The most prolific quarterback in UNC football history is now a Cheesehead.
It was announced late Thursday afternoon that Marquise Williams, who went undrafted in April’s NFL Draft, was signed to a rookie contract by the Green Bay Packers.
The Charlotte native also had a tryout with the Packers’ division rival–the Minnesota Vikings–earlier this month before eventually ending up in Wisconsin.
Now the fourth quarterback on Green Bay’s roster, Williams will compete with former UCLA star Brett Hundley and fellow rookie Joe Callahan–last season’s Division III Player of the Year at Wesley College.
Each man will battle during training camp to be the backup to Aaron Rodgers, with at least one of them likely to be cut during the preseason.
Williams also leaves behind a legacy that still may loom over Kenan Stadium in the fall.
Junior Mitch Trubisky will take control of the Tar Heel offense after two years studying under Williams–and at times taking over for him whenever he was struggling, or if his helmet was knocked off by a defender.
A highly talented player in his own right, Trubisky will still have some large shoes to fill.
Over the course of his career in Chapel Hill, Williams played in 48 games–starting in 33 of them. He also set or tied more than 20 school records at the helm of head coach Larry Fedora’s spread offense.
No Tar Heel signal caller has ever run for as many yards (2,458) or touchdowns (35) as the 23-year-old Williams.
Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (2010-2013) and NC State’s Philip Rivers (2000-2003) are the only ACC quarterbacks to have tallied more than Williams’ 99 career touchdowns–when factoring in passing, rushing and receiving scores.
That versatility helped the Tar Heels become one of the nation’s premier offensive forces over the past couple seasons, as he capped his career in 2015 by leading UNC to its first ACC Coastal Division Championship en route to a school-record 11 wins.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/marquise-williams-signs-with-green-bay-packers
Engulfed in a crippling scandal that saw the school and its football coaches routinely fail to investigate sexual assault allegations against its players–Baylor University suspended head coach Art Briles on Thursday with intention to terminate him.
As a result, the internet–as it tends to do–immediately began speculation about who would replace Briles, naming UNC head coach Larry Fedora as the school’s likely first target.
Would expect Fedora to be the subject of some Baylor buzz. He began his college coaching career there, is from Texas https://t.co/vmcRcxzuJP
— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) May 26, 2016
Fedora and Briles each came up through the coaching ranks in Texas, crossing paths a number of times when Fedora was an assistant at Baylor recruiting some of Briles’ players at Stephenville High School.
In eight seasons under Briles, Baylor rose to national prominence using a high-tempo offense similar to the one used by Fedora at UNC.
The Bears also defeated Fedora’s Tar Heels 49-38 in last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl, running for 645 yards with their top three quarterbacks each sidelined–showing they still have the talent to compete on the national level the next couple years with or without Briles at the helm.
It's way early, but I could see Baylor going after North Carolina's Larry Fedora as HC.
— Kirk Bohls (@kbohls) May 26, 2016
However, there has been no indication so far that Fedora would be interested in taking the job, despite the numerous connections.
For one, the 53-year-old just signed a new contract extension at UNC in December which adds four years to his current seven-year deal–meaning it won’t expire until after the 2022 season.
His original contract signed in 2011 was worth upwards of $2 million per year, making him the highest paid football coach in the school’s history.
Upon his arrival in Chapel Hill, Fedora also entered into the beginning of the NCAA academic scandal that still has yet to reach a resolution.
It’s unlikely that he would want to jump from the ending of one long-running scandal into the beginning of another.
And let’s not forget, the Tar Heels are coming off a 2015 season where they tallied a school-record 11 wins and won the ACC Coastal Division Title.
He wouldn’t exactly have to leave North Carolina to chase more wins in the future, either, given the amount of talent UNC returns next season.
Fedora was unavailable for comment on the issue, as it is the longstanding policy of both he and UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham to not comment on any type of coaching speculation.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/speculation-surrounds-fedora-following-briles-firing-at-baylor
When UNC men’s lacrosse head coach Joe Breschi broke down into tears following last weekend’s win over Notre Dame, it capped off what had been an extremely emotional week for the Tar Heels.
