There are times when I wish I didn’t have to rank all my 77 in early June. Because quite a few things happen between then and kickoff. Of course, very few are as dramatic as what’s going on in Chapel Hill. I knew they were a college football program in turmoil, and that Butch Davis was in jeopardy. However, had I knew it was going to be interim leader and former Defensive Coordinator Everett Withers manning the sidelines, I would have ranked them in the 40s or 50s. Not that I’m so down on Withers. It’s just that any team firing it’s coach in August is in well, dire straits.
Still, there’s some NFL talent left on that defense. And I think the graduation of QB T.J. Yates could be addition by subtraction. Yes, I know he broke 37 school passing records, but that’s only because he started all four years. He’s like football Tyler Hansbrough- put up a lot of great numbers because he just wasn’t good enough to leave school early.
2010 was: predicted to be 80 degree, sunny and one big ole party. Preseason prognosticators saw that dominant defense and projected big things. Instead a category 5 storm of suspensions, NCAA investigations and eligibility issues hit the program and derailed their BcS chances. Although 8-5 with a bowl win is pretty solid- especially in a place where football is just a time-killer until Roy Williams gets his guys going. They’ll really need to improve that 76th in scoring, 94th in rushing offense from over last season.
BMOCs: New QB Bryn Renner is inexperienced, but he’s bigger, faster and more mobile than Yates; with a stronger arm. WR Dwight Jones will rip apart opposing ACC DBs, then maybe do the same in the NFL? RB Ryan Houston, DEs Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss. You haven’t heard from LB Zach Brown, but you will. The only reason he’s obscure is because he’s had to wait his turn behind Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter.
2011 will be fruitful if: If “North Carolina! C’mon raise up! take your shirt off, spin it round your head like a helicopter.” they figure out the 4/4 vacated starting spots in the secondary. The defense was pretty solid last year, plenty of talent, and the line will set the pace for everyone else. On both sides of the ball, the men in the trenches are what this program has been built around. They need to really establish the run too.
2011 will be awful if: There are so many potholes in their road to derailment (wait, train tracks don’t have potholes do they? Why am I mixing metaphors? It’s like my friend who did both his undergrad and grad work at UNC, has a co-worker who does that: “I need to get all my ducks in one basket.” And “get all my eggs in a row.”) Anyways, all the off-the-field issues could trip Carolina up. But they have some on-the-field issues too. It’s like approaching the girl who’s alone at the bar doing shots. It could be really good or really bad. You just know it won’t be boring.
Bottom Line: The defense is too talented, and the ACC too weak for them not to have a winning season. Yet this program is still to enter the eye of the hurricane. Somehow Withers will have to find a way to win amidst all the changes and future NCAA scrutiny. The Tar Heels will face a lot of fire this year due to past transgressions. And Withers is in the same situation as Ohio State’s Luke Fickell. Except much less so, because he’s not at a football school. But both could be dismissed by mid-season.
UNC Rankings: #36 Athlon, #31 Lindy’s, #29 Phil Steele
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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