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The Debate: Can a late start to football be good for UNC?

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Spend the weekend evaluating the effect of a late college football start.

NCAA Football: Mercer at North Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to The Debate. Each week, this article presents a topic for debate. Whether in the comments section, on the golf course, or around the weekend game table (with proper social distancing of course), the goal is to provide enough background that either side could be a winner. In order to facilitate the discourse, a suggested beverage pairing is also included. So speak up, mix it up, and drink up.

College football is coming back, sort of. Walk-throughs and team meetings are starting two weeks early for conditioning to help compensate for a quarter of the year being inactive. That is a lot of rust to shake off. This article is not about the wisdom of coming back to practice and starting the season. This is not an evaluation of the states that opened early or those that are seeing rising cases. We are not even considering schools like Houston that were back for about a day before cases started to rise and the program was shut down.

Instead, we are going to look at the positives. No, I do not mean the positive tests. I mean the optimistic side that says there may be bumps in the road and there is a likelihood that all will not go smoothly, but football will be played in late August. With that, its time for the show.

The Debate for the week of June 19: Will an uneven college football preseason benefit or hurt the Heels?

Point: Carolina is poised to dominate in the current environment.

There has not been much time on campus and coaches have had almost no time in person with their teams. Who does this hurt the most? First year coaches and those trying to totally rebuild programs. In the ACC, that checks off Jeff Haley at Boston College, Manny Diaz at Miami, and Geoff Collins at Georgia Tech.

Another big point of suffering comes at quarterback. Sam Howell dominated as a first year starter and a true freshman at that. Impressively, he was perhaps best in the fourth quarter when the team really needed it. He will be comfortable in the pocket with our without extended practice. You know who won’t? Brennan Armstrong at Virginia, Chase Brice at Duke, and Dennis Grosel at Boston College (double whammy). For those keeping count, that’s over half of the Coastal getting the brunt of the damage.

This process of elimination leaves only Virginia Tech and Pitt as reasonable opponents.

Consider this, however: Carolina returns almost all of its already potent offense. Back are running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. Returning are receivers Dazz Newsome, Dyami Brown, Beau Corrales, and Toe Groves. This is a stacked offense that all played together last year. This is a huge advantage in a disrupted offseason.

Additionally, the quarterback of the defense is back. Chazz Surratt will return for his second season at linebacker and he is poised to be a star. Always in the right place last year, Surratt should be more adept at finishing plays and dominating in the backfield.

An unusual offseason is just an excuse for this team to make big gains on the opposition and compete on the national level.

Counterpoint: A young team with key losses needed consistency.

This is not exactly a veteran squad with a long-time established program and no key losses. Charlie Heck and Jason Strowbridge are gone. They anchored the line on both sides and provided tremendous leadership. Their losses are greater than one might thin. Sure, those players could be replaced, but that would take time and practice and coaching.

This offseason does not provide a lot of any of those.

Mack Brown had a great first year, but it was his first year. Many of the current players do not even have a consistent off-season routine to fall back on. This is a very young team that needed the scheduled activities of a full offseason and the structured environment of a regular regimen. Instead, they have been sitting at home.

In a couple of years, when players have been around for several years under the coaching staff and new recruits are regularly coming in, things will be easier. Players would be in a position to be leaders without coaches. This program is not developed to that point yet. As exciting as last year was and as great as this recruiting class looks, this is a young and inexperienced group even by college football standards.

The truth is that consistent winning in college football takes time and this group has not had enough of it.

Time for you to decide! Will an uneven off-season help or hurt this year’s gridiron Heels? Is one year sufficient to drive offseason momentum with a gunslinger at the helm or is more coaching and consistency needed to gain on the rest of the country?

Drink Pairing

In need of encouragement to debate – Let me say a special thank you to all those who sent words of encouragement and support over these past weeks. I’ll find the courage to write more in the future but for now, we should all just settle in for a Beam and water. I miss you Dad.