’s most fearsome tailbacks–even winning the league’s Player of the Year Award in 2014–but his battle with Hodgkins’ Lymphoma this past year turned him into one of the most inspirational figures in the sport.
Now back to full health, Conner’s journey has touched many people across America—including UNC wide receiver Ryan Switzer and quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who each played against Conner as high schoolers in the Midwest.
Earlier this week, Trubisky spoke about what it means to watch Conner return to football just as good as ever.
“It puts everything in perspective,” Trubisky said of Conner’s journey, which also includes rehabbing from a torn knee ligament suffered early last season. “We should never take for granted what we’re able to do—play the game we love.
“Really, just being able to be alive and be healthy is something to be thankful for,” he added. “I think just looking at his story, you should never complain about the situation you’re in because it could always be harder, it could always be tougher.
“But if you have the right mindset, you can overcome a lot of things like James has.”
Conner won’t be the only tailback used Saturday, however, as former NC State offensive coordinator Matt Canada—now with Pitt—has found great success with a rotation of tailbacks so far this season.
Stopping them will be the number one priority if UNC wants to remain on track to accomplish its season-long goal of repeating as ACC Coastal Division Champions.
Trubisky and the Tar Heels view this week as the first where their goals really come into play. And with its season-opening loss firmly in the rearview mirror, there’s no doubt UNC’s version of the preseason is over.
“We’re going into the ACC Coastal [this week], and we know what our goals are this year,” Trubisky said. “We need to take care of business on Saturday if we want to attain those goals, so I think there’s gonna be a lot of juice—not only this week—but for the game.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/shaky-unc-run-defense-faces-huge-challenge-against-pitt
Last November, as the UNC football team was in the midst of a school-record 11-game win streak, it was announced that the school had plans to build an indoor practice facility on campus.
Thursday, the first round of plans for the football-specific building were released–with the location of the project being revealed for the first time.
It’s billed as the “next step” to the Tar Heel football program’s rise to being among the nation’s best.
According to the Rams Club release, the facility will be built near the intersection of Ridge Road and Stadium Drive–on top of where the current practice fields are located.
Two new practice fields–one with a grass surface and another made of turf–will also be built running parallel to the indoor building.
Another part of the plan includes building a new stadium for soccer and lacrosse on the current Fetzer Field site.
As of now, UNC is the only ACC school in North Carolina that doesn’t have an indoor practice facility for football.
While the new building will mainly be football-specific, there is expected to be space for strength and conditioning training as well as sports medicine.
When the project was first announced last year, UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham estimated the costs would be around $25 million.
The school has set that number as its fundraising goal.
For comparison, NC State’s indoor facility cost $14 million, Syracuse’s cost $13 million and Virginia Tech opened one last September for $21.3 million.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-releases-plans-for-football-specific-indoor-practice-facility