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UNC @ Virginia Tech: Positional Grades

UNC’s worst loss since 2005 officially eliminated the team from bowl contention. But we already knew that.

North Carolina v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

If the Heels truly hit rock bottom last week against Virginia, then against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, we’ve drilled through the bedrock and are now on a one-way course to the center of the earth. The Hokies handed the Heels their worst defeat since a 69-14 drubbing courtesy of Louisville in 2005.

Things could always be worse, though; UNC’s worst loss in program history is a 66-0 defeat against Virginia way back in 1912, before the first World War. (Per James Howell’s amazing college football scores database.) With Miami coming to down next week, and the Heels several thousand miles beneath the crust of the earth, that might be in play. But let’s see how the Heels did this week.

QUARTERBACKS: 1.5/10. From the first drive of the game, UNC’s quarterback play was doomed. UNC QBs scored as many points for Virginia Tech as they did for the Tar Heels, with Chazz Suratt’s nice touchdown pass to Anthony Ratliff-Williams being canceled out by a Brandon Harris interception returned for a touchdown.

Sadly, Harris has entered the conversation of the worst quarterbacks in UNC football history. Surratt can only do so much to salvage things (and one of his turnovers was also returned for a touchdown), and Nathan Elliott even got some playing time, but was ineffectual, failing to complete any of his three passes.

RUNNING BACKS: 3/10. Jordon Brown and Michael Carter combined for 16 carries and 59 yards. They weren’t any more effective in the receiving game, either with only Carter recording any receptions, and even then he only caught a pair for 23 yards.

It feels unfair to harshly grade these guys, one of the rare position groups for Carolina that has gone for the most part been largely untouched by injury and as a result has fought hard all season. At times during the season, both Brown and Carter have had moments of utter brilliance. But it was not their day in Blacksburg.

WIDE RECEIVERS: 3.5/10. Likewise, you can’t really judge these guys, either. It’s hard to build chemistry with a quarterback when those same quarterbacks are unable to build any sort of rhythm whatsoever. Taking ARW’s 43-yard touchdown out of the equation, UNC WRs combined for a measly 5 receptions and 52 yards.

Fault for those paltry numbers doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of a position group that has been hurt equally by roster turnover and injury. Honestly, typing all of this out is pretty depressing. ARW’s touchdown gives them the edge over the running backs, but there’s very little else to say that hasn’t already been said.

TIGHT ENDS: 1/10. All that really needs to be said here is that UNC’s tight ends failed to register any receptions at all against VT. And with six sacks allowed and so few rushing yards by the Heels, it’s safe to say they didn’t block great either.

OFFENSIVE LINE: 2/10. That the Heels were able to register positive rushing yards at all is this position group’s only saving grace. As mentioned above, UNC QBs went down six times, and players were tackled behind the line of scrimmage a whopping thirteen times.

Virginia Tech is one of the best teams in the ACC and they played like it against UNC. We knew going in that the Heels would only be capable of so much. But this group is getting the grade it deserves, and 59-7 was the score UNC deserved.

DEFENSIVE LINE: 2.5/10. A pair of D-lineman, Aaron Crawford and Dajuan Drennon, combined for UNC’s only sack. Drennon added another TFL, and Jason Strowbridge managed to get credit for half a tackle for loss, but otherwise, the line was a non-factor. VT averaged 3.9 yards per rush and aside from the sack, no defensive lineman registered a single pressure on either of the two VT QBs who played.

LINEBACKERS: 3/10. UNC’s linebacking corps was largely anonymous on the day, for better and for worse. Cayson Collins recorded UNC’s sole quarterback pressure of the day aside from the aforementioned sack. Cole Holcomb and Ayden Bonilla each led this unit with six tackles, although it should be mentioned that they tied for fourth overall on the team.

SECONDARY: 5/10. It’s very much worth mentioning that, at halftime, the UNC defense had only allowed 14 out of the 35 points scored by Virginia Tech. The secondary played a large part in that. They were all over the field, with three and a half tackles for loss, J.K. Britt leading both teams with 11 tackles, and one thousand K.J. Sails celebrations. His three pass breakups felt like so much more.

In a season where UNC has been torn open by big plays, the secondary was not victimized as it has been in the past. The largest play they allowed was a 33-yard reception to Dalton Keene, and even then it didn’t score a touchdown. Instead...

SPECIAL TEAMS: 1.5/10. The special teams was miserable on Saturday, with a 91-yard punt return from Greg Stroman breaking the game wide open on the drive immediately after VT opened the scoring with a fumble return touchdown. ARW couldn’t get anything done even though VT kicked the ball off ten times in the game, and Freeman Jones wasn’t ever tasked with attempting a field goal. However...

TOM SHELDON: 10/10. Ten punts out of ten. Tom Sheldon Tha Gawd does it again. He celebrated his 29th birthday this past Thursday and like a fine wine he just gets better with age.