3rd down receiving will be critical for Austin Proehl, UNC in 2017

When North Carolina takes the field on Saturday against Cal, the more casual UNC fans will likely need to keep a media guide close by. North Carolina’s personnel will look rather different compared to the last few years.

This is stating the obvious: we know that UNC must replace a lot of production and talent on offense. Luckily for Larry Fedora and whichever player lines up at quarterback, wide receiver Austin Proehl is present to help ease the transition.


Who will they miss most

Ryan Switzer was targeted 128 times in UNC’s fast-paced offense last season, according to Football Study Hall. That ranked fourth-most in the ACC: Isaiah Ford (141), Mike Williams (140) and Amba Etta-Tawo (131).

Switzer, who ranked second in the league in receiving, hauled in 96 of those targets for 1,112 yards and a catch rate of 75 percent.

As one of the most productive receivers in the nation, a good chunk of Switzer’s production occurred on third down.


Third down living

According to cfbstats.com, 25 of Switzer’s 96 reception came on third down. That resulted in 15 first downs, too.

Here’s the breakdown.

Ryan Switzer:

Down and distanceRec.YardsAvg.1st downs
3rd, 1-3 to go8577.16
3rd, 4-6 to go4266.52
3rd, 7-9 to go57915.84
3rd, 10+ to go812615.83

Austin Proehl was the third-most targeted receiver in UNC’s offense in 2016 — nearly 17 percent of the team’s attempts when in his direction. Proehl snagged 43 passes on 75 targets — a catch rate of 57.3 percent, per Football Study Hall.

On third down, Proehl hauled in 10 receptions, which he turned into seven total first downs.

Austin Proehl:

Down and distanceRec.YardsAvg.1st downs
3rd, 1-3 to go0---
3rd, 4-6 to go550104
3rd, 7-9 to go260302
3rd, 10+ to go34013.31

Undoubtedly, though, that total will increase in 2017.

For the Tar Heels to make a bowl game for the fifth consecutive season — a feat the program hasn’t accomplished since the 1990s — Proehl has to become strong option in the passing game. He needs to be a dependable No. 1 receiver.

Part of that will involved the senior receiver stepping up on high-leverage situations on third down. If he can do that, and nudge that catch rate above 60 percent, than UNC can keep things humming on offense.

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