Nov 30, 2013; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels safety Brandon Ellerbe (20) and wide receiver Mack Hollins (13) and long snapper Conor Fry (61) and defensive lineman Allen Champagne (91) react after Hollins fumble recovery in the second quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina Tar Heels vs Liberty Flames Preview

The North Carolina Tar Heels have had an embattled off-season that has seen their senior class diminish to eight players. That drama continued this past week as the team suspended four players from the Liberty game for ‘breaking team rules.’ Reports are around that the team rules in question are related to a possible hazing incident where the victim was a walk-on receiver. The four players serving suspension are all defensive backs and two of them, Brian Walker and Des Lawrence, were the projected starters at their positions.

The Tar Heels received some good news that defensive lineman Ethan Farmer would be cleared to play this season by the NCAA. Farmer was a projected starter at defensive tackle.

The Tar Heels finished last season strong, and they will need to parlay that into a quick start this season. Waiting to slow them down are the Liberty Flames of the FCS. The Tar Heels will be answering questions about quarterback play and how the running backs will divide the time in the backfield. New offensive linemen will need to get comfortable with each other. Also, the depth of the secondary will be tested with the suspensions all hitting that part of the defense.

Day: August 30

Time: 6:00 PM

TV: ESPN3 (Online Stream)

Venue: Kenan Memorial Stadium (Chapel Hill, NC)

Last Time: First Meeting Between the Two Teams

Sep 1, 2012; Winston Salem, NC, USA Liberty Flames head coach Turner Gill watches a replay during the third quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T field. Wake Forest defeated Liberty 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Liberty Flames

Liberty is the defending Big South co-Champion as they went 4-1 in the Big South as did Coastal Carolina, who had a better overall record. They are in their third year under former Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill, who enjoyed success at Buffalo and a tough time at Kansas before coming to the Flames. Gill runs a more spread style offense with elements of the option sprinkled in.
His QB coach is former Tar Heel quarterback Joe Dailey, who Gill recruited to Nebraska once upon a time. Dailey is a believer in the spread system, and as another former Nebraska quarterback is the perfect mouthpiece to put Gill’s ideas into practice.

That means that a lot of emphasis is placed on the quarterback position, and Liberty returns a good one. Redshirt junior Josh Woodrum passed for 2500 yards and 19 touchdowns to go with four interceptions. He threw at a 65% completion percentage, and this has to be the major concern for the Tar Heel defense. No one wants to find out how good those second or third string corners are.

Defensively, Liberty held their opponents to three scores or less all but twice on the season. They are a veteran unit, and so the Tar Heel offensive line will need to be ready. They held opponents to 313 yards per game last year.

Prediction: 48-20 Tar Heels
ONJ Season record: 1-0

The idea that the Fedora offense would self-combust over the course of the game is silly to me. Regardless of the quarterback, that will be matchup, depth, and pacing issues that Liberty will not be able to match. The only thing they could do is to try to keep up in a shootout, and I suspect that Norkeithus Otis and the pass rush will not let them get very far with that idea.

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Tags: ACC Football Joe Dailey Josh Woodrum North Carolina Tar Heels Turner Gill

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