Antoine Green injured, leaving UNC football thin at wideout


North Carolina wide receiver Antoine Green runs the ball during UNC's first football practice of the season on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Chapel Hill, NC

North Carolina wide receiver Antoine Green runs the ball during UNC’s first football practice of the season on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Chapel Hill, NC

kmckeown@newsobserver.com

North Carolina Coach Mack Brown said senior receiver Antoine Green will miss the next six to 10 weeks due to a shoulder injury suffered over the weekend.

The announcement is a cause for concern for the Tar Heels who were already inexperienced at receiver.

“We got Antoine Green hurt on Saturday, it was a hitch and he turned inside and he got hit just running,” Brown said. “So now he’s out for six to 10 weeks. Hopefully on the six side of that — we’re 20 days from (the season opener), hopefully, he’ll be back by Notre Dame.”

Brown said Green had surgery on Sunday and was back sitting in on team meetings on Monday.

Green was second on the team behind Josh Downs with 31 receptions and 612 yards with five touchdowns last season. His best performances came over the final six games when he caught 20 passes including a 108-yard, two-touchdown outing at Pittsburgh.

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North Carolina wide receiver Antoine Green celebrates as he runs to the end zone for a touchdown after making a catch during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) Keith Srakocic AP

With Green out, Justin Olson has the most receptions from last season of the remaining receivers. Olson, a sophomore, played in every game but caught just nine passes for 143 yards and a score. But Brown said he wasn’t going to make excuses for their inexperience.

“Injuries happen, it could have happened in the first quarter of the first game,” Brown said. “So you’ve got JJ Jones; you’ve got Dre Green; you’ve got Gavin Blackwell; you’ve got Kobe Paysour; you’ve got Doc Chapman, Justin Olson. We’ve got to make sure that we get them enough work to get them in shape, and not get them so much running — because they’re thinner — that they get dead legs.”

Downs and Green were the only definite starters at receiver. Now Brown said offensive coordinator Phil Longo will have to make adjustments with their concepts to best fit the skill sets of their available receivers.

“Simplifying is probably the wrong term,” Brown said. “We’re looking at what we need to do to be able to play the best players and to do that maybe you take some concepts out that they’re not ready for yet.”

One thing Brown is not overly concerned with is the impact Green’s absence will have on his young quarterbacks. Drake Maye and Jacolby Criswell are still locked in a battle to become the starter. But neither player had developed such a chemistry with Green that not having him will hurt them.

Freshman Andre Green has made an early impression before Antoine Green’s injury and will now be counted on to improve even faster. Andre Green is a true freshman in the sense that he did not enroll early and did not have the added benefit of learning the offense during spring drills. That hasn’t stopped him from earning a spot in the rotation by making plays in practice.

“(Dre Green) needs to step up now that Antoine’s out,” Brown said. “So we’ve also got to adjust the offense to make sure that we’re simple enough for those guys to be able to play and play free and not get you beat because they don’t know what to do or they run the wrong way or get somebody hit.”

Carolina is in a position without much experience after three receivers transferred last season and Tylee Craft was diagnosed with cancer. Khafre Brown (USF), Emery Simmons (Indiana) and Beau Corrales (SMU) are all with new teams this fall.

Despite those losses, Mack Brown said he felt good about their receiving group until Antoine Green went down.

“That hurts us because he’s older and he’s coaching (the young receivers),” Brown said. “…He’ll be back. He’s passionate about it. But you’ve just got a lot of inexperience out there. Most of those guys I talked about haven’t played in games that mattered.”

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CL Brown covers the University of North Carolina for The News & Observer. Brown brings more than two decades of reporting experience including stints as the beat writer at Indiana University and the University of Louisville. After a long stay at the Louisville Courier-Journal, where he earned an APSE award, he’s had stops at ESPN.com, The Athletic and even tried his hand at running his own website, clbrownhoops.com.

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