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A Statistical Look at the UNC Defense

While the UNC offense continues to be a bright spot for the Heels, the defense continues to be much maligned having trouble shaking the reputation of last season. The statistical truth about the UNC defense is that it is immensely better in a variety of ways over last season. Of course when you are ranked near the bottom of all Division I-A you have nowhere to go but up. However, when you consider this is still a very young team and a little thin in spots the fact the numbers have turned around so dramatically is encouraging:

2006 Rank 2007 Rank
Scoring Defense 30.5 ppg 104th 24.8 ppg 57th
Rushing Defense 172.75 ypg 100th 154.00 ypg 65th
Passing Defense 195.8 ypg 48th 193.8 ypg 37th
Total Defense 368.3 ypg 92nd 347.8 46th
Turnover Margin -0.92 113th -1.20 105th
3rd Down Conversions 43.1% 97th 42.1% 88th
Red Zone Success 93.4% 118th 82.6% 74th
Tackles for Loss
3.67 TFL/G 117th 7.00 TFL/G 29th
Sacks 1.96 SPG 71st 2.20 49th

The most noticeable improvements are in terms of points and yards given up per game. The nearly six point drop in scoring defense is a key change from last season where opponents scored at will. The total defense has also improved being 20 yards better the 2006 version of the Heels. Also on the positive side is the increase in number of sacks and tackles for a loss. In fact the TFL is a incredible jump from being the third worst in the nation at 3.76 tackles for loss per game to 7.0 this season.

In some areas the improvements on defense have been marginal but still heading in the right direction. The lack of much progress in the opponents third down conversion rate and red zone scoring is telling in that UNC has been really unable to step up and make a big play when needed. And the only stat that did not improve is the turnover margin which has actualy gotten a tad worse. UNC has done very little in the way of forcing turnovers which has hurt the Heels ability to set themselves up while also instantly killing an opponent's drive.

As I said previously, the defense is still not a good one but given where it was during 2006 the current state of the unit, in terms of stats, is so much better off. I also am loving the fact this team has shown some significant gains on defense despite the youth. The more experience this team gains the better the defense will get if they can stay away from the injury bug.