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UNC Football: 2023 Season Outlook

What might be in store for the Tar Heels this year?

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-North Carolina at Oregon Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve been going position by position to preview the 2023 North Carolina Tar Heels football team. (A full list of positional preview is available at the bottom of the article.) Now, we’re just over a week out from UNC’s season opener in Charlotte against South Carolina. So, it’s time to put all the puzzle pieces and try and figure out what this team will be in 2023.

In general, the single part of the team that probably everyone is most comfortable with going into this year is Drake Maye at quarterback. Maye was incredible last year as he took the starting realm, helping lead the Tar Heels to their second ever ACC Championship Game appearances. He, and the rest of the team, slumped a bit down the stretch, but he’s still expected to do big things this year. Beyond being projected as an early NFL Draft pick, he’s been named to numbers preseason award watchlists, the preseason AP All-American team, and was voted the preseason ACC Player of the Year.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any questions surrounding him and on the offense. For one, UNC has a new offensive coordinator in Chip Lindsey. While by accounts, he was at least partially hired with Maye in mind, there will still be some amount of adjustment from the Phil Longo era.

There’s also the matter of the other weapons in UNC’s offense. There’s certainly talent in the Carolina runner bank and receiver rooms, but the Tar Heels will have to replace their top two receivers by yards, and it would probably be preferable if Maye doesn’t end the season as the leading rusher again. The Tez Walker situation should hopefully be sorted by the time the first game starts, but that’s also thrown a wrench into plans for the moment. Despite all that, there’s still plenty of talent and plenty of reasons to optimistic for how good UNC’s offense could be in 2023.

That brings us to the defensive side of the ball. There are plenty of words to describe Carolina’s defense last season, and none of them are good. In the first year of the Gene Chizik 2.0 ERA, the Heels’ defense gave up 30.8 points per game and 6.1 yards per play. In a lot of games, the offense was still good enough to overcome that, but it was still often galling to watch.

It feels like the biggest key to 2023 is how much — if at all — the defense improves this year. If they take a decent sized step forward, than with the potential on offense, then it feels totally plausible that UNC is in the 10-win range again. If they’re similarly bad or only slightly better, then it feels unlikely that the Heels will be able to match the record of last season.

There is certainly talent on defense, and the hope is that another year of playing in Chizik’s system leads to improvement. There was also some turn over in personnel, especially in the secondary. Skepticism is more than fair, but having some hope for improvement is understandable.

One more thing to think about that is UNC’s schedule is decently tough. While the non-conference games against South Carolina and Minnesota won’t be against likely playoff teams, but they’re both very solid Power 5 programs. As we’ve seen in recent matchups against Appalachian State, that game won’t be a walk in the park. A road trip to Clemson is the biggest name on the ACC schedule, and there’s not many games in the league where you can’t envision a scenario that leads to a loss. UNC could be better than last year and not improve in the win column.

No matter what happens in the 2023 North Carolina football season, it has the potential to be fascination.

Positional Previews