UNC ready to replace Mack Hollins impact during suspension

Mack Hollins will be suspended for the first half of the season-opener against Georgia

Jeremy Brevard—USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5

CHAPEL HILL — Mack Hollins can’t exactly be called a secret weapon since he led the North Carolina football team in both receiving yards and touchdowns last season. His mid-game addition, however, will give the Tar Heels a potential ace in the hole as they look to upset Georgia in Saturday’s season-opener in Atlanta.
Hollins will have to sit out the first half of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic as punishment for his ejection from UNC’s loss to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl last December. The senior wide receiver was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit while blocking for teammate Austin Proehl. As much as coach Larry Fedora and his players insist that UNC has enough offensive weapons to get by without Hollins for the first two quarters of the new season, they all agree that his return after halftime will be a major boost to an attack that averaged 486 yards and set a school record 40.7 points per game in 2015. “Mack brings a lot to the table,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said Monday. “It’s going to be exciting with him bringing his energy and leadership in the second half. It will definitely give us a spark. Hopefully we’re winning at the time, but it’s going to be a cool moment.” Hollins caught 30 passes for 745 yards and eight touchdowns while earning second-team All-ACC honors last season. With an average of 24.8 yards per catch, he is by far the Tar Heels’ most dangerous deep threat.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound speedster is hardly UNC’s only experienced receiver, though.
Ryan Switzer actually led the team in catches a year ago with 55 while Bug Howard added 29 receptions while averaging nearly 17 yards per grab. True freshman Rontavius Groves has also opened some eyes in preseason game and will likely see action against Georgia, giving Trubisky his choice of reliable targets without any major alterations in the game-plan. “Scheme-wise, I don’t expect much (difference),” running back Elijah Hood said. “We’re going to do what we’re going to do. That’s just the way we play. We’ve got a good group behind Mack who know the plays and know the concepts, so we should be fine.” If there’s one area in which Hollins’ first half absence might hurt the Tar Heels it’s on special teams.
Although he doesn’t return kicks, Hollins is a prominent member of his team’s punt and kick return and coverage teams — roles that will take multiple players to fill while he’s on the sideline serving his suspension. “Not one guy is going to start in all four spots behind him,” Fedora said. “Mack’s a pretty unique talent as far as what he can do on special teams.” In an effort to help prepare his replacements, on both special teams and from scrimmage, Fedora plans to scale back the number of reps Hollins gets at practice leading up to gameday this week.”Mack knows. He’s been a starter now for four years, so I’m not really as concerned there,” Fedora said. “Some of those other guys need the reps.
“We started pulling back on some of Mack’s reps when we started preparing for Georgia. It’s not to take away from him. It’s to get the next guys ready and make sure they’re prepared.” The good news is that the cavalry, or in this case Hollins, will be coming to the rescue after halftime. “Free MacKenzie,” teammate Hood joked.
“I can not wait to see him go back out there. He’s an explosive playmaker. I’m excited about the second half.”