UNC is investigating an alleged hazing incident on its football team during fall camp as the news broke just four days before the kickoff of the 2014 campaign.
Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday evening that walk-on redshirt freshman wide receiver Jackson Boyer said a number of his teammates physically assaulted him at the Aloft hotel on NC-54 when the team was staying there during fall camp. Boyer says the incident resulted in a concussion, according to the report.
Jackson’s father, Rob, told Yahoo! Sports he wasn’t ready to comment on the incident, but he confirmed one took place.
UNC assistant athletic director for communications, Kevin Best said in a statement, “We are aware of an incident involving members of the UNC football team that took place earlier this month. We take this allegation seriously and the University is conducting a thorough review.”
WCHL will have more information as it becomes available.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-investigating-football-training-camp-incident/
The No. 23 North Carolina Tar Heels are embracing their status as a member of the preseason Top 25, but sophomore sensation Ryan Switzer and junior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer believe they have the tools to climb the rankings even further as the football season gets underway Saturday in Kenan Stadium.
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Switzer says he’s pretty excited about UNC’s preseason ranking for a number of reasons, but he believes the Tar Heels deserve their place among the nation’s elite.
“I think it’s pretty sweet to see your team’s name run across the ticker on ESPN. I pay attention to it. It means you have a responsibility to uphold. I don’t know how long it’s been since Carolina has come into the preseason ranked, but even when we have; it hasn’t ended well for us. We know we have a job to do. We’re ranked for a reason,” Switzer says.
If Carolina hopes to climb the rankings as the season progresses, the defensive linemen will need to exceed expectations. With the departure of Kareem Martin to the NFL, the microscope has been placed on the unit.
But according to junior offensive guard Landon Turner’s assessment, the Tar Heels shouldn’t be too worried. Turner lines up against those guys every day and says the defensive linemen have been an absolute handful in practice.
Junior linebacker Schoettmer agrees with Turner. He says the model work ethic of the men up front is paying dividends.
“They’re hard working as can be. Everybody feeds off each other. They see one guy working hard and getting success, so they want to do the same,” Schoettmer says.
Schoettmer, who finished with 85 tackles in 2013, is recognizable for his long hair pulled back into a ponytail. But where did the hair style come from?
Schoettmer says it goes back to his freshman year summer, a movie and a bet with a former Tar Heel.
“It started two years ago. Casey Barth, a former kicker, went to a movie with me one summer. We both had buzz cuts probably. We really liked the main character, and he had really long hair. We said 100 dollars to whoever cuts their hair first. I haven’t cut mine since. He has paid me,” Schoettmer says.
For Switzer, having an unresolved quarterback situation doesn’t matter. In fact, he says most of the time, he doesn’t even recognize who’s behind center in practice sessions.
“They’ve [coaches] made a conscious effort not to talk about. I think that’s helped us. They don’t talk about it in practice. When we’re in seven-on-seven, we’re moving so fast I don’t see who’s at quarterback. Unless I sit there and stare at them, I don’t know who’s in,” Switzer says.
Switzer has the unique vantage point on the starting quarterback battle. He’s Mitch Trubisky’s roommate. Switzer says he’s been impressed with how his friend has handled the competition.
“I think he’s been mature about it. He’s done a lot better than I would. He’s grown up and is just taking it step-by-step. He comes in every day to get better and tries not to focus too much on the competition stuff. I know it’s brought out the best in him, which competition normally does to great competitors,” Switzer says.
Regarding the Tar Heels who will be receiving the handoffs from the signal callers, Switzer has pretty lofty praise.
“I see a lot of versatility. They all do one thing really well. If you could put all of them together, you’d get Walter Payton or something. Their talents are amazing,” Switzer says.
The diverse array of talent in the backfield isn’t just catching the eye of Switzer. It promises to catch the eye of opposing defenses this season, starting with the Liberty Flames Saturday.
And with confident, outgoing leaders like Switzer and Schoettmer anchoring both sides of the ball for the Tar Heels, the excitement is only building around Chapel Hill with game day a mere three days away.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/hungry-tar-heels-taking/
Game week is upon Chapel Hill. After all the hard preparation in the long offseason, UNC head coach Larry Fedora says the Tar Heels are eager to suit it up and hit somebody in a different color uniform Saturday. But a number of unresolved questions are hovering around the team with the home opener just four days away.