Their task this week in Philadelphia, though, is to try and set those emotions aside as they prepare to face the No. 7 Loyola Greyhounds in the Final Four on Saturday.
A self-proclaimed “big relationship guy,” Breschi and his team shared a few special moments when UNC had to travel to Columbus, Ohio—where he once coached at Ohio State—for its quarterfinal matchup against the Fighting Irish.
Not only were the Tar Heels seeking their first Final Four spot in over two decades, their coach was returning to the state where—in 2004–his 3-year-old son, Michael, was struck and killed by an SUV outside his preschool.
Add all that together, and it’s obvious why Breschi–considered a father figure by many of his players–had a hard time holding his emotions back during the week.
“I think at every team meeting over the weekend, I cried” Breschi said at Tuesday’s press conference. “Just by talking about different moments throughout, visiting the cemetery and so forth.
“When Patrick Kelly said he wanted to speak to the team before the game at our team meal, I said absolutely.”
One of UNC’s most consistent all-around players in the midfield and on the attack, Kelly has put together a fine senior season—tallying 25 goals and eight assists.
But what he said that morning perhaps meant more to Breschi and company than anything he’s done on the field this season.
“Patrick said, ‘You know, none of us would be here if it wasn’t for Coach and him bringing us here to North Carolina.’” Breschi told reporters.
Kelly continued by saying “This is a special place for him and his family. Having Michael at the cemetery 20 minutes from where we’re playing—let’s dedicate [the game] to Michael and Coach’s family.”
Following the speech, Breschi continued doing what he had done all week.
“I cried…again, just trying to chest bump and pump everybody up,” he said.
Using Kelly’s words as motivation, the Tar Heels upset Notre Dame—the preseason No. 1 team—leading to that unforgettable sideline moment for Breschi.
Despite all that, there’s still more to be done if the team wants to reach its ultimate goal of a National Championship.
Loyola is 14-3 this year, and hasn’t lost in over two months. The Greyhounds also possess some of the nation’s top young stars—which has been a key focus of UNC’s scouting this week.
“We know how talented they are,” Breschi said. “They’re so well-coached. Very well-organized on offense and then on defense obviously they have a freshman goalie who’s very talented.
“And Pat Spencer is not only one of the best freshmen in the country, but one of the best players in the country,” he continued. “We’ve got our hands full across the board, so it’s been all Loyola since we met on Monday.”
The freshman goalie Breschi mentioned, Jacob Stover, has saved 59 percent of the shots he’s faced this year for the Greyhounds. UNC goalie Brian Balkam, a solid player in his own right, has a save percentage of just 50 percent.
Then there’s Pat Spencer, the wunderkind. He leads Loyola in scoring with 36 goals and 47 assists—more than twice as many points as any of his teammates.
It’s talented players like Stover and Spencer that give the Tar Heels no choice but to put last week’s emotions in the rearview mirror.
Listening to UNC’s senior captain, Jake Matthai, it’s clear the team is locked in on the task ahead—with their lifelong dream sitting just two wins away.
“In the offseason, it’s not really the offseason—you’re working so hard toward this goal, to be the best team in the country,” Matthai said. “So to know that we have another shot–another opportunity—this weekend is such a special feeling.
“And I’ll say it again–the work is not over,” he continued. “We have two games to reach that goal, and a great team in front of us on Saturday.
“We know it’ll take everything we have to beat this team.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/after-emotional-week-unc-mens-lacrosse-turns-focus-to-loyola
In recent years, the UNC men’s lacrosse team has largely been defined both by its stars and its failure to advance past the NCAA Quarterfinals.
This year, however, has given birth to a whole new narrative—as the Tar Heels have relied on a team mentality to bring the school to its first Final Four since 1993.
Players like Joey Sankey, Marcus Holman and the Bitter brothers—both Billy and Jimmy—often took center stage on previous editions of head coach Joe Breschi’s teams.
Because those guys were consistently racking up incredible stats while also being named All-Americans, the pressure of ending the program’s long Final Four drought became suffocating at times.
