The votes are in, and it’s time to crunch the numbers. Polls like this one always show diverse thinking from fans. It is also still very early in the preseason with only a handful of practices completed and position battles still going strong.
Let’s dive into our extremely nonscientific, just-for-fun preseason poll.
Offensive Player of the Year (Top 2):
QB Brandon Harris – 15
WR Austin Proehl – 12
Brandon Harris and Austin Proehl are the two clear-cut favorites for the Preseason Offensive POY. Both are expected to be the number one guy at their respective positions and have shown that they can make the big plays when it counts. RB Stanton Truitt received three votes. A smattering of others, including Juval Mollette, Anthony Ratliff-Williams, and Chazz Surratt received a few votes.
Offensive Rookie of the Year (Top 2):
RB Michael Carter – 23
WR Roscoe Johnson – 5
This one was cut and dry. Unless Chazz Surratt or Logan Byrd snag the starting role from Harris, Michael Carter has the best chance to be the top freshman with the tailback position battle being wide open. With questions in the receiving corps behind Austin Proehl and Thomas Jackson, redshirt-freshman Roscoe Johnson could stake a claim in the lineup and make a name for himself.
Defensive Player of the Year (Top 2):
CB M.J. Stewart – 14
LB Andre Smith – 12
These guys are studs on the defensive side, which is the most confident side of the ball for the Tar Heels. M.J. Stewart is an All-American waiting to happen. Last month he was named to the Bednarik Award Watch List. He already ranks third in career pass breakups with 29 and only needs 12 to set the new career record. He recorded 11 last season and 14 in his sophomore campaign. The ACC named him as the 29th best player in the ACC during their 30-day countdown. Andre Smith was the second leading tackler behind returning linebacker Cole Holcomb. He has become a vocal leader on the team and could see his numbers tick up as well.
Defensive Rookie of the Year:
DE Tomon Fox – 10
DE Jake Lawler – 10
Overall, voters thought that the best rookie would be on the defensive line. Tomon Fox played in two games a season ago, but was injured and granted a medical redshirt. In his game against Illinois, Fox tallied four tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. I’d say that’s a legitimate stat line. If he can stretch that out over a full season, he could very well see himself atop the Defensive Player of the Year polls as well as the Rookie of the Year.
Jake Lawler was a highly touted four-star home-state recruit out of South Mecklenburg HS in Charlotte, North Carolina and is expected to compete for the job left open by the graduation of Mikey Bart. However, he must break through Malik Carney, Dajaun Drennon, and Fox. CB Tre Shaw (5), LB Malik Robinson (4), DB Dazz Newsome (3), S Myles Wolfolk (3) all received a small amount of votes.
Overall Player of the Year:
QB Brandon Harris – 13
WR Austin Proehl – 10
LB Andre Smith – 9
CB M.J. Stewart – 2
This surprises me to some degree. With the emphasis on the defense this season, many of you expect the offense to have the top player. If Harris can live up to the hype, the offense will be pleasantly surprising. It is extremely shocking that Stewart only received two nods for preseason POY, especially since he beat out Smith for our preseason DPOY.
Regular Season Record Prediction:
Many seem to think that the Tar Heels will finish the regular season somewhere between seven and nine wins. Las Vegas set the win-total for Carolina at seven, so this poll is right in line with that thinking. For the Tar Heels to reach the 10-win regular season mark, they will need big-time victories over a few preseason Top 25 teams including Louisville (17th), Miami (18th), and Virginia Tech (22nd). Match ups against other teams receiving votes (Duke, Notre Dame, Pitt, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State) could pose a threat to a double-digit win season. My vote stands at 8-4 (Losses to Louisville, Miami, Pitt, and Notre Dame).
The majority thought that the Tar Heels would finish their 2017-2018 campaign with a bowl victory (some even predicted a Liberty or Belk Bowl win). This would be the fifth consecutive bowl under Larry Fedora, but only their second bowl win for the Tar Heels in that span, losing the last three trips. My prediction is that we finish the season at 9-4 after a upper-to-mid level bowl win.
What are your thoughts? Do you think this poll holds up through the season? We will check back as the season progresses to see if we were right or wrong on these predictions.