North Carolina starts football practice on Friday. Between now and then, I'm providing some thoughts on where the Tar Heels stand at every position entering preseason practice.
Now we'll look at
Who's gone: TE Eric Ebron (67 catches, 973 yards, 3 TD)
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Who's back: TE Eric Albright; WR Jackson Boyer; WR Quinshad Davis; WR Jordan Fieulleteau; WR Mack Hollins; WR Bug Howard; WR Kendrick Singleton; WR Ryan Switzer; TE Jack Tabb; WR T.J. Thorpe; WR Damien Washington
Newcomers: WR Josh Cabrera; TE Brandon Fritts; WR Devin Perry; WR Austin Proehl
By class: Two seniors, four juniors, three sophomores, six freshmen
Average recruiting rank (Rivals.com): 3.0
Depth chart entering practice
Tabb (6-3, 250, Sr.)
Albright (6-6, 230, Sr.**)
Fritts (6-4, 230, Fr.*)
Thorpe (6-0, 200, Jr.)
Hollins (6-3, 200, Soph.**)
Boyer (6-3, 195, Fr.**^)
Inside (slot) receiver
Singleton (6-2, 205, Jr.)
Switzer (5-10, 180, Soph.)
Washington (6-1, 190, Jr.)
Davis (6-4, 215, Jr.)
Howard (6-4, 200, Soph.)
Fieulleteau (6-3, 210, Fr.^)
* – indicates player is a freshman who enrolled early and went through spring practice
^ – indicates player has redshirted
** – indicates player walked onto the team (though could be on scholarship now). Status does not count in position's average recruiting ranking.
What to like: There's a good amount of depth here, everywhere, and the top-line receiving trio of Davis, Singleton and Thorpe – a trio that doesn't even include Switzer or Howard – could be very good. Speaking of Switzer, he figures to play a more prominent role in the passing game this year. There are a lot of options here, and a lot of different personnel groupings at coach Larry Fedora's disposal. Davis has proven himself. Switzer has as a returner. Tabb, Thorpe, Singleton and Howard will all have chances for breakout, statistically-impressive seasons.
What to question: Though the numbers are strong, it's unclear who fills Ebron's void and becomes the go-to receiver in the passing game. Will it be Davis? His catches and yards decreased during his sophomore season, compared to his freshman season, but he did have twice as many touchdown receptions. Will it be Switzer? We know what he can do as a punt returner. Will it be Thorpe, who's finally fully healthy, or Howard? There are lots of candidates, but none of them are clearly The Man, so to speak. At least not yet.
Preseason storylines: Switzer's development will be worth following. He has vowed to become a more integral piece of the passing game, and he'll need to do so, it seems, for the offense to reach its potential. Outside of that, the competition here should be fun to track. How to best fill Ebron's void will be a preseason priority, but there are lots of pieces here, and lots of candidates.