One of UNC’s current captains, junior defenseman Austin Pifani, spoke about that feeling at Tuesday’s press conference.
“Playing with guys like Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey—they had so much pressure on them to make it to the Final Four, to be great, to be Tewaaraton winners [as the nation’s best player], and to take the program to the next level,” Pifani said. “Now this year, the pressure’s off.”
In 2015, Sankey and the younger Bitter led UNC to a 12-1 start—only for the Tar Heels to finish 13-4 with yet another loss in the NCAA quarters, a 14-7 drubbing at the hands of Maryland. Still though, the team finished the year averaging over 14 goals per game—with 150 combined points from Sankey and Bitter.
This year’s Tar Heels—currently 10-6 after a 3-3 start–have netted about two goals less per outing, with attacker Steve Pontrello the only player with more than 30 goals.
When asked the biggest difference between the two squads, Breschi laughed and said coaching was the main improvement–before noting that everyone in this current group knows their roles and plays within the team structure.
“Sometimes it’s not pretty, sometimes it is–like last weekend,” Breschi said of his team’s style. “But I think the biggest thing is that they continue to stick together and want to win for one another.
“We don’t have individuals on this team,” the coach continued. “We don’t have superstars. We have a lot of really good players that care about each other.”
Perhaps one of the best examples of UNC’s team success is junior midfielder Stephen Kelly.
Despite having just three goals and four assists all season, Kelly has worked wonders for the Tar Heels as their face-off man. Typically thought of as a 50-50 situation, Kelly has won a staggering 222 of his 376 face-offs this year, or 59 percent—an improvement of 10 percentage points over last season’s team rate.
UNC uses Kelly’s ability to spark their up-tempo attack, gaining more possession time and more open space for the wing players out on the sides, while goal scorers like Pontrello and sophomore Chris Cloutier can charge hard to the area around the net.
“He’s just so creative in how he faces off,” Breschi said about Kelly. “Obviously he loves to bring it to himself, but he’s a game-changer. Both games against Notre Dame he allowed us to go on those runs because he’s consistent at the face-off X.
“Some say the face-off is overrated,” Breschi added. “Not me. I mean, you can’t score if you don’t have the ball.”
Although the team has now fully embraced playing this way, that wasn’t always the case.
A team meeting was needed after suffering early-season losses to both Hofstra and UMass, which aren’t exactly national lacrosse powers.
Everything was put out on the table that day, with the players quickly realizing that neither Joey Sankey nor Jimmy Bitter was about to walk through the door—it was up to them to come together in order to achieve their goals.
Fast forward to this week, and those meetings have changed quite a bit in tone.
“On Monday we had a lift and a five-minute meeting that said, ‘OK, there’s four teams left and you’re one of ‘em,’” Breschi said, pausing for emphasis. “What’s in the past is in the past.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/lacking-star-power-unc-mens-lacrosse-bonded-as-a-team-to-reach-final-four
Invited to tryout at the team’s rookie mini-camp following April’s NFL Draft, former UNC running back Romar Morris was officially signed to the New York Jets’ 90-man roster Tuesday morning.
However, a standout performance at UNC’s pro day this past spring–where he ran the 40-yard dash in an incredible 4.3 seconds–put him back on the radar of many NFL scouts.
With the added importance of speed in the NFL, a league comprised of the nation’s best athletes, the Jets may be hoping to find the next “Fast” Willie Parker.
Morris, a 5-foot-9-inch speedster, carried the ball 69 times for 386 yards and two touchdowns in 2012, while also helping as a receiver out of the backfield–adding 12 receptions for 204 yards and a pair of scores.
Never again during his time in Chapel Hill, though, would Morris account for that much yardage, as head coach Larry Fedora continued to rotate a plethora of other talented running backs–such as AJ Blue, TJ Logan and Elijah Hood–into his fast-paced offensive system.
This past season, Morris was given just 19 touches–10 carries and nine receptions. He also found the endzone just once in his senior campaign, accounting for only 64 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards as the team’s fourth option at his position.
