UNC Pledges Share Field

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Half of the captains that lined up at midfield for the coin toss prior to Friday's Providence-Berry game will be suiting up in Carolina Blue in less than a year. This wasn't lost on future Tar Heels Cayson Collins, Austin Proehl, and Bentley Spain.

"It was cool being able to communicate with [Collins] before the game," Proehl said. "Bentley and I talked to him for a minute. During warm-ups, I talked to him for a minute. And then during the game I was communicating with him and just joking around with him. And then after the game, I told him that I can't wait to play with him and so did Bentley."

The trio – Collins representing Berry Academy, and Proehl and Spain representing Providence – didn't only talk on Friday night. A couple of Collins's 15 tackles were on Proehl, a 5-foot-10, 168-pound wide receiver. Also, a couple of times Collins, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker, was asked to blitz the left side of Providence's line, which happened to be guarded by Spain, a 6-foot-6, 288-pound offensive tackle. Both encounters were eye-opening experiences for Collins.

"I did not realize [Spain] was that big," Collins said. "He hit me in my chest one time and I stepped back two steps. I didn't realize he was that big or that strong.

"[Austin] is quick. You wouldn't really expect it from him, but he is quick. And he runs his routes really hard and really fluid so he gets in and out breaks."

Proehl had a similar experience.

"I saw it on film all week – how fast he is and always around the ball," Proehl said. "But it was different seeing it in person first-hand. I just felt like he was always there. He's a great athlete. You don't see many linebackers that are as fast as him. He's very physical when he tackles. He's one of those guys that you try to make a move on and you know it has to be one of your best moves, because if you don't he's going to hit you. It was fun and I learned a lot from it."

All three can't wait until their talents are used for the same team.

"Playing with Austin and Bentley it's going to be awesome, because they're both freak athletes," Collins said. "It's going to be exciting to play with them at Chapel Hill."

Friday's game wasn't full of just fun and games. Collins left the contest late in the third quarter after colliding with a teammate on a field goal block attempt.

"It was a miscommunication on who was going to go to block the field goal," Collins said. "I told the other side of the line that I was going. And they said that they told me that they were going. And we both ended up going. I got there first and dove out and hit his knee.

"I dislocated my finger, bit my lip, and strained my back a little bit, but I'll be fine."

After being checked out by the trainer and having his finger tapped up, Collins returned to the game late in the fourth quarter.

The injury is Collins's second in three games that has forced him to leave a game for an extended period of time.

"I feel like that's what happens when you're going 110 miles-per-hour," Collins said. "It's part of the game, so you have to live with it."

Collins says he'll definitely visit UNC on Thursday for "Zero Dark Thursday," the Tar Heels' night game against Miami. Proehl and Spain are working out their schedules to be there, also.

"I think [UNC] is going to step up," Proehl said. "I think they're going to really start rising to the occasion. It's a big game. It's national television and I feel like it's the turning point of the season. I feel like it's going to be one of those games where they're going to step up and be ready to play. Hopefully they'll surprise Miami a little bit and come up with the ‘W.'"

"Miami is a tough team," Collins said. "Everybody that Chapel Hill has played has turned out to be a tough team. Hopefully they can rise up to the challenge. I know the issue is all the young guys on defense, but they're only young for so long. Eventually they're going to have to get it together. Hopefully they're going to get it together and come out with the win, because I get tired of coming to school and defending my [future] school."

Cayson Collins

Austin Proehl

Bentley Spain

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