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2007 UNC Football Preview

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Wins are not important this season.

This has really been my perspective since Butch Davis was hired. Coaching transitions are exceptionally tough and when it comes because the previous coach was fired for not getting the job done it becomes even more of a difficult task. It has also been my observation that Davis is handling this team very much like someone targeting the big picture. Obviously Davis is going the make every effort to put the best team on the field to win each game this season but at the same time I also think he will be trying to build experience on top of get a grasp on what each player is capable of bringing to the table in the upcoming seasons. Building a program takes time and UNC has young players learning a new system and where the guys standing behind the offensive line are concerned a great deal of anxiety as to whether the running and passing game is going to be effective. So in terms of this season, I am convinced the progress will be measured in terms of what the younger players gain in experience and what the coaching staff sees as it relates to how to best use the personnel. Outside of building the team on the field there is an element of changing the football culture in Chapel Hill to accommodate a upper tier program. Regaining the support and confidence of the fan base on the most basic level is almost as important as what happens on the field. 2007 is about setting the table for future feasts which does not mean we cannot enjoy some steak this season should things go right.

Offense

Questions, questions, questions. Can the offensive line move the opposing defense? Is there a legitimate tailback in the backfield? Will the QB of choice do more than just hold the line? If you consider four main parts of the offense there is basically one I am not worried about and that is the receiving corp. Hakeem Nicks is the real deal as he proved last season, Brandon Tate, Brooks Foster and Joe Dailey all should perform well. The issue everyone is asking is whether T.J. Yates can deliver the football to any of them? Can the offensive line give him time or block well enough for the running game to work? If they do that will a runner emerge from the group of Richie Rich, Anthony Elzy and Johnny White to keep opposing defenses honest? It takes balance for the offense to be effective and it will take some surprise performances from the unproven parts of this offensive machine to make that balance work. At this point no one knows for sure how the QB and tailback situation will unfold as the season progresses. Ideally I would like to see Mike Paulus redshirt and T.J. Yates to emerge to be a quality player. My gut instinct is that we will see better execution simply because these guys are better coached than a year ago. I would look for some big plays out of the receivers and the insertion of the H-back into the scheme could have an impact simply because it is a wrinkle defense have to deal with.

Defense

The defense appears to be more of a known commodity than the offense led my linebacker Durrell Mapp and safety Trimane Goddard. These two can be the playmakers on this defense and set the tone. Goddard was out all last season and is absolutely itching to get back into action. Davis has praised him for his effort and the athleticism he has shown. Mapp performed well a year ago despite playing in the shadow of Larry Edwards and is now the lynch pin of the attack on the opposing offenses backfield. Senior Hilee Taylor will anchor a defensive line which includes a gaggle of sophomore. All eyes will be on freshman Marvin Austin who was a five star recruit out of high school and considered to be someone who can play on the level as a Julius Peppers. Overall I expect the defense to be more consistent than the offense. Given the questions surrounding the offense there is a lot of pressure on the defense to hold the opposing team down to give the offense a chance to get on track.

Special Teams

This is perhaps UNC greatest strength, at least when it comes to both sides of the ball on kickoffs. Brandon Tate is a very dangerous return man and with the ball being backed up five yards this season he will have plenty of chances to establish field position for the offense and perhaps pop off a big run for six. And it is hard to believe that is has been three years since Connor Barth split the uprights and beat Miami in Chapel Hill. Good kickers are hard to come by and because of the ineptitude of the offense last season he only had 10 FG attempts. Obviously getting in the end zone is preferable but short of that making use of a good kicker is a bonus some teams cannot boast. There were concerns about the punting early in training camp. Davis says he feels that is resolved but only game play will tell us for sure.

Intangibles

While I have said wins are not as important this season I do think being competitive is an imperative. I also think a team on the field giving it all they have and willing to work hard for improvement's sake says a great deal about the direction of the program. My eye is on the big picture and those aspects of the game that do not necessarily show up in the box score. I Like every other Tar Heel fan I want to see a team working hard, playing smart and looking like it is heading in the right direction regardless of what the scoreboard or win-loss record says. That is my expectation, winning more than four games will be a bonus.

THF Game Predictions

September 1: James Madison, W 28-10
September 8: at ECU, W 31-28
September 15: Virginia, L 24-10
September 22: at South Florida, L 35-24
September 29: at Virginia Tech, L 31-13
October 6: Miami, L 20-14
October 13: SCAR, W 24-21
October 27: at Wake Forest, L 27-16
November 3: Maryland, L 24-14
November 10: at NC State, L 21-20
November 17: at Georgia Tech, L 30-23
November 24: Duke, W 33-10

Final Record: 4-8, 1-7 in the ACC

Some qualifications.

  • I think NC State is due a win against us but I also would not be surprised if we went to CFS and won which would make Pack Nation extremely entertaining to watch for the following week.
  • Gut instinct tells me we are going to snag an upset win. I have SCAR as the victim of that win which would make Gamecock nation entertaining to watch for the following week. Miami is a another good candidate for that surprise win.
  • ECU is good but I think there is a lot of pride riding on that one and the boys should be ready to play.
  • The Maryland and Virginia games are possibilities to go the other way if it unknown commodities we have on the field prove to be productive.
  • Worst case scenario is only 2-10 with wins over JMU and Duke. Best case scenario is 6-6 picking up two wins out of the MD-UVa-NCSU pool of games.