I've held off on writing previews of the upcoming football season so far this summer for one simple reason. I can't really make up my mind on how UNC is going to do. I've spent more than a few long runs debating various aspects of last year's team, but to no avail. Nothing's clicking for me. Today's preseason All-ACC team announcement, with the inclusion of three Tar Heels on defense, has definitely brought out one reaction on the internet though - does this mean there will be more sacks this season?
Make no mistake about it, last year UNC didn't put a premium on putting the other quarterback in the dirt. Their 1.5 sacks per game was second only to Clemson for worst in the ACC, and as a consequence faced the most passing attempts in the conference. But the defensive line was pretty good; they weren't pushed. And of the scramble quarterbacks UNC faced in 2008: (Josh Nesbitt, Tyrod Taylor, Russell Wilson, and Pat White) three of four were held to below average rushing, with Wilson, who I'm not sure faced any defense in that particular game, being the exception. All season the defense seemed to be focused on containment, coupled with interceptions (2nd in the ACC, and good or four touchdowns). This often worked, especially in late game situations – see Notre Dame and Miami – but sometimes was, well, less than successful, such as when overtime hit in Virginia.
So I look at the lack of sacks as a deliberate strategy rather than a failure in coaching. Unless, well, you consider it a bad plan, in which case it is a failure in coaching. The turnover-dependent strategy is pretty risky (Matt Hinton doesn't approve) but it probably fit the young, not particularly deep defense of the past two years. They're older now, though; will the strategy change? Should the strategy change?