CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — With classes kicking off on today, the Tar Heels have now wrapped up their fall camp and are just under two weeks from their season opener against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
After attended several practices and speaking with key playmakers, here’s what we know about this North Carolina football team:
Update on Tez Walker:
No resolution has been met regarding the receiver’s ability to play, however, advocating for Tez has seeped past the walls of the program. Head coach Mack Brown called on NCAA president Charlie Baker to review Walker’s appeal and allow him to play ahead of the 2023 season.
“I’m banking on Charlie Baker,” he said to media earlier this week. “I’m banking on him stepping up and changing, because it’s what’s best for this young man.”
Governor Roy Cooper has also weighed in on the situation, revealing last week that he sent a letter to the NCAA asking them to consider a reversal on their decision. Cooper, who is a alumnus of UNC, highlighted that this is the first time he’s taken an action like this stating, “This is an unusual and compelling case amidst the backdrop of all the major changes happening in the NCAA.”
Brown further said, “It’s not about us. He is a good player. But if I say that I’m going to take care of every player and treat them like I’d want my son to be treated, that’s what I’m trying to do in this situation. Tez needs to be able to play. That’s the only fair thing for him, and people need to stand up for it, because that’s an area we need to get changed. Let’s do what’s right. For the NCAA, let’s don’t say we care about student welfare, and let’s don’t say that we care about mental health unless we do. There’s a great opportunity to show that we do.”
According to Coach Brown, UNC submitted the waiver request back in the spring before getting hit with the denial a little over two weeks ago. A timeline on a decision still remains unknown and there is still no word from the NCAA.
New Role for DJ Jones:
D.J. Jones made his first career start against FAMU to kick off the 2022 season. Fast forward to 2023 and the grad student is now settling in at safety—a position that he first transitioned to in the spring.
“The reaction part of it has been the fun part for me,” Jones said when asked what how he likes reacting to the snap of the ball. “Being on offense, being a student of the game, I had to learn defense while I was on offense. That part wasn’t hard for me.”
Having never played defense growing up, Jones approached Coach Brown back in January, requesting that he get the opportunity to change positions.
“I felt like I could do more for the team than what I was doing last year. And I felt like I could do that at any other position than what they had me doing last year. I just told Mack if there’s any other place that he could see me playing, that I would do that for the team.”
It was then that Jones made the transition over to defense, using the preparation he’s honed his entire life to being able to build the necessarily skills to thrive as a defensive back.
The team had a scrimmage on Wednesday, allowing Jones an opportunity to put in the work in the secondary and it wasn’t until that scrimmage that he finally came to terms with his new position on the team.
“It’s kind of crazy to me because I’ve never played defense before, I was locked down and was like yeah I’m a DB now,” he said.
Tayon Holloway Making Strides:
Cornerback Tayon Holloway is one of the names that keeps popping up. The redshirt freshman has emerged as one of three main corners in the mix for some playing time this season. He looked strong in the spring after not seeing any snaps last season and he has kept that momentum up throughout camp getting –
some work in at star. DJ Jones took the time to praise Holloway on his game, specifically highlighting his strengths in coverage.
“Tayon has some of the best coverage skills I have ever seen,” said Jones when asked what stuck out to him about the young back. “He’s crazy talented, I can’t wait to watch him play.”