By R.L. Bynum

CHARLOTTE — Nearly all of the offensive line is back and a Heisman Trophy candidate is at quarterback to lead the offense.

But with the loss of the dynamic running back combination of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, one of the biggest questions surrounds what North Carolina’s running game will look like in their absence.

One answer, and the player who quarterback Sam Howell says he’s most excited to see in a game, is Tennessee graduate transfer running back Ty Chandler.

“He just worked so hard and he really dives into the process and he knows what it takes,” Howell said. “So, I’m just really excited to get him out there. I think our O-line is going to do a good job for us. It’s always exciting to give him a lot of opportunities to run the ball early.”

Coach Mack Brown says that Chandler combines some of the qualities of the two star running backs that UNC lost.

“We think he is kind of the guy that fits between Javonte Williams and Michael Carter,” Brown said. “A 210-pound back, he can run it up inside, tremendous hands. He knows what to do, but he also has the speed that when he gets it in space, he has a chance to score. We’ve got to find some other guys with him, but we think he has a chance to step up and be a special player for us.”

Howell says that Chandler is a different kind of running back.

“Different style player than two guys. He has a little bit of each of their games but he’s got his own game and he’s his own player,” Howell said. “He’s an unbelievable running back. He has the ability to run in between the tackles and even run on short-yardage downs. He can run on the goal line … third and one, fourth and one and he’s fast, really fast. You get a lot of explosive plays. Super impressive to see him separate from defenders. He’s an unbelievable weapon out of the backfield.”

“One of the reasons we took Ty Chandler from Tennessee as the only grad transfer is we didn’t want to go to Virginia Tech with young backs that had not played. Ty has played in a lot of big games,” Brown said.

Chandler ran for 2,046 yards and a 4.9 per-carry average in four years with the Volunteers but never had more than 135 carries in a season. That’s likely to change this year.

The whole backfield will benefit from the Tar Heels’ depth that will allow them to play two offensive-line units. UNC will have the same starting line for a third consecutive season except for losing Charlie Heck, who is now with the NFL’s Houston Texans.

Brown hopes all of that will mean that Howell isn’t sacked as often.

“We’ve looked at every sack for the two years we’ve been here,” Brown said. ‘We’ve looked at why Sam is committed to getting the ball out of his hands faster some because he’s so competitive he wants to make every play. We also know we have to do a better job up front in all those cases and use our backs.”

The whole backfield will benefit from the Tar Heels’ depth that will allow them to play two offensive-line units. UNC will have the same starting line for a third consecutive season with the exception of losing Charlie Heck, who is now with the NFL’s Houston Texans.

Howell threw frequently to Williams and Carter coming out of the backfield and says that Chandler can also be a dangerous pass-catcher.

“Every single time I have a throwing session or something he’s always there. He’s always one person who stays after [practice],” Howell said. “That’s something he didn’t get to do a whole lot at Tennessee. But that’s definitely something we do a whole lot here; we utilize the running back in the passing game. I’ve watched a lot of films; I’ve kind of told them what I expect from them when they come out of the backfield. He’s done a really good job buying in to all that and he’s super fun to work with. He works harder than anybody on our team.”

Chandler had 58 catches for 465 yards in his Tennessee career.

Carolina football schedule

DateOpponentTime/TVFirst meetingLast meetingLast resultSeries record
Sept. 3at Va. Tech (Fri.)6 p.m., ESPN18952020W, 56–4513-24-6
Sept. 11Georgia State7:30 p.m., RSNNever met
Sept. 18Virginia7:30 p.m., ACCN18922020L, 44–4163-58-4
Sept. 25at Georgia Tech19152019W, 38–2223-30-3
Oct. 2Duke18882020W, 56–2462-40-4
Oct. 9Florida State19832020L, 31–283-16-1
Oct. 16Miami19462020W, 62–2613-11-0
Oct. 30at Notre Dame7:30 p.m., NBC19492020L, 31-172-19-0
Nov. 6Wake Forest*18882020W, 59–5370-36-2
Nov. 11at Pitt (Thurs.)19742019L, 34–27 (OT)10-4-0
Nov. 20WoffordNever met
Nov. 26at N.C. State3:30/7:30 p.m.,18942020W, 48–2168-36-6
(Friday)ABC/ESPN
* — Nonconference game

ACC pool photo by Grant Halverson

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