North Carolina Tar Heels
The North Carolina Tar Heels finished 8-4 last year and will now be bowl-eligible and ACC title-eligible this season. Head coach, Larry Fedora, was modestly successful in his first season at North Carolina. Fedora’s spread offense produced more than 40 points a game, setting school records along the way. On the other side of the ball, the defense was a disappointment, allowing at least 28 points in seven of their twelve games last year. The same might be true for the Tar Heels this year, as the offense should be explosive again, while the defense has several holes to fill heading into this season.
The offense also has gaps to be filled, but senior QB Bryn Renner is a solid quarterback, and his supporting cast offers hope. Renner has not disappointed Tar Heel fans over the past couple years and he will use his final year in college as a launching pad to the 2014 NFL Draft. Renner threw for 3,356 yards and 28 touchdowns, while only throwing 7 interceptions last season. Senior LT James Hurst is an excellent offensive lineman and will have the duty of protecting Renner’s blindside again this year. Sophomore WR Quinshad Davis has the potential of being an outstanding player this year and Renner will throw the ball his way consistently. North Carolina RB Giovani Bernard was an outstanding all-around talent last season, but his absence will be felt. However, the Tar Heels will rely on more of a committee approach in the backfield this season. Senior RB A.J. Blue and sophomore RB Romar Morris will be a great one-two punch for North Carolina. The Tar Heels will be in year two of the up-tempo system and should have no problem producing big numbers again in 2013.
The North Carolina defense was a huge disappointment last year despite having a load of talent. The graduations of DT Sylvester Williams and LB Kevin Reddick leave some holes to be filled heading into the 2013 season. The strength of the Tar Heel’s defense is in the secondary and ACC teams will have trouble throwing the ball on North Carolina. However, teams should be able to run the ball against North Carolina with much success unless some young players step up. The linebacker unit is soft after losing Reddick to the NFL and junior LB Travis Hughes will be the only proven linebacker with big play potential heading into this season. The Tar Heels will miss Williams as well, but North Carolina has added depth at defensive tackle with former DE Tim Jackson moving inside. Senior DE Kareem Martin will be a key piece and the best player on the defensive line this season. Senior FS Tre Boston is arguably the best player on North Carolina’s defense. Boston can not only cover the pass but can also lay the wood in run defense, finishing with a team-high 86 tackles and 4 interceptions a season ago. Boston has been recognized as a preseason All-ACC player and he will need to consistently make big plays for the North Carolina defense to be successful in 2013.
The season will be a success if the Tar Heels do no worse than last year’s 8-4 record. North Carolina will most likely earn an extra game or two now that they are bowl-eligible, so 8 wins or more is not out of the question. The Tar Heels will have the challenge of maintaining their high level of play despite losing five players to the 2013 NFL Draft. Opponents will struggle to slow down the Tar Heel offense again, so their overall success will depend on how the defense can perform. The schedule is tough early on, as North Carolina will play South Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech on the road in their first five games. However, the Tar Heels play Boston College and NC State instead of playing the likes of Clemson or Florida State during the regular season.