Hollins Making Mark

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Mack Hollins has suddenly become a big-play receiving threat for North Carolina.

The former walk-on has two long touchdowns on just four catches this year. He knows that conversion rate can't last but hopes it marks the start of a steady role in the no-huddle attack.

"Obviously I can't expect every two times I touch the ball to score," Hollins said. "But it feels good to get some touchdowns early on, get some catches early on and get comfortable with the offense early on before we get deeper in the season when teams have more film on us and can prepare for us better."

Hollins, a 6-foot-3 sophomore from Rockville, Maryland, came to Chapel Hill as a walk-on before the 2012 season and was selected special teams captain last year.

He has been quick to add some offensive success to his resume this year.

In the opener against Liberty, Hollins caught a quick pass from Marquise Williams and ran 33 yards for the go-ahead score in the third quarter of a 56-29 win. He topped that a week later when he caught a deep ball from Williams for a 91-yard score - the longest by UNC in its home stadium - early in the fourth quarter of a 31-27 win against San Diego State.

It's all earned him the nickname "Big-Play Mack" from Williams.

"I remember coming in last year, I don't know whether he wasn't confident in the offense or what he was doing," sophomore receiver Ryan Switzer said, "but it's a whole different man this year. You can see it on his face. You can see it in his demeanor. It's really helped propel him to be one of our big-play receivers."

Hollins earned a larger role on offense after a preseason foot injury sidelined junior T.J. Thorpe, who has missed the first two games but recently returned to full practice during the Tar Heels' off week.

His speed and open-field burst is something this offense needs to stretch the field the rest of the season, starting next week at East Carolina.

"He's got range," receivers coach Gunter Brewer said. "He's got long arms. He's got speed. He can get in and out of a break so he's got foot quickness. He could be the whole package because he's willing to block, he plays on special teams."

Hollins had nine tackles and recovered a fumble against Duke last year but didn't have a catch. Brewer said he sensed "the light started to come on" for Hollins in the spring on offense, when he started to better understand the fast-paced scheme and didn't have to think too much.

Hollins, who earned a scholarship before the season, said he felt the improvement during preseason camp as he better understood the offense. Now he said he spends more time reading defenses than trying to think about where he needs to line up or run his route.

"It was a long journey," Hollins said. "I haven't arrived where I want to be yet but I feel like I'm on the way."

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