For his career at UNC, Morris earned 13 starts in 50 games. He had 213 carries for 1,024 yards and 12 touchdowns, with 54 receptions for 499 yards and two TDs.
Parker, who displayed similar top-notch speed–played for UNC from 2000-2003 under John Bunting, and like Morris, saw his production drop off throughout his college career.
The Pittsburgh Steelers liked what they saw from Parker in terms of his athleticism, though, and decided to sign him to an undrafted rookie contract anyway.
He then made the team and ended up playing six seasons in the Steel City, rushing for over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons from 2005-2007.
In 2005, Parker also helped quarterback Ben Roethlisberger defeat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL–a game where he ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run, still the longest run in the game’s prestigious history.
For Morris to even have a shot to reach the same lofty heights as Parker, however, he’ll need to first make the Jets’ 53-man regular season roster.
That process will begin during NFL Training Camps later this summer, where rosters are whittled down each week throughout the preseason.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/undrafted-unc-rb-romar-morris-signs-with-ny-jets
After a remarkable season in which he led the UNC men’s golf team in a wide variety of categories, junior Carter Jenkins said Tuesday he will forego his final year of college eligibility in order to become a professional.
An All-ACC selection in 2016, Jenkins–who spent a year and a half in Chapel Hill after transferring from UNC-Greensboro–had three top-10s in 11 starts with a season-best second-place finish at the Primland Collegiate Invitational.
He also tied the school record for lowest round under par by shooting a 63 (good enough for 9-under-par) in the final round at Primland.
Jenkins’ professional debut is scheduled for May 26 at the Freedom 55 Financial Open at the Point Grey Golf and Country Club in Vancouver–as part of the Mackenzie Tour, which is essentially the Canadian PGA Tour.
“My time at UNC was very special – it matured me as a person and a golfer and allowed me to make friendships with my coaches and teammates that will last my lifetime,” Jenkins said, in a press release.
“Professional golf is something I have worked for my whole life and it has always been my number one goal to win on the PGA Tour.”
Prior to joining the Tar Heels, Jenkins was named the Southern Conference Rookie of the Year for his achievements in Greensboro.
He won two events for the Spartans, and earned All-Conference honors as well.
And as far as amateur success is concerned, there aren’t too many other golfers out there who can match Jenkins’ resume.
The Raleigh native won eight Carolinas Golf Association titles–including the 2015 North Carolina Amateur–and three consecutive Carolinas Amateurs. In doing so, he became the first player in 92 years to win the Carolinas Amateur in three straight years.
“Carter has a wonderful opportunity to play on the PGA Tour Canada, and we are excited for this next step in his golf career,” UNC head coach Andrew Sapp said of his top player.
“We will definitely miss him next season, but support him reaching for his goals to make it to the PGA Tour,” Sapp continued. “He has been a pleasure to coach and he will forever be a Tar Heel.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-golfer-carter-jenkins-turns-pro-will-debut-this-week
As they await their NCAA Tournament fate after missing out on this week’s ACC Tournament, the UNC baseball team received some good news on Monday.
Three Tar Heels were selected to All-ACC teams, while sophomore shortstop Logan Warmoth was named the conference’s Player of the Week after going 9-for-20 with a home run and eight RBIs in UNC’s last four games.
JB Bukauskas, a sophomore starting pitcher, and Tyler Ramirez, a junior center fielder, were each named to the All-ACC second team.
UNC’s Friday night ace–junior Zac Gallen–rounded out the team’s all-conference selections with a spot on the All-ACC third team.
No Tar Heel was on the first team.
Despite closing the year strong, Warmoth didn’t quite make the cut for any of the All-Conference teams, but he showed great potential heading into his junior year–flashing a great glove at shortstop and leading the team with 53 RBIs.
Ramirez was arguably the most consistent Tar Heel all season–both offensively and defensively.
The native of Suffolk, Virginia hit .333 during the season with eight home runs and 47 RBIs, while also making a number of highlight plays in the outfield.
