Thus far in 2009 the Tar Heel defense has been as advertised. After three games here are the relevant defensive stats(national ranking in parenthesis):
Total defense: 198 ypg(7th)
Passing defense: 146 ypg(15th)
Rushing defense: 52 ypg(7th)
Scoring defense: 11.0 ppg(11th)
Fumbles recovered: 3(38th)
Turnovers gained: 7(t- 29th)
Tackles for loss: 26 total, 8.6 per game(10th)
Sacks: 8 total, 2.6 per game(29th)
3rd down conversion: 22%(6th)
4th down conversion: 50%(51th)
Red zone defense: 83%(59th)
After three contests UNC has a top ten defense nationally. The Heels are 7th overall in total defense holding teams under 200 yards per game and 11th overall holding teams to 11.0 ppg. As I pointed out previously 20 of the 33 points UNC has surrendered came after the offense turned the ball over in the Heels' end of the field. That is actually indicative of the only real complaint about the Heels offense so far and that is an 83% conversion rate in the red zone by opposing teams. It seems that UNC does a great job of keeping teams from moving the ball but if you can get some field position down deep in the Tar Heel end of the field, you have a great chance of scoring. The easiest solution is for the offense to take care of the football so the defense has more field to work with. In lieu of that the defense needs to buckle down a little more when facing a team that has driven into their end. One of the items to really get excited about is the 3rd down conversion being 22%. That points to clutch plays being made by the defense when it counts. In 2008 the 3rd down conversion rate was 43% which reared its ugly head in late game situations when the Heels used that cursed prevent. That appears to no longer be the case and UNC is more than willing to be aggressive on 3rd down.
Overall the numbers are plenty good enough to build a house on. The one caveat here is that none of the teams UNC has faced are really world beaters on the offensive end. ECU was just as woeful against West Virginia as they were against UNC. That being said I do fine the Connecticut game log interesting in terms of their offensive output:
vs Ohio: 386 yards, 23 points
vs UNC: 196 yards, 10 points
vs Baylor: 382 yards, 30 points
What I mostly take away from these numbers is that the Tar Heel defense is meeting expectations. The defensive scheming has been very good and we have only seen hints of the bend but don't break mentality of 2008. The front seven have been very aggressive in pressuring the opposing team's backfield making the job easier for the secondary.
Now if Butch Davis can get 10-15 yards on each punt, the Heels can really keep teams controlled in their end of the field.