When opportunity knocks, open the door. That phrase must be a mantra going through the heads of some young receivers at
"I want to find two or three out of that bunch that can be a backup or get ten or fifteen reps, and play special teams," says wide receiver coach Gunter Brewer.
The wide receiver position looked well stocked as recently as last spring. Then Bosley Allen was removed from team and transferred. Next, red-shirt Harry Lewis found himself in academic hot water, and will miss at least this season. Brandon Russell may or may not be recovered from hand surgery. Couple those losses with the graduation of Kory Bailey, and all of a sudden the Tar Heels are looking hard at the freshman class of receivers.
But which ones? There is a large group eyeing up a spot on the three-deep chart. Derrele Mitchell, Daunte Fields, Michael Gilmore, and Ian Firestone are the scholarship players and the "invited" walk-on is Wallace Wright. Kevin Watson, a member of the UNC track team, is also working out at wide receiver.
One player who could compete this season is Derrele Mitchell, a 6-4, 190 pound player who attended
"Derrele is a year older, he spent a year in prep school, so he has a little jump physically and from a maturity standpoint," says wide receiver coach Gunter Brewer, "I would say he is ahead of the game as far as that goes."
Overall, Brewer likes what he sees in this class of receivers. "Overall speed is very good. All these guys ran below what you would consider as ‘fast,' which is a great to have, all these guys can run. Some are taller than others, which I like the height, but all these guys are over 5-10. I think size does help in this game, and speed obviously helps, so if you have size and speed, you are way ahead of the curve. And all these guys have that."
All of the receivers drew some praise from Coach Brewer. "Gilmore has done some good things; I think he has stepped up. Daunte Fields was looking good early, unfortunately he then injured a hamstring a little bit. Firestone has looked good too. He is real heady kid, knows what to do, he picks it up real well."
"Kevin Watson is a little older kid that we are putting in the slot, so that is a brand new position for him. So I have kind of put him at one of the harder spots to learn. But because he is older and he is a track guy, he has got some ability. We have another kid, Wallace Wright has done some good things in camp. But I would say Derrele right now is a little bit ahead."
The toughest part early on for the young receivers is learning a pro-style offense and getting used to the types of coverages they will see in college. High schools typically run "vanilla" coverages, and the terminology is different than what they are accustomed to. "We're talking apples, and they're talking peaches," say Coach Brewer.
Coach Brewer adds, "We will find out, once those things soak in a little bit and the mental part of it is over, who can do it athletically. I think all of them have the athletic ability, but who is going to be able to transfer that over to the field?"
There are six young receivers that hope they have the answer to that question.