UNC Football 2023 Positional Preview: Wide Receivers

4-5 minutes 8/11/2023
Our 2023 UNC football positional previews continue on offense with a talented group of players at the wide receiver position.
The UNC Football program is trying to replace their top wide receiver threat of the last three years, Josh Downs, who was drafted in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft this year, as well as Antoine Green, who became a big-time playmaker for the Tar Heels.
How they do that may be a mystery to many Tar Heel fans with some new faces making an appearance among the wide receiver group, but also some familiar ones.
What We Know
There have been high expectations this offseason revolving around incoming wide receiver transfers Nate McCollum and Devontez ‘Tez’ Walker. Both have two years of eligibility remaining and are (or were – we’ll get to that) expected to make significant impacts in the Tar Heel offense.
Unfortunately, two days ago, the NCAA ruled Tez Walker ineligible for the 2023 football season due to a change in the transfer rules, despite Walker transferring to UNC before these rule changes took place. Several reports state that the UNC coaching staff seems confident that Walker’s waiver appeal to become eligible for 2023 will be approved, but with the NCAA, there’s plenty of unknown. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper even got in on this by sending a letter to the NCAA on Walker’s behalf.
Outside of Tez, the Tar Heels still have some returnees from the 2022 season that may be able to provide some help at the WR position if Walker is unavailable…
The Key Players
Just last week our Keeping It Heel staff released their top five most important players for the 2023 season. Rising Sophomore redshirt Kobe Paysour made the list for me as a player of importance… now with the potential absence of Tez Walker, Paysour becomes just that more important for the wide receiver core.
Paysour had some bright moments as a redshirt freshman last year behind Josh Downs and shined at times when Downs was off the field. Now Paysour is in line to start and provide valuable experience and talent for a group that has one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Nate McCollum is the other major transfer that enters Chapel Hill. Coming from Georgia Tech, McCollum is entering his junior season and started nine games for the Yellow Jackets in 2022, averaging 10.9 yards per catch and leading the team in total receiving yards with 655.
Of the other returners, JJ Jones is the one with the best stat line returning from 2022. He racked up 434 yards and averaged 18.1 yards per catch and is the top leading wide receiver returning for the UNC football program. Gavin Blackwell and Andre Greene Jr. didn’t see as many reps last season but can expect an increase in opportunity with Downs/Green in the NFL and Walker potentially ineligible.
The outlook for the wide receiver unit isn’t completely cut and dry with the uncertainty revolving around Tez Walker. However, the benefit that this group has is they have Drake Maye at quarterback, and great quarterbacks make everyone else around them better.
It will obviously help the Tar Heel offense to have another receiver step up in place of Walker as long as he is ineligible, but there are plenty of weapons left for Maye on the offensive side of the ball that we will cover at the beginning of next week.
Overall, expect McCollum, Paysour, and Jones to see a majority of the reps with the first team throughout fall camp and the season if nothing changes with Walker.
If Walker does become eligible, then this group elevates the UNC football offense to an entirely new level of play and gives Drake Maye another major receiving threat in an offense that can be very good in 2023. When will we receive a decision on Walker? Well, that’s still to be determined.

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