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“I think our team is extremely excited. They’re tired of camp and of hitting each other. They’re biting at the bit to get out there and play another team. It should be a lot of fun,” Coach Fedora says.
The Tar Heels kick off their 2014 season in a 6 p.m. Saturday contest against the Liberty Flames.
Even for Coach Fedora, who notoriously loves to mess with the media, Monday’s press conference was a sarcasm-filled doozie.
When asked who he expected to name as starting quarterback, Coach Fedora had some fun with his answer.
“We haven’t made that decision yet. Somebody’s going to go out there. It will probably be a quarterback though,” Coach Fedora says.
The teasing didn’t stop there for Carolina’s skipper. He revealed some sick rationale for why he’s drawn out his starting quarterback decision so long.
“It bothers a lot of people. That would probably be the number one reason. Everybody wants to ask about it. It just gives me pleasure,” Coach Fedora says.
Jokes aside, it appears Carolina fans will just have to wait and see who trots out behind center Saturday. But either way, Coach Fedora says he has the utmost confidence in both Mitch Trubisky and Marquise Williams to play winning football for the Tar Heels.
Will we see both men get plenty of action in the Liberty contest? Coach Fedora says he values the backup taking meaningful snaps.
“I think in every season, you want no matter what, to be prepared in case something happens. When Bryn [Renner] went down, Marquise [Williams] had reps. It helped us. […] You’d always like your No. 2 guy to have some meaningful experience going into a season,” Coach Fedora says.
But the signal caller spot isn’t the only position shrouded in mystery heading into Saturday. With a plentiful stable of athletes at running back, the Tar Heels certainly have options. But who will receive the majority of carries come game time? Has anybody separated themselves in training camp?
Coach Fedora isn’t tipping his hand in that department either.
“That’s another thing we’re trying to iron out. You only get so many snaps in a game. We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to distribute that. It’s still going to boil down to the guy who produces and the guy who shows that the offense is better when he’s on the field. That’s the guy who’s going to get the majority of the touches. That’s the way it’s always going to work here,” Coach Fedora says.
Another big question mark for UNC comes in the form of whether defensive stalwart Ethan Farmer will be cleared to take the field. Coach Fedora says the senior’s status remains up in the air.
“I don’t know the speed of it. Nobody has indicated to me it will happen one way or the other. We’re preparing both ways, which makes it a little bit tougher, but we’re preparing both ways,” Coach Fedora says.
With the clock running out on the preseason and the ultimate test of the regular season set to begin, the Tar Heels will soon be forced to provide timely answers to questions unable or unwilling to be answered in the offseason.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/mysteries-abound-carolina-football/
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And with the home opener only nine days away, a starter has yet to be named by head coach Larry Fedora. From the outside, it appears both quarterbacks are right for the system and are likely set to see game action, at least for the first couple weeks inside the cozy confines of Kenan Stadium.
But despite the intense competition for the leading role behind center, Trubisky says Williams has helped him grow in his self-belief.
“I’ve learned to be confident in yourself and your abilities. He’s told me that no matter the competition, you got to believe you can do the job. That’s what I’ve learned from Marquise. He’s got a lot of confidence in himself and the guys on the offense. I think that’s something I can definitely take away from him,” Trubisky says.
Trubisky says the coaching staff is pleased with the progress of both of the quarterback competitors fighting for supremacy of the Tar Heel offense.
“Coaches are telling us to do our best every day. They aren’t really worried about the competition. They know it’s a great thing for our offense. We push each other every day and make our team better,” Trubisky says.
Junior receiver Kendrick Singleton is yet another weapon in the arsenal for the Trubisky-Williams duo. Nicknamed “Bull”, Singleton says the pieces of the puzzle are coming together in his third go-around in Chapel Hill.
“I can see the whole picture. I know the whole offense now. I know what he does, he does and he does. If you don’t know, ask me. I see the whole picture,” Singleton says.
A season ago, Singleton recorded six receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown. But he’s looking to make a bigger splash in 2014 thanks in large part to the influence of senior tight end Jack Tabb.
