How many injured players does UNC football return in 2018?

North Carolina’s unlucky season with injuries was evident as the Tar Heels prepared to take on NC State last month in its regular season finale. Nearly a fourth of the UNC football roster – 20 players – were on UNC’s injury report listed as ‘out’ for that particular game, or ‘out for the season.’ Two others were listed as probable or doubtful, for a total combined list of 22 injured players.

Without a bowl game to prepare for in the coming weeks, the returning UNC players can spend time healing up and readying their bodies for the impending grind of spring football and winter workouts.


Not returning in 2018

Of the 22 players in total on UNC’s injury list for the NCSU game, only five are known at this point to be departing the program. Donnie Miles, Tyler Powell, and Cayson Collins have all exhausted their eligibility. Ayden Bonilla and Devin Perry are foregoing their fifth-year senior seasons to graduate. That leaves 17 players from that NCSU injury list that could return to the Tar Heels next season.


Players returning in 2018

Of the 17, seven are projected to be seniors in 2018. Five are scholarship players – wide receiver Thomas Jackson, linebacker Andre Smith, cornerback Corey Bell, linebacker Cole Holcomb, and running back Stanton Truitt. The two walk-ons are safety Jesse Cuccia and running back Jacob Schmidt.

Truitt, as well as offensive lineman Tommy Hatton, will be worth keeping an eye on during the offseason.
Truitt transferred last winter to UNC, expecting to be a key part of the Tar Heels’ depleted running back corps. But after not playing a down in 2017, Truitt has an opportunity to redshirt and return to UNC next season. Will he take it, or will he move on after the spring semester?

Hatton was declared out for the season due to concussion in mid-October, though he hadn’t previously played in a 2017 game. Hatton’s status has been the source of much speculation in UNC circles over the past year, and his availability for 2018 remains a mystery. Hatton would be a fourth-year junior next fall.

Of the nine other returning UNC players, four are rising juniors, and four are rising sophomores. Punter Tom Sheldon, tight end Carl Tucker, defensive back D.J. Ford, and offensive tackle William Sweet are projected juniors. Tight end Noah Turner, wide receiver Rontavius Groves, offensive lineman Luke Elder, and cornerback C.J. Cotman are projected sophomores in 2018.

Throughout UNC’s stunning wave of injuries, only one of the team’s true freshmen – running back Antwuan Branch – caught the injury bug. While several Tar Heel newcomers were forced into early duty because of all the injuries, Branch was one of the few true freshmen that wasn’t available to provide a helping hand. Branch’s return as a redshirt freshman in 2018, along with the possibility of a healthy Stanton Truitt, would give the Tar Heels considerably more depth at running back than they had at any point this past season.


Listen: Ryan Switzer on UNC Football: “They’ll be fine. They’ll bounce back”