The offseason is a tremendous lull for most sports, but we Americans have found out that if you poke at football long enough during hibernation, you can find something to talk about. So let’s all grab a stick, shall we?
Players Who Should Get You Really, Really Excited for September
WR Dwight Jones: Will burning the redshirt last November pay off? For the moment, the answer is yes. Jones, the man in the center of that practice photo, has developed rapidly since the 2008 season, and while he certainly hasn’t reached Hakeem Nicks-levels of route running, he doesn’t have to. The projected top 3 receivers (Jones, Greg Little and Josh Adams/Rashad Mason) are all 6’4″ or taller, leaving T.J. Yates with the ideal “throw it up and see if they catch it” scenario when things go wrong. If it brought down the undefeated Patriots, it can bring down Virginia Tech, right?
TB Jamal Womble: Aside from the spring game, very little is known about Womble except for all the records that he broke in high school. The Spring Game has proven to be an unreliable data set, but it seems apparent that Womble will get a lot of carries this season. He’s has speed and strength, but most importantly he has vision. He seems to have a keen eye for which alleys to attack at the line and in the secondary. With less than 10 carries in an exhibition game, he has shown more vision and elusiveness than Draughn and Houston showed last season. Unlike Draughn and Houston, Womble will also be an effective receiver out of the backfield. Having lost the top three receivers from 2008 and looking for T.J. Yates to stay healthy, UNC will need to bolster its backfield production in 2009. Jamal Womble looks like he can make an immediate impact.
LB Zach Brown: Bruce Carter and HIS HIGHNESS QUANTAVIUS have established themselves as two of the most athletic linebackers in the ACC. Zach is faster than both of them. Whether that translates to pure defensive awesomeness is yet to be seen, but Everett Withers would be hard-pressed to find a better college linebacking corps to suit his Cover 2-esque scheme.
Really Tall Punter Guy: I don’t remember this guy’s name, but he’s the tallest player on the team, he wore #39 at the spring game, and he has a cannon for a leg. He punted three or four times, and each of them went for about 60 yards and had tremendous hangtime.
Players Who You Really Hope Made the Most of the Offseason
CB Jordan Hemby: Kendric Burney is a lockdown corner, but Hemby is still a projected starter by his side. This should concern you because his play in 2008 was, to put it diplomatically, enigmatic and inconsistent.
SS Da’Norris Searcy: Trimane Goddard left some pretty big shoes to fill. Searcy is talented, and he displayed flashes of brilliance against West Virginia in the bowl game. Still, it’s yet to be seen how easily he can fill Goddard’s role.
Defensive-End-By-Committee: It’s close to certain that Robert Quinn will spearhead one side of the line, but the other side looks to be a revolving door of inconsistent veterans and talented but inexperienced freshmen.
The Offensive Line: The offensive line kept some stability from 2008, but the absences of Garrett Reynolds (graduation/NFL) and Aaron Stahl (foregoing last year of eligibility due to injury) will be felt.
WR Greg Little: Greg goes back to his natural position this season as the most experienced receiver on the team and, perhaps ironically, the non-QB best acquainted with John Shoop’s playbook. Fans are beginiing to wonder if he will justify the hype surrounding his arrival in Chapel Hill. This is the year where he will either silecne the critics or prove them right. I think he’ll do well, but the jury is out for now.
T.J. Yates’ Health: Wolfpack Fans, if I don’t see frisbees on the field at Carter-Finley this November, I will be severely disappointed in you.
Am I being a bit opitmistic here? Probably. But the summer is the time for optimism, a time for anticipating what’s to come. Grumbling, cynicism and reduction of expectaion should wait, at least, until UConn scores on a devastating 90-yard drive in the third quarter. Until then RESERVE THE HOTEL TO MIAMI WERE GOING 11-1 OMG WHOOOOOO!!!
Photos: The venerable Inside Carolina.