“He’s helped me with a whole bunch of things. He’s been a great leader and brings energy every day. He always pushes me to be the best I can be daily,” Singleton says.
Singleton will provide another target for UNC to go along with reliable receivers like Quinshad Davis and Bug Howard.
Singleton has put on some extra weight in the offseason, but says he’s still able to run with the best of them.
“I’ve gained 15-20 pounds. For two and a half weeks it went down during training camp running every day, but I’m going to be back soon. I maintained my speed. I can still run and make cuts. It’s been pretty nice,” Singleton says.
An under-the-radar battle raging on the practice fields comes at the place-kicker position. Senior East Chapel Hill High School product Thomas Moore is being challenged by promising freshman upstart Freeman Jones.
Coach Fedora says the position remains up for grabs, although the inexperience of Jones shows.
“I wouldn’t say anybody has really separated himself. But the freshman is having the toughest transition between the two, because he’s learning the timing that you have to have at the college level. You don’t just get to sit back there as long as you want and kick the ball,” Coach Fedora says.
With only six seniors dotting the Carolina roster this fall, the youth movement remains alive and well for the Tar Heels. There will be plenty of room for underclassmen to assume starring roles this fall.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-qb-pk-positions-remain-open-receiver-talent-aplenty/
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And with training camp wrapping up and the game plan for week one against Liberty being installed, Tar Heel observers may be wondering who impressed the most in the preseason grind?
Coach Fedora says unheralded sophomore linebacker Joe Jackson would top that list.
“If I had to pick out one guy out of the whole camp who has turned himself around, I would pick Jackson or Sam Smiley, but it would be one of those two. Joe’s right there,” Coach Fedora says.
While young talents like Jackson are hitting the field hard looking to impress the coaching staff for coveted playing time next week, veterans like Ethan Farmer are just hoping to be afforded the chance to suit it up at Kenan Stadium.
Eligibility issues are a major concern for Farmer and in turn, the defensive line. Coach Fedora says Farmer being one of a mere six seniors on the roster makes him even more invaluable on the field.
“It’s definitely a concern. It’s a concern for me when any of our guys aren’t out on the field for whatever reason. But especially when it’s a senior, and you only have six scholarship seniors. It’s a concern. I’ve got a lot of concerns,” Coach Fedora says.
But Coach Fedora says there may be a silver lining in the Farmer situation. It gives younger Tar Heels a chance to step up, garner more reps and in turn, bolster the depth of the men up front.
“He’s [Farmer] a senior. He has experience. It’s not critical that he gets all the reps. It’s more critical that those younger guys get the reps. There’s a chance that they could be thrown in there right away. They have to perform. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. We can’t wait on them. They just may have to go,” Coach Fedora says.
One of the most loaded positions heading into the fall appears to be at running back. With a healthy stable of speed burners and power backs at the UNC offense’s disposal, Coach Fedora should be relishing the scoring possibilities in the backfield.
But with so many options, who will receive the heaviest load of carries? Coach Fedora says for now, it’s still a running back-by-committee effort.
“At this point, it’s about getting all of them reps. We want to keep all of them healthy as possible, but also we want to get them valuable reps – reps where they’re learning something, not just going through the motions. For me, I don’t ever know who’s in there, don’t really care. Right now, we want to make sure we’re efficient with what we do and are moving the ball,” Coach Fedora says.
One of the pillars of the Coach Fedora regime at Carolina has always been special teams. Last season, return specialist Ryan Switzer basked in the national spotlight for his record-breaking performances.
Although overshadowed by Switzer’s electricity, punter Tommy Hibbard may prove just as vital to the fortunes of UNC in 2014. Coach Fedora, for one, continues to heap praise on the strong-legged senior from Charlotte.
“Tommy has a good leg and knows what we want to do. He understands all of our schemes. Today, we had three live reps, and all three of them he put inside the 10-yard line. He’s really trying to make himself the best punter he can be. He understands the situation. It’s not just practice. This is critical. This is how we pin people. He knows that and is taking it to heart,” Coach Fedora says.
