football Edit

Staff Knows What it Needs in Spring Portal Search

CHAPEL HILL – Spring practice for North Carolina’s football team doesn’t begin until March 19, and its spring game is April 20.

Five days before, on April 15, the spring portal opens, and the activity will be rampant. UNC will also be suitors, knowing one position that still needs help.

“We really are looking at a defensive lineman,” UNC Coach Mack Brown said recently at the Kenan Football Center. “That’s what we need. Because we’re thin with the younger defensive linemen. But other than that, we’re in pretty good shape.”

Being in good shape includes offensive line, a position that doesn’t possess a great deal of experience, especially after starting tackle Diego Pounds transferred to Ole Miss. The Tar Heels also lost starters Corey Gaynor, Ed Montilus, and William Barnes to graduation.

In their place, however, UNC brought in two offensive linemen this winter, and have two more committed slated to arrive in June. Austin Blaske played 29 snaps this past season at Georgia, and 158 in his career. Howard Sampson played 83 snaps in the fall at North Texas, and 87 in his career. The arrived in late December.

Coming in June are Georgia Tech transfer Jakiah Leftwich (312 snaps in 2023, 659 career), and Division III transfer Zach Greenberg, who is from Muhlenberg College.

One area of focus by UNC's staff in the spring portal period will be adding along the defensive front.
One area of focus by UNC's staff in the spring portal period will be adding along the defensive front. (Kevin Roy/THI)

“I feel good about where we are,” Brown said about the o-line. “There’s potentially we can be better in the offensive line next year than we were the last two years, in my opinion. I like what I’m seeing.”

Of course, what happens with members on the roster could steer the staff’s attention in different directions.

First, Brown and his coaches must secure the current Tar Heels, certainly the ones they want to keep around.

“Going through spring practice and trying to be very honest with the players, like we have, and then being in a position to if these five guys are leaving then you’ve got to replace them,” Brown said, noting a hypothetical. “And that’s where the portal is so important at that point.”

In addition, having 21 high school scholarship freshmen in for the spring semester is vital because the staff may really like what they see from some of them and decide there’s no need to pursue anyone at their position in the portal.

“I still think in order to sustain success, you have to build it through high school recruiting, and that won’t change here,” said Assistant A.D./General Manager for football Pat Suddes. “But the portal has been good for us to add pieces, add depth, add experience to come in. We kind of target these players and positions of areas we need.”

The portal closes April 30, just ten days after UNC concludes spring practice. So that doesn’t give the staff much time to sort through things. But when they do, the first focus will be along the defensive front.