CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – It’s difficult for a football team that loses its all-time receptions leader to return an improved wide receiving corps.
According to junior wide receiver Mack Hollins, however, North Carolina will do just that.
“We’re all playmakers, all can do different things,” Hollins said following UNC’s second practice of the spring season on Tuesday. “So I think this is the strongest receiving corps I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
The wide receiving corps consists of three returning lettermen who will lead the team in their senior year: Hollins, Ryan Switzer and Bug Howard. The trio combined to catch 114 passes for 1,930 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2015.
According to head coach Larry Fedora, they’ve also picked up where last year’s senior leaders left off.
“We’ve really got some guys that have seen what a great job the leaders did last year on this football team, and they’ve seen how it works,” Fedora said. “They’ve seen how it makes them better leaders already.”
Leaders like Quinshad Davis, who caught school records in passes (205) and touchdowns (25) in his career, left a lasting impact on this group, which Hollins believes will carry over into the 2016 campaign.
“You can take them as an example, how they led, and see where it got the team as a whole,” Hollins said. “If we can follow their footsteps and take whatever they did to another level, you can only expect greatness from the team.”
Those three leaders will guide a young group of receivers behind them, including three names senior cornerback Des Lawrence believes will make a significant leap in the fall: Vanderbilt transfer Jordan Cunningham, junior Jordan Fieulleteau (6 catches, 100 yards) and junior Austin Proehl (12 catches, 225 yards, TD).
“All three are route runners, good receivers,” Lawrence said. “Proehl is real precise and he knows the weaknesses of DBs, Jordan Cunningham is really good with his hands, and Jordan Fieulleteau is a great route runner, so I think those guys are going to be big.”
Of course, receivers can have all of the talent in the world and still do nothing without chemistry with their quarterback. Expected starting junior Mitch Trubisky believes that won’t be an issue because of the time he spent competing with Marquise Williams for the starting spot in years past.
“I’ve been throwing with these guys and just being with these guys all the time on the field, off the field, throwing to them last spring when Quise was out, even in practice last year, even just mixing in,” Trubisky said. “It just seems like everyone’s on the same page already and we’ve just got to keep getting better every day.”
Hollins echoed that sentiment.
“Between quarterbacks and receivers, it’s all about timing, being comfortable, knowing who’s out there,” Hollins said. “So for Mitch to already know who’s out there, and it’s not like he has three new receivers or we’re getting a new quarterback.”
UNC set school records last season with 3,675 passing yards and 31 touchdown passes. Those records may be challenged sooner than later.