Gallen, a crafty starter with great control–posted a 5-6 record with 91 strikeouts and a 2.68 ERA in 13 starts. His win-loss record suffered mainly due to a lack of run support during the latter half of the year.
Both Ramirez and Gallen, as juniors, are expected to be selected in June’s MLB Draft–meaning they may have already played their final games as Tar Heels should the team miss the NCAA Tournament.
Bukauskas, however, just finished his sophomore season having established himself as one of the league’s most dominant starters.
His 97 mph fastball–mixed with a devastating 88 mph slider–helped him pick up an ACC-leading 111 strikeouts while having a 7-2 record and a 3.10 ERA.
Next season’s edition of the Diamond Heels will likely feature Bukauskas and Warmoth as centerpieces, as the team looks to return to the ACC success that had become commonplace over the last decade.
Eight times since 1993 the UNC men’s lacrosse team reached the NCAA Quarterfinals, only to come up short on each occasion.
After starting 2016 with a 3-3 record–and minus some of its most talented players from last season–few would have expected this group of Tar Heels to do any different.
Two months later, here we are. The ninth time was the charm.
UNC is heading to the Final Four after Sunday’s 13-9 victory over the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the preseason national title favorite.
Playing at the famed Ohio Stadium in Columbus–where head coach Joe Breschi once led the Ohio State Buckeyes–the Tar Heels (10-6) absolutely dominated the Fighting Irish (11-4) from start to finish in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score suggests.
“There was no pressure on them,” Breschi said in his TV interview after the game. “We’ve just competed every week.
“We had a heart-to-heart after we were 3-3,” an emotional Breschi continued. “These guys…I love all of them.”
Senior attacker Steve Pontrello scored four goals in the second half for UNC, while Chris Cloutier–a sophomore from Ontario, Canada–got the team off to a flying start by tallying all three of his goals in the first half, including one incredible play where he scored with a nifty, behind-the-back shot.
Luke Goldstock and Michael Tagliaferri each added two goals apiece–with Patrick Kelly also scoring once–as the Tar Heels simply overwhelmed Notre Dame with their fast-paced offensive attack.
By pushing the ball downfield before their opponents had a chance to get set, UNC generated a number of high-percentage opportunities on net–which they consistently took advantage of.
Notre Dame tied the game 2-2 just before the end of the first quarter, but the Tar Heels then reeled off a stunning 8-0 run over the next 29 minutes– a span that lasted nearly two full quarters.
With junior Stephen Kelly continually winning in the face-off circle after each UNC goal, it made it seem like the game was being played–for a little while, at least–under “make it, take it” rules.
Only once the outcome was no longer in doubt did the Fighting Irish start to make a run. Notre Dame had a 6-1 edge in fourth quarter scoring, and scored the final five goals of the game.
Not once, though, did UNC ever feel threatened.
The Tar Heels were content to just pass the ball around over the final 15 minutes, making sure there would be no funny business preventing them from the upset win.
Breschi teared up on the sidelines when the clock finally ran out, as the coach had finally achieved the goal of returning his alma mater–where he’s been the head man since leaving Ohio State in 2009–to Championship Weekend.
He was also back in the state where his 3-year-old son, Michael, was killed in 2004 after being struck by an SUV in a parking lot outside his preschool.
“Patrick Kelly spoke at breakfast this morning and dedicated the game to my son,” Breschi said, choking up on camera. “I’m just so proud of them. Go Heels.”
UNC returns to action Saturday May 28 in Philadelphia, where it will take on the winner of the game between Towson and Loyola (Md).
The results across the ACC baseball landscape this weekend–including UNC’s 16-4 destruction of NC State on Friday–put the Tar Heels into a simple predicament.
A win Saturday at Doak Field would guarantee UNC’s entry into next week’s conference tournament in Durham.
Well, then the Tar Heels (34-21, 13-17 ACC) would need Georgia Tech to win at least once during its double-header against Boston College.
Unfortunately for head coach Mike Fox and his squad, the No. 13 Wolfpack (34-18, 15-13 ACC) were out for vengeance–clinching the series with a 10-1 blowout they can call their own.
