CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina wide receiver Mack Hollins said he doesn’t watch sports. That doesn’t come as a surprise to his teammates – doesn’t come as much a surprise to anyone who has been around Hollins for an extended period of time, actually.
However, he might want to make an exception pretty soon. If he happens to turn to ESPN this weekend there is a chance he will see himself on the SportsCenter Top-10 list. His 4-yard touchdown catch from Marquise Williams in the third quarter was worthy of any highlight package.
Hollins ran a fade route to the left corner of the endzone. A Wake defender was glued to him, and when the ball arrived it bounced off of the helmet of the defensive back. The ball popped up in the air and Hollins regrouped, located the ball in the air, hauling it in for his second TD catch of the evening.
In a world where stations are looking for the next big catch to run on its nightly highlight reels, Hollins’ snag will make the rounds for sure, even if he won’t bother to watch.
“I don’t watch much sports, honestly,” Hollins said. “So probably not.”
Mack shouldn’t worry. Plenty of people will see the catch, and they should all know that Mack is officially back.
In 2014 Hollins proved to be the main big-play threat for Williams. However, the junior from Rockville, Md., had gotten off to a slow start this year. Part of that was due to some minor injuries suffered in camp. He was healthy by the season opener against South Carolina, but wasn’t really involved in the offense through the first few games. He had three catches for 100 yards versus Delaware, followed by a quite two-catch game at Georgia Tech. Coming into the contest against Wake, Hollins had eight catches for 166 yards and two scores.
Finally feeling healthy, he blew the top off of the Demon Deacons defense on his way to 103 yards receiving on three catches, all going for scores. It seems the Heels top big-play threat is finally back.
“That’s one of the reasons we were so explosive tonight,” Fedora said. “Mack was out there and he was feeling good and feeling comfortable, and Quise feels good about what he’s doing when he calls his number. Mack’s always shown that he can make big plays.”
Hollins averaged 34.3 yards per catch against Wake Forest, his longest play going for 57 yards. If that trend can continue, North Carolina has added another threat to its already dangerous offense.
Williams, for one, is glad to see it.
“I hadn’t been able to connect with him this year, but it started tonight,” Williams said. “We just worked hard, we threw after practice earlier this week. We threw the deep ball and the post ball, just trying to get the timing right. Like I tell anybody, if he is one-on-one with the safety I’m taking my chances.”
On their longest connection – the 57-yard bomb – Hollins and Williams were on the same page before the snap. The duo saw the exact same thing – how the safety was lined up – something they had seen from the scout team in practice all week and knew it was an automatic score.
“When we saw No. 9 (Zach Dancel), we knew we were going to score,” Williams said. “Mack did the rest.”
The emergence of Elijah Hood as a running threat and a crowded receivers core made it easy for fans to forget about Hollins as a major part of the UNC offense. Through it all, though, he remained patient.
“It’s tough, but it’s also good,” Hollins said. “We have five or six receivers who can start anywhere in the country, I don’t think any other team has a (group) that’s as well rounded as ours. It’s good to have somebody to compete against each week in practice.”
At times it’s been a big day for Bug Howard or Ryan Switzer or Quinshad Davis. Even Austin Proehl got into the mix against Wake. But it was Hollins, who Proehl said “glides” when he runs his deep routes, who returned to his big-play statues against the Demon Deacons.
Coming into the contest, there wasn’t an effort to make sure Hollins got the big plays, in fact Hollins said it could have been anyone from the group who could have made those plays.
“I just happened to be the lucky pick,” he said.
If he’s lucky, he’ll find himself on television a lot this weekend with his spectacular catch in the second half. That’s if he’s even looking for it. Williams didn’t see the catch – he said he “got smacked” soon as he let it go, but he’ll be looking for it.
Proehl said he will make sure Hollins knows all about it.
“For sure,” Proehl said. “I’ll have him all over twitter if he’s on that thing.”
And then everyone will know that Mack is back.