North Carolina

QB battle. WRs vs. DBs, who won? Observations from the fifth day of fall camp at UNC

Mack Brown following the Tar Heels’ fifth practice: ‘Really, really pleased with overall effort and attitude’

North Carolina coach Mack Brown evaluates his team after their fifth day of practice on Tuesday, August 6, 2019
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North Carolina coach Mack Brown evaluates his team after their fifth day of practice on Tuesday, August 6, 2019

North Carolina’s football team opened the first 50 minutes of its fifth fall practice to media members Tuesday afternoon.

It was the first time since fall training camp began that the Tar Heels practiced with full pads.

Here were some observations from practice:

One for the DBs

During the last five minutes media members were allowed to watch practice, the wide receivers battled one-on-one against the defensive backs.

The defensive backs appeared to get the better of the wide receivers.

On one play, junior defensive back Greg Ross picked off quarterback Cade Fortin by jumping in front of an out route. Ross stepped in front of the wide receiver before he finished his break.

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North Carolina cornerbacks coach Dre Bly passes the ball to D.J. Ford (16) during the Tar Heels practice on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at the Football Practice Facility in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

After the interception, Ross celebrated with his teammates. Defensive backs coach Dre Bly, who celebrated with them, looked equally as excited.

Dazz Newsome getting better

Dazz Newsome made some nice catches. A few plays after the Ross interception, Newsome went up against senior safety Myles Dorn.

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North Carolina wide receiver Dazz Newsome (5) runs through a dill during the Tar Heels’ practice on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at the Football Practice Facility in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Newsome used a double move to get separation from Dorn and caught a deep pass from quarterback Jace Ruder. The pass appeared to be thrown 45 to 50 yards downfield. Newsome caught the ball in bounds and could have ran it in for a touchdown.

5-11, 190-pound junior receiver is showing improvement with his route running and catching. He looks like he could be a lock for the No. 1 receiver if he continues to improve.

Thunder can’t slow practice

About 20 minutes into practice, coach Mack Brown got onto the megaphone and said that thunder and lightning were in the area, and they needed to move practice from the outdoor fields to the indoor facility. It took less than a minute for practice to pick up where it left off.

Last season, the Tar Heels would have had to pause or cancel practice because their indoor facility was not completed. The indoor facility gives them the ability to practice whether it rains or shines.

Player injuries

UNC sophomore wide receiver Dyami Brown sat out practice with a tight hamstring. He stretched on the sidelines. His injury is not expected to be serious.

Sophomore wide receiver Antoine Green was also on the sidelines. He wore a red non-contact jersey, without a helmet or pads.

Green sustained a gruesome leg injury last season against Syracuse. He had to have surgery in the offseason.

Green practiced last Thursday when media members were allowed to watch but did not practice Tuesday because of an undisclosed injury.

Freshman wide receiver Justin Olson was also in a red non-contact jersey. His arm was in a sling.

Quarterbacks still neck-in-neck

Brown said he hasn’t seen much separation among the three quarterbacks — Ruder, Sam Howell and Fortin — who are battling to be the starter.

He said all three are performing well, and he doesn’t expect one to separate from the others until they begin to scrimmage.

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North Carolina quarterbacks Jace Ruder (10), Cade Fortin (6) and Sam Howell (7) takes snaps during the Tar Heels practice on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at the Football Practice Facility in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

The Tar Heels will have their first scrimmage Saturday.

“Because it’s easier in a scrimmage, when you’re moving the ball and scoring points to see who has got the best grasp of the team and the leadership,” Brown said.

Old players playing new positions

Senior outside linebacker Dominique Ross played some middle linebacker on Tuesday.

Nickel cornerback Tre Morrison has played cornerback and safety. Brown said he and his staff are moving players around to develop depth at certain positions where there is none.

Depth has been an issue for UNC, particularly at linebacker, cornerback and defensive line.

Many of UNC’s top players last season were seniors who have graduated.

“I think we’ll have to keep doing it, because we’ll have to do it during the season some,” Brown said of moving players around. “A starting corner may be a backup nickle, so if the nickle goes down, the next corner is better than the next nickle. You just have to move him over.”

NFL scouts regulars at practice

A number of NFL scouts watched practice Tuesday. Scouts have been a regular in the first five practices of training camp.

Among the teams at practice were the San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams and the Baltimore Ravens.

“We’re doing exactly what Clemson and Alabama are doing for their teams,” Brown said. “It’s healthy for the guys. And we’ve told them, they’re out here watching you.”

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Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
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