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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #33

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 12, 2013

2013 Fierce 40 Previews

 

#33 North Carolina

 

2012 Recap:

The Tar Heels went 8-4 last season but were not eligible for a bowl game and they seemed to stay just outside of being ranked all season. This has to be seen as a very successful season since it was the first for Larry Fedora after coming over from Southern Mississippi.

Coaching:

Larry Fedora now gets to take the Tar Heels and contend for the ACC title. The recruiting classes have dipped a little in recent years but North Carolina landed back in the top 20 this year and it should be something that continues as North Carolina continues to produce top picks at the NFL level.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Bryn Renner set a North Carolina record with 28 touchdown passes for an offense that averaged 40.6 PPG in 2012. Renner will project at the pro level and will be taken somewhere in rounds 4-7 (I currently have him pegged in round 6). If North Carolina takes control of the ACC, Renner may even be a player that gets some Heisman Trophy consideration.

North Carolina redshirt sophomore Giovani Bernard left for the NFL a year ago where he was the first running back off the board. Even with the loss though the Tar Heels still have talent and experience returning to the backfield. Power back A.J. Blue had 10 touchdowns and nearly 500 yards a season ago. Pair Blue with Romar Morris, a player who had over 400 yards and averaged over 6.0 YPC, and you have a great combo. Blue could be a 7th round or UFA in a camp that could see some heavy interest at the next level due to his size.

Best Draft Prospect: Bryn Renner QB 6th Round 2014.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Quinshad Davis burst onto the season with 61 catches for 771 yards and 5 touchdowns as a true freshman after being a very highly-prized recruit. Davis has all the tools needed for the next level but has yet to showcase elite speed. If Davis does show another gear, he could be the top receiver in his class. Looking at his build and characteristics he seems very similar to former Tar Heel Hakeem Nicks, who did go in the first round but his lack of top end speed pushed him down the board. Mark McNeill and Sean Tapley are the other receivers and they have game experience, but the key to the passing game lies with tight end Eric Ebron. Ebron caught 40 passes a season ago but his presence will keep defenders honest and the middle of the field open for players like Davis and the rest of the receiving corps to make plays. Ebron is a late round prospect for 2015. His blocking shows promise but he lacks consistency at the point of attack when engaging blockers.

Best Draft Prospect: Quinshad Davis WR 2nd Round 2016.

 

Offensive Line:

A huge front line with plenty of experience and size is what North Carolina brings to the table. The only starter not at 300 pounds is the best prospect they have, tackle James Hurst, who usually plays at a lean 290-295 despite his 6'7" frame. He is very mobile and will be one of the tackles competing for the #3 position off the board behind Matthews from Texas A&M and Lewan from Michigan. Hurst came back for his senior season and admitted most of it was due to the fact that he wanted to show he was a first round player, and he could prove it once highly valued Johnathan Cooper was gone. Cooper was the 1st guard off the board in 2012 at #7 overall and now Hurst has his chance. Hurst is a lock to be picked somewhere in the 15-25 range of round 1 as his blocking in open space makes him a hot commodity at the next level. A player who could join him and leave early is center Russell Bodine who I currently have ranked as the #1 center in the 2015 class. We usually see 1-2 centers declare but it is not as likely since usually only one and maybe two are picked in the first round. If any collegiate center declares this year my money is on Bodine who would be a 1st/2nd round selection. I feel his decision may come down to the play and health of Arkansas prospect Travis Swanson who will likely compete with him in the eyes of scouts as being the cream of the crop in the middle of the line.

Best Draft Prospect: James Hurst OT 1st Round 2014.

 

Defense

Defensive Line

While North Carolina ranked in the middle of the pack last year in scoring defense, they were among the worst in giving up plays of more than 20 yards from scrimmage.  Even though North Carolina gave up so many big plays they also averaged over 8 plays per game that resulted in a tackle for loss, a stat placing them among the leaders in the country, showing this to be a feast or famine type of defense. The individual talent is off the charts, but playing in a scheme as a unit is something that has yet to be attained. Now with another year in Vic Koenning’s defense North Carolina should eliminate the big plays and this could allow them to compete for the conference title. Kareem Martin is just the man I am speaking of when talking about individual talent with 40 tackles and 4 sacks with 15.5 tackles coming for loss. Martin has textbook defensive end size at 6'6" 260 lbs and I have him currently listed as the 21st pick in the upcoming draft with my preseason mock. North Carolina employs a traditional 3-4 set and the challenge will be for Ethan Farmer to step in for Sylvester Williams who was lost to the NFL last season. The Tar Heels lost a lot of production at the linebacker spot so there will be even more pressure on the front line to perform. The Heels need some players to step up to ensure Martin is not constantly double-teamed.

Best Draft Prospect: Kareem Martin DE 1st Round 2014.

                       

Linebackers:

The area with the most concern along the defense has to be at linebacker where Kevin Reddick was lost to the NFL after leading the team with 6.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss and finishing second in tackles with 85. The Tar Heels have a lot of athletes who can fill gaps but of the four linebackers starting there are question marks concerning getting to the quarterback and applying pressure off of the edge. Sophomore Shakiel Rashad was a highly touted prospect but he seems to struggle with separating from blocks and players who are a lot stronger than him, he will need to work on his upper body strength if he wants to be considered a true NFL prospect. P.J. Clyburn has the task of trying to replace Reddick and that is something that seems to be impossible at this time, so we may see multiple players thrust into the role for effectiveness.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A.

 

Secondary:

Tre Boston led this team with 86 tackles as a junior and he is the #1 strong safety prospect for the senior class of 2014. Unfortunately for Boston there are 4-6 underclassmen at the position that could declare and be selected before him. Even though I have Boston as the top prospect at strong safety I do not have him being selected until the 3rd round in my preseason mock draft. Boston just needs to concentrate on trying to replicate the season he had in 2012, and with the dropoff at linebacker, he should have plenty of chances to see his tackle numbers go even higher as a senior. Tim Scott started to show some signs of coming around last season and he will be a junior this year. As his play got better, teams started to avoid him wherever he was on the field. Look for North Carolina to use more packages to disguise where he is on the football field and move him around as much as they can. This is also due to the fact that he does a great job at rushing the quarterback off the edge on the blitz. Scott did not register a sack but he can get into the backfield as evidenced by his 5.5 tackles for loss and his 13 passes defensed led the Tar Heels. There will be an extreme amount of pressure on this team if the departures from 2012 create less pressure on the quarterback.

Best Draft Prospect: Tre Boston S 3rd Round 2014.

 

Schedule:

Three of the first five games are on the road and with South Carolina (Opener), Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels are looking at some stiff tests right out of the gate. If Carolina can make it to November with three losses or less this team could run the table on the backend and make a late push for the conference crown.

Draft Outlook:

North Carolina has had no shortage of talent as last season they had five players taken in the first three rounds. With Kareem Martin and James Hurst looking like 1st rounders along the defensive and offensive lines respectively, they will be a team that scouts watch closely. Throw in other players of interest like Tre Boston, Bryn Renner, Time Scott and Quinshad Davis and you can see they will be on the radar for a few years to come.

 

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