Fourth and Long

Published 4:29 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2010

There has been a lot of media attention surrounding the UNC football team this season. While the players and coaches expected there to be a buzz surrounding the program this season I doubt any expected quite what they got.

What I have noticed however is that aside from the few websites and publications dedicated solely to Tar Heel athletics, no one seems to be talking about the players that are playing. Instead everywhere I turn the topic appears to be a group of players that haven’t taken the field for Carolina since last year.

Forever the optimist, I can’t help but notice the silver lining visibly emerging in the cloud hanging over Chapel Hill.

There are several freshmen and sophomores starting or earning significant playing time for Carolina right now and while that may not bode so well for this year’s squad, the experience these young man are getting will certainly reap rewards in the future.

Tre Boston, for example, is the true freshman cornerback out of Cape Coral, Florida. Boston was thrust into a starting role due to the absence of more experienced players at his position and aside from a few mental errors (the kind you expect from a true freshman) his play has been superb.

The same could be said for strong safety Gene Robinson out of Memphis. The sophomore tied for the lead in team tackles against LSU and has what appears to be a bright future in Chapel Hill.

These underclassmen have been thrust in a role they probably weren’t ready for. All they have done in response to these circumstances is work their tails off, earn the respect of the teammates and show that they have the ability to play at this level. Several, like Boston and Robinson, have shown the potential to do much more than simply compete.

While there is not much depth on the defensive side of the ball, they continue fight and scrap. As these younger players continue to develop both physically and mentally I expect many will continue to impress.

The Tar Heel offense finds themselves in unfamiliar territory. For the first time in quite some time there is a good amount of depth along the offensive line. This depth coupled with the improved chemistry between the wide receivers and T.J. Yates at quarterback has produced an explosive offense that has not been easy to slow down.

While there have been issues at running back (I think everybody played running back for at least one play against LSU), the return of Shaun Draughn and the improved play of Johnny White should make good use of the new and wider lanes the o-line is opening.

A consistent running attack will continue to provide opportunities for big plays downfield to Erik Highsmith and Jheranie Boyd. Both are explosive receivers who are not only good but brimming with potential to get better.

The return of some if not all investigated players would certainly make this a better team, but make no mistake, the depth chart as it currently sits is a talented one that will continue to get better and better as the season progresses.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at