Boston College also defeated the Yellow Jackets in both games of the all-important doubleheader in Atlanta.
So for the first time since 2010, the Tar Heels failed to qualify for the ACC Tournament.
Back in Raleigh, though, The Wolfpack received great pitching from each of the four players it used on the mound.
An outstanding start from lefty Ryan Williamson–five strikeouts across 3.1 innings–set the tone, as UNC never once got in a rhythm at the plate–even after Williamson was suddenly removed during the fourth inning .
Junior outfielder Adam Pate went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI for the Tar Heels, which accounted for half of the team’s six hits.
Those struggles continued over to the pitching for UNC, as right-hander Jason Morgan started and gave up three runs–including a two-run homer to Preston Palmeiro–in just three innings.
It was the eighth time in his last 10 starts Morgan failed to make it through five innings.
Finding the strike zone was a problem for the entire Tar Heel staff–all seven that they used throughout the game.
NC State took full advantage of the control issues, by drawing eight walks and scoring a majority of their runs because of them.
A wild pitch by Morgan in the bottom of the second inning allowed the first run to score, while reliever AJ Bogucki’s pitch hit Wolfpack second baseman Stephen Pitarra with the bases loaded in the fourth.
Similar issues continued into the sixth inning, as Hansen Butler walked Brett Kinneman on four pitches with the bags full to put NC State ahead 6-1.
Cole Aker, a Tar Heel freshman, managed to put the ball right over the plate in the seventh–only for NC State’s Evan Mendoza to put it over the wall in left-center field for a two-run blast.
The Wolfpack seemed perfectly content prolonging the beatdown, just as the Tar Heels were the night before–adding another run in the eighth inning on an RBI single from senior Ryne Willard.
By the end, UNC was left knowing that it no longer controlled its own destiny.
Although it’s been noted that the Tar Heels have a shot to sneak into the NCAA Tournament without making the ACC Tournament, advancing to Durham and winning a couple games would certainly improve their odds.
Now all they can do is wait and watch.
UNC’s regular season is complete, and because the Tar Heels didn’t make the ACC Tourney they’ll have to wait until next Monday to find out if their season will continue into the NCAA Regionals.
Facing a Notre Dame team that averages nearly 14 goals per game, the No. 3 UNC women’s lacrosse team locked down defensively Saturday to knock off the No. 6 Fighting Irish 10-6 at Fetzer Field in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.
With the win, the Tar Heels (18-2) advance to next weekend’s Final Four in Philadelphia–making their second straight appearance in the semifinals, and third in the last four seasons.
The duo of Marie McCool and Molly Hendrick–who were each recently named First Team All-Americans–combined for half of UNC’s scoring against Notre Dame (14-7).
Two of McCool’s three goals came during the final 30 minutes, while Hendrick scored once during each half.
Five other players chipped in a goal to the Tar Heel cause, as UNC displayed a brilliant offensive attack–passing the ball brilliantly to avoid a physical Fighting Irish team that likes to defend by poking the ball out from behind.
As good as UNC was on offense, though, it was its defense that stole the show–much like it did in their 14-8 win over Notre Dame on April 3.
After taking a 6-4 lead into the break, UNC stormed out of the locker room and suffocated the Fighting Irish attack.
The Tar Heels still continued to score as well, building a 10-5 lead over the next 27 minutes.
Notre Dame’s Kiera McMullan scored the game’s final goal with under three minutes remaining, but the outcome was no longer in doubt.
McMullan was one of just two Fighting Irish players–along with Cortney Fortunato–to find the back of the net twice.
It was a script similar to their win over Duke in the previous round for the Tar Heels. They built a slim lead after a competitive first half before, holding their opponent to just two goals in the second half.
In each game, UNC was clearly the more dominant, well-rounded, team–displaying a solid mix of offense and defense that its opponents simply haven’t been able to match.
A chance to make some noise at the Final Four in Philly, against the three best teams the nation has to offer.
The Tar Heels will play Penn State in their National Semifinal game on Friday, May 27.