North Carolina Tar Heels 2015 Football Preview


The North Carolina Tar Heels cleaned house in the off season. It seems so long ago since they did they did so, but the team fired every defensive coach except one and he left for Notre Dame. The most important figure that was brought in was new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. The former national champion Auburn coach immediately changed the scene by ending the team’s love affair with the 4-2-5 defense. Hence forth, the Tar Heels are a 4-3 defensive team.

Chizik and his deputy John Papuchis may be the new cops in town, but Carolina’s problems were based on the lines on both sides of the ball. Senior quarterback Marquise Williams cannot be put in situations where he is running for life often. That would be a sign of gameplan failure. This is the last season that Williams gets to make his mark and it cannot be wasted.

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Coach: Larry Fedora – 4th year (55-36)

Coach Fedora showed there was more program builder in him than previously available as he shed his defensive staff including people who had been with him at Southern Miss to bring in position coaches with known reputations as recruiters. Fedora has been fighting restrictions from previous eras the whole way, but Tar Heel fans are waiting for a team that does more than cling to bowl eligibility.

Last Season – 6-7 (4-4 ACC)

Last season was the first real disappointment for the Fedora tenure. The season started slow with a heroic effort needed to beat San Diego State early in the year. Questionable decisions regarding the quarterback rotation seemed to prevent the team from getting any sort of momentum in the early going. The result was a 70-41 shellacking in Greenville by the ECU Pirates.

The team turned it around at midseason and put together a good string of victories. They bested Georgia Tech on an outside kick decision and beat Virginia close the next week. Miami’s run game blew a hole in the momentum, but the Heels came back to beat Pittsburgh and dominate Duke to seize a bowl bid.
The Duke performance was the best game of the season. The team must have known it too, since they proceeded to vandalize the Duke locker room and practice field with spray paint. They were dominated by State the next week and had little for Rutgers in the bowl game.

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Offense – Spread

The North Carolina offense will likely see improvement if its offensive line improves. The other weapons are all there. Williams is back for one more year. However the best sign for the Tar Heels is if Williams does not dominate the offensive stat sheet like he did last year. By that I mean rushing yards.

That will mean having healthy running backs the whole way. Both junior TJ Logan and sophomore Elijah Hood should be called on for more carries. It may be necessary to downplay the read option in the run game unless Williams proves better at surrendering the ball to the tailback.

The Tar Heel receiving corps still has a number of targets led by senior Quinshad Davis and junior Ryan Switzer. Switzer made the move from return weapon to slot receiver successfully last year. He will be expected to have a big year. He just needs to not try to do too much in the return game and just let it come to him like he did as a freshman.

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  • Defense – 4-3

    Do I have any idea what the defense will look like? Not really. However it will be better able to contest the line of scrimmage than it was last year. Moving Jesse Rogers from tackle to end should add some beef there, though it means asking Rogers to learn yet another position.

    The big difference will be moving Shakeel Rashad from the line (where he was the bandit) to the linebacking corps. Teams will have to account for the seventh man in the defensive front. Rashad’s development will be important as he spent much of his early career with one hand in the dirt. He has the chance to be one of the real surprises of the season.

    The secondary is probably the strongest area in terms of talent. This is especially so at the corners. However the team and the secondary as a whole need to prove that they can tackle. Poor tackling is probably number one on Chizik’s to-do list. This team needs it.

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  • Schedule:

    9/3 – South Carolina Gamecocks (Charlotte, NC)
    9/12 – North Carolina A&T Aggies
    9/19 – Illinois Fighting Illini
    9/26 – Delaware Blue Hens
    10/3 – AT Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
    10/17 – Wake Forest Demon Deacons
    10/24 – Virginia Cavaliers
    10/29 – AT Pittsburgh Panthers
    11/7 – Duke Blue Devils
    11/14 – Miami Hurricanes
    11/21 – AT Virginia Tech Hokies
    11/28 – AT NC State Wolfpack

    Prediction – 7-5 (4-4 ACC)

    The defensive transition will decide the season. A quick transition could open up win opportunities that are not considered here. That includes the South Carolina game. The defense may not be ready for game 1. The Georgia Tech game has the potential to be a coming out party or a wake-up call since the Tar Heels would have played two FCS teams and coach transitioning Illinois in the three weeks prior. Either the Yellow Jackets will show how much the defense has evolved. Then you can figure out what will happen the rest of the season.

    Next: Change Brewing in Illinois