Tomon Fox arrived at UNC with a ton of expectations. But an injury wiped out his 2016 season, so the Tar Heels are leaning on him for a big bounce back campaign.
Tomon Fox’s debut at North Carolina in 2016 didn’t exactly go as planned.
The defensive end arrived in Chapel Hill as one of the more heralded defensive linemen that head coach Larry Fedora had recruited during his tenure, joining Jalen Dalton as a premier defender up front. The Peach Tree State recruit brought speed to the D-Line, much like Dajaun Drennon, and he found early action for the Tar Heels.
But the 6-foot-3, 235-pound edge rusher’s impact was negated just two games into his college career when he injured his knee against Illinois after recording four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble against the Illini. His freshman season was over.
Fast forward to this spring, and Fox knows that he has a chance to make the impact that he intended to make last year in Gene Chizik’s defense.
The Tar Heels now have a new defensive coordinator in John Papuchis, as well as a new coach at defensive line in Deke Adams, and the pair want the D-Line—which battled serious depth issues throughout last season—to be a strength. And a healthy Fox can be the key.
UNC struggled up front last fall both against the run and when trying to generate pressure against opposing quarterbacks. Now that Nazair Jones and Mikey Bart have departed, Papuchis wants his returning guys up front to develop a more aggressive attitude, be much more active and ultimately make more plays before ball carriers get to the second and third levels. And before quarterbacks have a chance to make a play through the air.
It’s not a veteran unit, but it’s one that features two former high-star recruits in Fox and Dalton as well as Jason Strowbridge and Aaron Crawford. True freshman end Jake Lawler may also have an opportunity to make an immediate impact as a replacement for Bart.
This group is ready—especially Fox, who spent last season rehabbing his knee injury in order to provide an even bigger impact this fall.