Tar Heels prepare for App State with Tez Walker’s NCAA situation still unresolved

Tez or no Tez?

That continues to be the question at North Carolina as wide receiver Devontez “Tez” Walker continues to seek eligibility from the NCAA while the Tar Heels prepare for their home football opener Saturday against Appalachian State.

The Heels were hoping to have Walker’s case cleared up a week ago, in time to play South Carolina in Charlotte in the season opener. That didn’t happen. The NCAA considers Walker a two-time transfer and has not granted him a waiver that would make him immediately eligible this season.

UNC coach Mack Brown said Monday that Walker, a Charlotte native who played the past two seasons at Kent State, would have a meeting Thursday with a committee considering his case.

“Hopefully the NCAA will do what’s right and he’ll be back out on the field Saturday,” Brown said.

And if Walker again is denied eligibility?

“I don’t know the answer, but from what I understand he can have legal recourse,” Brown said. “But we can’t, the way I understand it. I’m sure there are people looking into that, but I’ve just got to hope they do what’s right.”

The Tar Heels beat South Carolina 31-17 without Walker or wideout Nate McCollum, a transfer from Georgia Tech, who was out with an injury but could return this week.

Drake Maye threw the ball well enough, British Brooks ran it well enough and the Heels had the offensive balance they were hoping for in the opener at Bank of America Stadium. All the offensive boxes were checked.

And defensively?

Gene Chizik, UNC’s assistant head coach for defense, said in preseason he wanted his guys to play with “violence and speed.” That all sounded good in August, but what about when the games began?

The answer: the Heels had nine sacks, 16 tackles for losses and held the Gamecocks to minus-2 yards rushing, the lowest by a UNC defense in 23 years.

Case closed, at least for one game.

Chizik said Monday there were a few “warts” in the defensive effort but had few complaints.

“Everybody is going to look at the tackles for a loss and the sacks, and all those were really, really good, but there’s still a lot to clean up,” he said.

Now comes App State, the team that put 61 points on the board against that UNC defense last year. Forty of those points came in the fourth quarter as the Tar Heels held on for a wild 63-61 win at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone.

App State finished with 36 first downs and 649 yards in total offense as quarterback Chase Brice threw for 361 yards and six scores. Brice tried to run for a tying two-pointer with nine seconds left in regulation but was stopped.

“They totally embarrassed us defensively last year and changed the narrative of who we were,” Brown said. “We were the laughing stock of defense in the country. We have a load on our shoulders this weekend to go back and prove the narrative that we changed Saturday night is really real.”

Another narrative that changed Saturday, Brown said, was the one of how the Tar Heels faded last season after a 9-1 start, losing their last four games. Three were close losses -- the last to Oregon in the Holiday Bowl -- but all four were losses.

But after beating South Carolina, after beginning the new season with a solid win over an SEC team on an ABC primetime telecast, the perception of North Carolina football might have changed, the coach said Monday.

“We got some respect back that we lost the last four games of the season,” Brown said. “Whether it was fair or not, we lost a lot of respect, but I thought we gained it back nationally on Saturday.

“It’s easy to gain back and hard to keep. You’ve got to make sure you do it every week, and that’s the expectation we have.”