The countdown to Carolina game day sits at ten days, and the storylines only continue to grow for the Tar Heels as promising upstarts like Jackson emerge, leaders like Farmer await future fates, and reliable special teams athletes like Hibbard hone their crafts.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/larry-fedora-weighs-state-unc-preseason-prep/
UNC defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will be looking to build off the momentum of his unit’s successes in the latter half of the 2013 campaign. Armed with more experience and confidence, the Tar Heels on the defensive side of the football are eager to make more noise this fall.
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Senior linebacker Travis Hughes figures to be a pivotal piece of the Carolina defensive puzzle in 2014. Hughes tallied 76 tackles, including 40 solo stops in a productive junior season.
But Hughes says the defense aims to up the ante and be even more disruptive in his final go-around in Chapel Hill.
“We are trying to take those big plays away. We’re trying to cause the big play by getting interceptions and anything we can. We’re trying to be a fast, speedy defense that’s going to run around to the ball and eliminate all of that,” Hughes says.
But there’s some worrying news surrounding defensive tackle Ethan Farmer. It remains up in the air whether the senior leader will take the field in Kenan Stadium 11 days from now due to eligibility issues.
Hughes, though, says the situation is out of his control, and the team is dealing with the possibility of Farmer’s absence and will be prepared either way.
“It’s a definite concern, but Ethan is a positive guy. We’re all praying for him. There’s nothing we can do besides pray and make sure he stays encouraged. He comes out here with so much energy. He gets the guys ready. I feel good with Ethan and am hoping everything goes well for him,” Hughes says.
Promising redshirt sophomore cornerback Des Lawrence made a big splash a year ago in the Tar Heel secondary. But the N.C. native says he’s much more at ease this season, knowing exactly what it takes to perform successfully in the ACC.
“I’m a little more experienced. I know what the game feels like. I feel more comfortable, and I believe in myself more. I just know that I’m going out there to fight for my teammates every game,” Lawrence says.
A reoccurring theme in preseason training camp has been communication. Lawrence again stresses how much more chatty his teammates have been in the lead-up to Liberty.
“Before every play we’re talking a whole bunch before the ball is snapped, just making sure everybody is on the same key and chord. I feel like we’re good. We’re going to be fast and physical this year,” Lawrence says.
Another running motif expressed by a handful of UNC players has been the improved team chemistry.
Overall, Lawrence says he feels a more powerful sense of bondage and camaraderie in the team huddle this summer.
“This year, we’re really buying into what the coaches are telling us. We really believe in the cause. We really want to be out there and make plays for one another,” Lawrence says.
Freshman cornerback M.J. Stewart has been turning heads ever since he arrived on campus. Few would be surprised to see Stewart spend a majority of his Saturdays on the field, especially if the Tar Heels choose to go with two cornerbacks.
Stewart’s play has been catching the attention of sophomore Brian Walker. He says Stewart is the total package.
“He has an edge about him. He’s really aggressive. He’s confident and came here with great technique. He’s a smart player and doesn’t make that many mistakes. He doesn’t play like a freshman. He knows how to play corner and really wants to help the team. I think that’s what people really love about him,” Walker says.
There’s more attention being paid to the athletic array of talent flying around the Carolina secondary these days following the taste offered up by Walker and company in 2013.
Walker says he’s embracing the hype and is looking forward to backing it up with more highlights.
“I think we did a pretty good job last year. […] We made a couple plays, and I think that’s what people want to follow up on,” Walker says.
Plenty of eyes will certainly be on Lawrence, Walker and the rest of the Tar Heel defense as the finishing touches are put on the game plan for the No. 23-ranked North Carolina team.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-defensive-stars-raring-go-home-opener-approaches/
The Associated Press released its preseason rankings Sunday with the Tar Heels coming in at No. 23, just as they did in the USA Today Coaches poll.
UNC is coming off a 7-6 season in which it won five of its last six regular season games—falling to Duke in the regular season finale—and defeated Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. In head coach Larry Fedora’s third season, the smart, fast, and physical plan he’s been preaching since day one has given onlookers a positive outlook.
