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Opponent Preview: NC A&T

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Carolina will look to bounce back against the Aggies of North Carolina A&T

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

For those of you new to the blog, welcome! This is the weekly opponent preview where I create a scouting report on the Heels' opponent for the week. At the end I hand out the three weekly assignments--the keys to the game for a Carolina win or aspects of the Heels' performance they need to work on to be a better team going forward. How well the Heels did on their assignments will be covered in the Weekly Report Card, my game recap .

After a disappointing loss in Charlotte the Heels open their home slate in Chapel Hill against NC A&T. The Aggies had a completely different first game, walloping Shaw 61-7 at home last week. The Aggies should come into Kenan full of confidence after their week one blowout win.

Passing Offense:

The Aggies will be led by redshirt freshman Lamar Raynard who will make his second career start on Saturday. Raynard is a pocket style passer but also a capable runner. Raynard was strong against Shaw (not that that's a huge accomplishment) but he did throw a pick-six to give the Bears their only points. For the most part Raynard did not have to do a lot against Shaw throwing for 188 yards and three scores with the one interception. His top receiving target will be junior Denzel Keyes who had 119 receiving yards against Shaw (that's 63% of Raynard's passing yards). Keyes has a reputation for making spectacular and athletic catches, something the Aggies will probably need a lot of if they are to try to upset the Heels.

Rushing Offense:

The Heels will primarily need to concern themselves with the A&T ground attack. The Aggies prefer to run more than throw and Carolina should be able to exploit this by having FBS defensive linemen against the FCS Aggies. However, the Heels did quietly allow more than 5 yards per carry against South Carolina this is not necessarily a given. The primary A&T tailback will be Tarik Cohen, who had 106 yards and two scores last week. Cohen is the preseason Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference offensive player of the year so Carolina will need to make more than a token effort to stopping him if the Aggie line can get any push up front. Carolina also had issues with direct snaps to runners last week, so look for Raynard to have a couple QB keepers thrown in there to try to get a few cheap first downs.

Defense:

The Aggies destroyed Shaw on defensive side of the ball last week. They allowed 81 total yards of offense last week and forced two turnovers, one of which was a pick six. Shaw completed fewer than 50% of their passes against the Aggie secondary and the Aggies generated a good amount of pressure. They should not be able to smother Carolina in the same way; but, Marquise Williams can not give the Aggies the gifts he gave South Carolina since they will be able to capitalize on Carolina's mistakes. Carolina should look to get a good push up front to establish the run, taking pressure of Williams to let him get back in a groove.

Weekly Assignments:

A repeat performance from Elijah Hood:

Elijah Hood was awesome last week, but he was also in his home town. Against an inferior team, Hood could take the primary running responsibilities all to himself with a good performance. The coaches should let Hood get about 15-20 carries depending on the score and see if he can't get about 150 yards and find the end zone. But Hood was not anywhere near that impressive last year, and the Heels should try to figure out if he can continue to produce at his week one levels in a low stakes environment.

Clean up the mistakes:

This is basically for Marquise Williams to clean up the interceptions and the poor decisions he made in week one. It would also be nice if Des Lawrence catches the pick sixes thrown his direction in the future. There were also mistakes in play calling (not running on goal to go from the 3, which Fedora later said was due to a miscommunication of some kind) and the coaching staff should try to work out all the kinks so that there are not screw ups in high pressure situations down the road.

Stop the run:

Carolina for the most part passed the eye test against the run last week but still gave up more than 200 yards on the ground and more than 5 yards per carry. The Heels should work hard to rebound against A&T, stopping Cohen should be the Heels' top priority and it would be a great sign if they can hold A&T to about 2 yards per carry.