North Carolina begins the season on Thursday in Charlotte against South Carolina and that means two things, among other things: first, it means Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora was asked after practice on Monday about the rivalry between the schools.
You know, the border war between neighboring states – the pageantry that goes with all that. Fedora was asked if he sensed that his players understood the dynamic.
“I'm sure they do,” he said somewhat dryly. “They know where the state of South Carolina is, compared to North Carolina. They know it's a little bit south of us …
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… And so I'm sure they're aware of it. But the majority of everything we've done going up until we got into this week was based on ourselves. And now it's been all South Carolina. So that's where their focus is. It's the most important game we've got. It's the next game.”
Indeed. So game week means questions and answers like that. But it also means the release of the first real depth chart of the season. Now, keep in mind the depth chart is nothing but a piece of paper. Fedora and the coaching staff aren't beholden to it.
But it does give us an idea, even if it's not a 100 percent concrete one, of where players stand. And from UNC's first depth chart, we can conclude that Fedora likes his freshmen class. (Or perhaps that the Tar Heels will be reliant on it.)
Eight freshmen found their way onto the depth chart, including Ty'Son Williams, the running back from Sumter, S.C. Williams is listed as a potential backup to Elijah Hood at running back, and Fedora said on Monday that Williams would play against South Carolina.
The other freshmen – and these are first-year freshmen, and not redshirt freshmen – on the depth chart are:
William Sweet, backup left tackle
Tommy Hatton, backup center
Aaron Crawford, backup defensive tackle
Jalen Dalton, backup defensive end
Andre Smith, backup middle linebacker
J.K. Britt, backup free safety
Mike Hughes, backup cornerback
Among the eight, Britt, Dalton, Smith, Sweet and Williams were all early enrollees who arrived at UNC last January. Fedora said some of the freshmen have “exceeded expectations already.”
“I mean, just in the way they've handled themselves during camp and the way they've prepared themselves before they got here,” Fedora said. And so that was impressive from some of those guys. You don't always see that but those guys, they prepared themselves and it was obvious when they got here.”
Asked to identify freshmen who have perhaps exceeded early expectations, Fedora agreed, when prompted, that Hatton was among those players. Hatton received more work than he might have anticipated in the preseason because of injuries along the offensive line.
Fedora also mentioned Crawford and Williams, the running back, as freshmen who have stood out.
“You've got some guys that have really stepped up and shown that they can help this football team,” Fedora said.
And help it starting from the first game, apparently.