Preseason workouts and scrimmages have pointed to a small but quick defense, and the offense still has a bit of a question mark to it with permanent positions to be filled. However, answers will start to roll in in just 12-days time when Carolina hosts Liberty with a 6:00 p.m. kickoff in Kenan Stadium.
Only two other ACC teams made it into the Top 25: defending national champion Florida State was nearly a unanimous pick for the top spot with star quarterback, sophomore Jameis Winston returning as the playcaller. Alabama, Oregon, and Oklahoma all received a first-place vote. Clemson came in at No. 16—also in the same position as the coaches poll. And, although it’s not a football member in the ACC, keeping an eye on Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish came in at No. 17.
Four other ACC teams are just outside the top 25 receiving votes (in order): Duke, Louisville, Virginia, and Miami.
Pregame coverage of UNC and Liberty two Saturdays from now on WCHL begins, as it always does, three hours before kickoff with Countdown to Kickoff followed by The Good Sports with Art C and BobLee.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-football-23-preseason-ap-top-25/
UNC will play a home-and-home football series with the University of California in 2017 and 2018, UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham announced Wednesday. The Tar Heels will play host to the Bears on Sept. 2, 2017, and then play on the road in Berkeley on Sept. 1, 2018.
The Cal series replaces the Ohio State home-and-home series, which was cancelled after the Big Ten expanded its league schedule from eight to nine games.
“Our non-conference football schedule over the next several years includes matchups against opponents from the SEC (South Carolina), Big Ten (Illinois), Pac-12 (California) and Notre Dame,” says Cunningham. “The Big Ten’s move to nine conference games each year beginning in 2016 resulted in the cancellation of our series with Ohio State, which was scheduled for 2017 and 2018. Coach (Larry) Fedora and I will continue to look to add exciting matchups both in Kenan Stadium and on the road as we complete our future schedules.”
Carolina and Cal have never met on the gridiron. The Tar Heels’ most recent game against a current member of the Pac-12 was a home win over Utah in 2005. Carolina’s last games against a team from the state of California came in a home-and-home series vs. Stanford in 1997 (Chapel Hill) and 1998 (Palo Alto).
Carolina plays at Notre Dame this year on Oct. 11 in South Bend, Indiana. A future home game vs. Notre Dame will be played in either the 2017, 2018 or 2019 season. The ACC will announce future matchups with Notre Dame and all ACC teams at a later date.
North Carolina also has agreed to future games in 2015 against South Carolina (previously announced, Sept. 5, 2015, in Charlotte), North Carolina A&T (Sept. 12, 2015), Delaware (Sept. 26, 2015) and Eastern Michigan (Sept. 9, 2017).
NORTH CAROLINA FUTURE SCHEDULES
9/5/15: vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)
9/12/15: vs. North Carolina A&T (Chapel Hill)
9/19/15: vs. Illinois (Chapel Hill)
9/26/15: vs. Delaware (Chapel Hill)
9/10/16: at Illinois
9/2/17: vs. California (Chapel Hill)
9/9/17: vs. Eastern Michigan (Chapel Hill)
9/1/18: at California (Berkeley)
9/8/18: at East Carolina
There may be a concerning lack of size and power, but the UNC defense is making up for it with speed and energy as the Tar Heels continue to hit the practice field hard in preparation for the Liberty contest Aug. 30.
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Losing defensive end Kareem Martin to the NFL leaves a noticeable void for the Carolina big men up front to fill. And what’s more, those ‘big men’ aren’t all that big.
Head coach Larry Fedora isn’t hiding anything. He recognizes what he has to work with on the defensive line and says the coaching staff will do their best to game plan around the absence of a single player on the defensive roster over 300 pounds.
“I’m concerned about it. You bring in some young guys that are going to have to get ready to play. There are a lot of ways that we can go, but we have to find the best scenario for us. We understand that we may not be as big or as thick as we might want to be, so we’ll probably doing a lot more moving,” Coach Fedora says.
Still, despite the relative lightness on the weight scales, positive developments have been on display during training camp, including a standout performance by the opportunistic unit last weekend in the first preseason scrimmage.
Senior safety Tim Scott attributes the improved play to a concerted effort to play with more optimism and passion.
“Practice is going really well. The team is more energized than last year. We’ve put a big emphasis on being energized and more positive in practice,” Scott says.
