Kip Coons, TSN Correspondent
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With three of last year’s standouts (Omar Holness, Jordan McCrary and Jonathan Campbell) drafted among the top 12 picks in the Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft, and five starters departing overall, UNC needed quality and quantity in its recruiting class.
Sixth-year head coach Carlos Somoano brought in the No. 1-ranked group in the nation, eight high school seniors and Cal-Santa Barbara transfer Drew Murphy.
That ranking came out before the top prize in that freshman class, D Auston Trusty, decided to forgo college and turn professional this summer.
There still figures to be plenty of experience on hand, however, and the ACC coaches correspondingly voted UNC the preseason choice to win the conference championship.
The top three and five of the top seven scorers are back, led by forwards Tucker Hume, Alan Winn and Zach Wright.
Hume, a towering presence up front at 6-foot-5, did most of his work off the bench, leading the team in scoring despite averaging only 50 minutes per match.
He may fill the same super-sub role this season, as redshirt freshman Nils Bruening of Hamburg, Germany, has been impressive so far.
Redshirt sophomore Andy Lopez, redshirt freshman Jelani Pieters and freshman Nathaniel Adamolekun should see playing time as well.
Two freshmen, Cam Lindley and Mauricio Pineda, along with senior Warren Marshall will be called upon to fill holes in the center midfield, following the graduation of Raby George and the early departure for MLS by Holness, the Jamaica international, after his sophomore year.
On the flanks in the 3-4-3 alignment there are a multitude of candidates, including the transfer Murphy, junior David October, and redshirt senior Nico Melo.
Junior Colton Storm, who returns at outside defender, also might move up into the midfield if he isn’t needed on the back line.
With Storm in the midfield, he provides the advantage of a natural fourth defender when he drops back into the defensive alignment.
The defense has two other players with starting experience as well.
Walker Hume, Tucker’s twin brother, started in back two years ago before missing last season with a broken foot.
Alex Comsia started most of last season and will man the central role.
Redshirt sophomore Evan Krause and redshirt freshman Will Campbell are contending for a starting role as well on the outside, and their progress will help to determine where Storm ends up.
Redshirt sophomore James Pyle returns in goal, with freshman Drew Romig emerging as his backup.
Somoano on the Tar Heels:
“I think the strength is in the people that we have, just good characters, good teammates who want to play hard for the University. Our culture is always going to be our strength.”
Quick Notes – 2016 UNC Tar Heels
Coach: Carlos Somoano (76-19-16 in 5 years, all at UNC)
2015 record: 15-2-3, 6-1-1 ACC)
Finish: T-2nd ACC, advanced to NCAA 3rd round
Starters returning: 6
Preseason ranking: No. 8
Key losses: M Raby George 4-2-10, M Alex Olofson 2-3-7, M Omar Holness 1-1-3, D Jonathan Campbell 1-4-6, D Jordan McCrary 0-5-5
Key returnees: R-Sr. F Tucker Hume 11-5-27, Jr. F Alan Winn 6-4-16, Jr. F Zach Wright 5-5-15, R-So. M Andy Lopez 3-1-7, Sr. M-D Colton Storm 2-3-7, Sr. F Warren Marshall 2-0-4, Jr. D David October 0-4-4, R-So. GK James Pyle 11-1-2, 6 SO, 0.67 GAA
Top newcomers: R-Jr. Drew Murphy, M Cam Lindley, D Mauricio Pineda, F Nathaniel Adamolekun
Won’t play: Louisville, N.C. State (in ACC), Wake Forest