The void left by Gio Bernard’s early departure to the NFL represents arguably the most pressing concern for UNC’s offense to address in preparing for the 2013 season.
Former Durham (N.C.) Hillside tailback Khris Francis (2,100 yards, 27 TDs in ‘12) is one of two running backs in UNC’s recruiting class that will attempt to bridge the Gio gap, and the 5-foot-9, 195-pounder will get a head start this spring. But while Northern Guilford (N.C.) High School running back T.J. Logan has received the bulk of the media attention due to his 510-yard state title game performance in December, Francis may be the one that draws comparisons to Bernard.
“He is built a lot like Gio, so just mechanically you see a lot of the same things that you like in Gio,” Anderson said. “You would expect there would be some comparisons made as you’re watching them. Possibly a step faster, honestly, than Gio at times…
“We think he’s got all of the skills that you need to be successful in our system. He’s got the physical ability to take on a linebacker in blocking. He’s got the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He seems to have great vision. He’s got homerun speed, he’s got the ability to make you miss and he seems to have a great desire for the game.”
Anderson added that Francis welcomes the idea of being needed early. He stressed, however, that there’s no way of knowing how quickly a player is going to pick up the system. Spring ball and summer workouts will be critical in determining how much of a factor Francis will be in the fall.
Bernard’s roommate, senior quarterback Bryn Renner, elected to return to school for his final year of eligibility. That decision will likely provide quarterback Mitch Trubisky an opportunity to red-shirt and learn UNC’s spread offense from the sidelines and film room.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound signal caller, hailing from Mentor, Ohio, earned Mr. Football honors as a senior in the Buckeye state after totaling nearly 5,000 yards of offense and 51 touchdowns in 2012.
“We’re always looking for quarterbacks that have the ability to throw and run and extend plays with their feet,” Anderson said. “And that’s the one thing that just stands out about Mitch. He can extend plays; he can make plays with his feet.”
Video clips may highlight Trubisky’s athleticism and ability to make plays, but a quarterback’s intangibles often matter as much as the measurables.
“Maybe the thing that you don’t see initially on film, the longer you got to know him and the more you watched him, was just his competitive nature and his leadership ability,” Anderson said, adding that Trubisky is already working hard during the first two weeks of his UNC career.
Even with Renner’s return, there is one area of the passing game that remains a concern – depth at wide receiver. According to Anderson, “the numbers are still a big issue.”
While it may take several recruiting cycles to properly stock the wide receiver corps, 6-foot-3, 200-pound Jordan Fieulleteau will add an extra body during the spring to help further the cause and build more depth heading into training camp.
The all-state wide receiver out of Raleigh (N.C.) Wakefield High School caught 111 passes for 1,669 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior.
“The thing that I think he brings to the table is just his size,” Anderson said. “He’s a big kid, a physical kid. He’s got great ball skills…
“He’s got more speed than people give him credit for. That’s the one thing that as you see him in person in camps and in games, he has deceptive speed. He doesn’t always appear to be a guy that’s moving as fast as maybe he is.”
Offensive tackle R.J. Prince joins Francis and Fieulleteau as N.C. natives in UNC’s four-man early enrollee collection of scholarship players. The Albemarle High School product checks in at 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds, but don’t let his size fool you into thinking he’s merely an immovable object.
“He’s one of those guys that has the athletic ability to potentially be helpful earlier than normal,” Anderson said of Prince. “He runs extremely well. He bends really, really well. He’s long. He definitely has all of the attributes that we want…
“How quickly he’s able to contribute, who knows? Typically, it does take the guys at that position a little longer.”
Harris Hite, a transfer from Campbell University, and Justin Fieulleteau, Jordan's brother, also enrolled as walk-ons for the spring semester.
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