Even though Scott has no doubt assumed a strong leadership role heading into 2014, he says the rest of his teammates also have a big impact on him.
“It doesn’t take a senior to be a leader. I’m doing my best to lead the team, but we also have the young guys doing their best to make sure that if I’m off one play to energize me. If they’re off one play, I’ll energize them,” Scott says.
Scott has seen a noticeable increase in overall team speed in training camp. With the added boost, Scott says the defense is able to play more aggressively.
“We’re a lot faster than we’ve been in the secondary in past years, so we’ve been playing a lot of man-coverage, which means we’re closer to the receivers to make those plays,” Scott says.
Defensive tackle Justin Thomason is doing his best to beef up the UNC defensive line. The 289-pound junior is still looking to tack on a few more pounds before the opening kickoff.
“It’s the weight issue. I’m about 288, 289 right now. It definitely helps inside versus 260, 265. That definitely helps. I’m going to get a little bit above 290 and stay there for the season,” Thomason says.
With a heightened energy level and a spike in speed, the Carolina defense has seemingly held up thus far in preseason rounds, but the true test will come 16 days from now with live action in Kenan Stadium.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/undersized-carolina-defense-offering-speed-energy/
It’s been said over and over that an offense is only as good as its linemen up front. Will this be the case for Carolina in 2014?
If so, it’s tough to project the success of head coach Larry Fedora’s offensive machine based on training camp reports.
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Although returning starter Jon Heck has stood out above the rest on the O-line, Coach Fedora says the Tar Heels aren’t ready for game day just yet.
“Jon Heck may have had the best summer of all the offensive linemen with the improvements he’s made in his body and his mobility. We’re still not there yet. I’m not going to say we’re ready, because we’re not,” Coach Fedora says.
Coach Fedora isn’t getting impatient as the season draws near, though. It’s an exercise in patience up front for the entire team, and he says it just takes time for the pieces to gel together into a cohesive unit.
“I’m very confident we’ll have a group that’s ready to go, but they may not be a finished product on the 30th. You’re talking about five guys knowing what each other is going to do in every situation and how they’re going to do it. It’s critical. It’s going to take some time for them to grow. We have to understand that as a staff and offense,” Coach Fedora says.
Behind the line, the litany of offensive skill players has been well documented for the Tar Heels – none more so than electrifying playmaker Ryan Switzer.
Coach Fedora says Switzer is still learning the nuances of playing the wide receiver position. Switzer, after all, has never lined up as a wide out before. In high school, he sped away from opposing defenses as a running back.
“I think his biggest growth is in understanding what it takes to be a receiver and be a complete receiver – the blocking, running routes, understanding the whole concept of the route and how to get open on the route,” Coach Fedora says.
Switzer says the playbook has been expanding for him this year. Instead of quick out patterns, he’s being freed up to fly further down the football field. The sophomore says these deeper routes make hitting pay dirt a whole lot easier.
“What’s different from last year is I’ve been getting a lot more down-field passes. A lot of my catches last year were quick-gain and trying to get some yards after the catch. I’m happy with that. I don’t always have to make a guy miss. I can catch the ball in the end zone and don’t have to work too hard to get in there,” Switzer says.
Although Switzer got his feet wet catching balls last season, Coach Fedora says to expect a breakout performance on the receiving end from the All-American in year two of his Chapel Hill career.
“I don’t think there’s any limit. Last year, he didn’t even scratch the surface with what he did at the receiver spot. He could break out at that position this year, he really could,” Coach Fedora says.
As for the man who will be slinging the football out to Switzer and company, Switzer says he doesn’t expect a final verdict to come until after the first two home contests against Liberty and San Diego State.
“It’s going to take the first two games to really see. If you want to give Mitch [Trubisky] a fair shot, you need to see what he can do when it’s live and the lights are on. I think those couple games are going to determine who our starting guy is going forward,” Switzer says.
A relative unknown situation at offensive line, a two-horse race at the quarterback spot and a dynamic player attempting to master a new position make for a tantalizing trifecta of offensive storylines for the Tar Heelshttp://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/coach-fedora-o-line-work-progress-switzer-limits/