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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #16 North Carolina

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 5, 2016

#16 North Carolina Tar Heels

2015 Recap:
The year started with the Tar Hells dropping a 17-13 opener against South Carolina after having their final effort intercepted in the end zone while in the red zone themselves. The Tar Heels then reeled off 11 straight victories to take the ACC Coastal title before falling to Clemson in the Conference title game and then to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl to finish 11-3.


Coaching:
Larry Fedora was in the important 4th year or what many would call a make-it-or-break-it year and he ended up earning his contract extension. Chris Kapilovic has been promoted to offenisve coordinator where he takes over a unit that ranked #18 overall last season and finished 9th in PPG at 40.7. The defense sees Gene Chizek back for a second season.


Offense

Marquise Williams leaves after his record-setting year after throwing for over 3,000 yards and running for another 950 but Mitch Trubinsky looks like he will be even better. The junior completed 40-47 for 555 yards and 6 touchdowns without an interception last season. Trubinsky has a great stable of receivers to throw to led by little Ryan Switzer who is just as dangerous as a return man. Bug Howard and Mack Hollins will be the other starting receivers although sophomore tight end Brandon Fritts may be the most talenetd pass catcher that the Tar Heels have to offer. Fritts had 4 touchdowns as a frswhman and he could reach double digits as a red zone target for 2016.Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan are a magnificent 1-2 punch at running back as they combined for 1,863 yards and 22 touchdowns last year. North Carolina only gave up 16 sacks in 2015 and Jon Heck has first round potential along the right side of the line at the tackle position.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Jon Heck OT 2nd Round 2017.

                                       Brandon Fritts TE 3rd/4th Round 2019.


Defense

Many could look at the Tar Heels 95th ranking overall in total defense and wonder if Gene Chizek had an impact last season. WEhile the numbers are still low the Tar Heels improved by allowing 62 fewer yards per games and 14.5 PPG. While North Carolina was 95th in total defense they were a respectable 42nd in scoring defense at 24.5 PPg indicating a "bend-but-don't break" approach. It can also be pointed out that North Carolina got out to leads so fast that there were a number of teams that gained yards and not points against the defense. The biggest weakness would be the 23 sacks the Tar Heels posted, a number that was 2nd last in the conference. The Heels were also 122nd in stopping the run. Des Lawrence and at cornerback and Donnie Miles at safety both have NFL talent in the secondary for North Carolina. The two combined for 187 stops with a pair of interceptions and 16 passes defensed. The linebacker play has to improve where a pair of sophomores will figure heavily this season in the defensive success with Andre Smith in the middle and Cole Holcomb on the outside.

Best Draft Prospects: Des Lawrence CB 4th Round 2017.

                                      Donnie Miles S 2nd/3rd Round 2018.


Special Teams:

Ryan Switzer is the main attraction for the special teams as his seven career touchdowns on special teams is one shy of the NCAA record. Switzer is the primary punt returner but he will return some kickoffs if needed. T.J. Logan serves as the primary kickoff return man. Nick Weiler enters his senior season as the kicker and carolina has had some great ones in the past. Punter Jerry Mangoli is also a senior. North Carolina has one of the best special teams units in the conference and they have more experience than anyone in the ACC.


Schedule:

Carolina opens with a neutral site game against Georgia and it will be the first game for Mark Richt at the helm so nobody knows exactly what to expect. Miami and Florida State are both road games so this isn't one of the easier schedules in the conference.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

North Carolina has been churning out terrific NFL prospects but they were unable to put together a great team season until 2015. North Carolina may not reach those heights this season but there is no reason to think why they couldn't be in contention for the ACC Coastal Title once again and fight for the right to face what looks to be Clemson or Florida State for the Conference crown.

DJ Boyer