Who will step up to replace Trimane Goddard?
Last season, the UNC defense made intercepting opposing QBs look easy. A large part of that came from a talented secondary which included Goddard at safety Goddard has since graduated taking with him some clutch plays which saved two Tar Heel wins last season against Miami and Notre Dame. Left to fill the void is preseason All-ACC pick Kendric Burney at one of the cornerback slots. Opposite him, Charles Brown, who happen to beat out 2008 starter Jordan Hemby. Needless to say, the Heels have depth at corner.
In the safety positions, Deunta Williams returns coming off a season where he tied for 2nd most INTs with Kendric Burney collecting three in 2008. However the focus in the secondary will fall squarely on Da'Norris Searcy who must step into Goddard's shoes at strong safety. Not an easy task for Searcy who also will pull duty as the punt returner. Searcy was originally recruited as a linebacker/running back but has since been converted to the safety slot. Now he has rather large shoes to fill stepping in for Goddard who was the heart and soul of the Tar Heel defensive backfield and possibly the whole team last season.
The bottom line is during last season, the secondary did a lot of bailout work on defense. The Heels gave up far too many yards and the lack of aggressive call playing along the defensive line has been well documented. Because there was little pressure on the QB, the secondary was often placed in a position of having to cover receivers while the QB sat in the pocket biding his time. The fact UNC collected the number of INTs they did was fairly impressive under those circumstances. This season, the defense should be more balanced and if we see frequent pressure in the pocket, it will not only put less pressure on the secondary but perhaps even open the door for more in the way of INTs.
In short, the defense has at least one potential impact player in each unit and a group of talented players capable of making plays alongside those guys. If the coaches do their jobs it will mean they have turned the defensive players loose to do what they do best. Given the questions on offense, the defense will have the pressure and hopefully the pleasure of shutting down opposing teams on a regular basis.