Fresh faces highlight Tar Heels’ debut
North Carolina holds its annual “Meet the Heels” event today from 4-6 p.m. at Kenan Stadium, giving the public its first chance to get up close with this year’s team.
While everyone is now familiar with second-year coach Larry Fedora and third-year starting quarterback Bryn Renner, here are some new Tar Heels who fans should get to know:
T.J. Logan, running back: No freshman entered fall camp with more intrigue than T.J. Logan. In his last high school game, the Greensboro native set NCHSAA championship game records with 510 yards and eight touchdowns as Northern Guildford won the 3-AA title. He finished his senior season with 3,146 yards and 47 touchdowns despite playing in the fourth quarter only twice.
Giovani Bernard, the runner-up for ACC Player of the Year, is now with the Cincinnati Bengals, leaving a giant hole in UNC’s offense. Senior A.J. Blue and sophomore Romar Morris will get the first cracks at the starting job because of their experience, but Logan may come closest to Bernard’s dynamic ability.
Caleb Peterson, left guard: While Bernard is the most conspicuous loss, UNC’s top pro prospect was actually Jonathan Cooper, an Outland Trophy finalist for the nation’s best offensive lineman who became the highest-drafted guard since 1986 when he was taken seventh overall by Arizona.
His position will be filled by Auburn, Ala., native Caleb Peterson, a 6-5, 300-pound redshirt freshman who was ranked the No. 11 offensive guard in the nation by ESPN.com. Peterson gave a verbal commitment to Southern Miss before following Fedora to UNC.
Dan Mastromatteo and Nathan Staub, linebackers: One of the top competitions in training camp is between two redshirt freshmen looking to replace Kevin Reddick, the defense’s leader a year ago.
Mastromatteo, a native of Absecon, N.J., was listed as the No. 53 outside linebacker in his class by ESPN.com, while Staub, a native of Chestnut Mountain, Ga., was listed as the No. 43 inside linebacker. Both players worked out with Reddick over the summer, and Fedora said the competition was even.
“I wouldn’t give one an inch over the other,” Fedora said. “Both kids are very mature; they’re mature beyond their age. I don’t think they’re going to be worried about what’s going on out there. … It’s going to be fun this fall to see how that pans out.”
Dominique Green, strong safety: The only walk-on listed among the two-deep in the preseason depth chart, Dominique Green was listed as a potential starter at strong safety along with sophomore Sam Smiley.
Green gave a verbal commitment to Cincinnati before the Laurinburg native decided to play closer to home. He enrolled in January after a semester at Hargrave Military Academy and participated in spring practice.
“He’s gutsy,” Fedora said of Green after the 5-11, 185 freshman intercepted a pass in the spring game. “He’s got some things to learn, ... but I tell you what, talent-wise, he really came on.”
Keith Gilmore and Ron West, assistant coaches: After two years of significant turnover on the sidelines — head coach Butch Davis was fired before the 2011 season and interim coach Everett Withers and his entire staff were let go before the 2012 season — this offseason was relatively quiet.
The two new assistants are defensive line coach Keith Gilmore and linebackers coach Ron West. Both men were assistants at Illinois alongside UNC associate coach for defense Vic Koenning and defensive coordinator Dan Disch.
Gilmore replaces Deke Adams, who is now at South Carolina, while West takes over Dave Duggan, who became the defensive coordinator at Southern Miss.