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: A.J. Blue (298 rushing yards, 140 receiving yards, 1 TD)
Who's back: Khris Francis (236 rushing yards, 82 receiving, 2 TD); T.J. Logan (533 rushing yards, 124 receiving, 4 TD) ; Romar Morris (296 rushing yards, 63 receiving, 5 TD)
Newcomers: Elijah Hood
By class: One junior, two sophomores, one freshman
Average recruiting rank (Rivals.com): 3.75
Depth chart entering practice
Logan (5-10, 185, Soph.)
Morris (5-10, 190, Jr.) OR
Francis (5-9, 200, Soph.) OR
Hood (6-0, 220, Fr.*)
* – indicates freshman who enrolled early and went through spring practice
What to like: This is among the most talent-rich positions on UNC's roster, what with one of the prizes of the 2013 recruiting class (Logan) and one of the prizes of the 2014 class (Hood). Logan and Hood both could have gone just about anywhere, and that they'll be in the same backfield has to be an exciting thought for coach Larry Fedora. Beyond them, there's good depth here with Morris and Francis and even walk-on Charles Brunson, who's not listed on the preseason two-deep. Or four-deep, as it is.
What to question: The talent is here, it seems, for UNC's running game to return to what it was in 2012, when Giovani Bernard ran for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. Clearly, the running game was missing something last season. Namely, it missed Bernard. Are Logan and Hood (and anyone else) going to be as good as Bernard was? Who knows. And that's not really the point. The point is that with Logan and Hood leading the way, UNC has a chance to be a strong running team. How, exactly, it works out – who receives the bulk of the carries, or whether the committee approach remains – is the primary question entering the preseason.
Preseason storylines: All eyes, or a lot of them, at least, will be on Hood, the five-star prospect from Charlotte. Fedora has raved about him. So, too, have his teammates. Logan enters the preseason with a seemingly-firm grasp on the top position on the depth chart, but if Hood meets the hype – no small task for any freshman – then it'll be difficult to keep him off the field. As it is, Fedora has said Hood will play from day one, provided he's healthy.