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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

UNC Revisited

From reader and frequent commenter Bee 2636 regarding our passing over of his Tarheels in our preseason Top 25 review a couple weeks ago.

OK, here's my buck-twenty on UNC (inflations has killed any 2 cents worth).

First a disclaimer: this is not a scouting report and any use of this material without the express, written permission of the Commish of the ACC, The UNC System, UNC Athletics, is forbade lest you die at the hands Rameses and his killer ninjas.

19. North Carolina (I dunno--sportwriters, I was THERE)

This might be a more questionnable year than 2008 ( the Coastal table was set for us three separate times and we dropped our utensils every time).

Hurdle: "North Carolina always has been/is/always will be a 'basketball school'."

(so thinks/sez the majority of the state..maybe even the country). Charlie 'Choo Choo' Justice (R.I.P.), Dick Crum and Mack Brown would argue their point. One of the keys to breaking 'the myth' is to have solid coaching, recruiting and talent for more than a 3-5 yr coaching experiment. Which leads to my next two points.

Recruiting: The 2009 class of 29 signees posted in the Top 10 (depending on who/what you read anywhere from #5 to #8) which IS important when your goal is to make that same tier

in the National Rankings, but as we all know, no immediate impact threats. Where Crum, Brown (still love 'ya -- Hook-em Horns) and Davis succeed(ed) is holding on to the best in-state talent while balancing it with some national draws (Exposure..Exposure..Exposure--Gawd, I'm sounding like Edsall). The biggest draw for Butch has been running Pro-Set at the collegiate level (kids know Option as Pat pointed out, and a lot of coaches view the

spread, or variations of it, as a fad). A lot of talented recruits with NFL aspirations are buying-in on the notion of playing somewhere giving an advantage in preparing for the next level.

Coaching: No doubt, Butch Davis can coach and recruit. The issue will be can he sustain it under the modern 'Won or Done' regimes. My gut feeling is he a) stays put (alma mater -Arkansas already came a callin'), b) is successful, c) makes this his last coaching stint, d) builds a solid program (not year-in/year-out Top 10) and e) retires well before he becomes the likes of a JoePa or that Bowd'n fellar. Look for DC Ernie Withers to step up defensive secondary play. He only has a 50/50 deep secondary in experience and will have to tighten things up significantly to avert 4th quarter collapses (notably UVA and Notre Dame). With that said, I think we have taken the right step to do just that.

Offseason coaching hires, in order of position importance

1) Art Kaufman (Southern Miss) LB's - Kaufman BETTER hit the ground running with his shoes on fire yellin' "I need some more gasoline"--Why? Because he has two of the most solid LB position guys in the country (Carter/Sturdivant--more later)

2) Troy Douglas (USF) DB's - Troy KNOWS why he's get the secondary playing like his string of Draft choices out of South Florida (great hire-gotta Leavitt!)--plus he and Ernie played together at Appalachian State (remember them DickRod?)

3) Allen Mogridge (Buffalo) TE's - was a former UNC OL (300lb RT from TN. TN turns out some great linemen--ask Garrett Reynolds) Thanks Turner!--we can't return a favor...Sorry folks! Park's closed. Moose out front shoulda told you--one of THE classic movie lines and from a FWG to boot).

Defense: Strong unit anchored by experienced LBs Bruce Carter SAM (see UCONN Special Teams), Quan Sturdivant MIKE (NCAA leader solo tackles) and we've added Zach Brown (blazing speed). Boxcar (yes--as in boxes with wheels) DT's Marvin Austin and Cam Thomas are back to clog the middle. Kendric Burney and Da'Norris Searcy shore up the secondary, but they're gonna need a lot of help. Quan's an interesting guy and standout both-ways player from my High School. One of two to play for the Tar Heels (the other was Rod Broadway who made his way on into the NFL--confident Quan will follow in his footsteps). The key focus for the returning core this season is to play defense at 'anticipation read speed, not at read/reaction speed'. Withers coined that gem...translated I basically think he means recognize what's about to happen and be there before it does...then again, I ain't a coach.


Strengths - Big OL (300lb Rangz-is-Us -- Kyle Jolly/Aaron Stahl/Alan Pelc/Mike Ingersoll) anchored by Lowell Dyer C/LS (Rimington watchlist).

-Tailback tandem Shawn Draughn...prn 'Drone' as he, in his best T Dorsett rendition, told us last year (speedy, good quickness/moves and fumbles when bent backwards--especially when you're on a sustained bowl drive against WVA on National TV to seal the game for chrissakes! {not bitter}) and Ryan Houston (power, did I say power? physically punishing back that metes out pain on the order of WWE Raw). Both should be much improved.

StockAlert: Watch for the addition of Jamal Womble (an absolute Arizona Roadrunner) to the mix.

Weaknesses - Can 'Number One' QB T J Yates stay healthy with 'Number Two' QB Mike Paulus (see what I did there?) looking for a shot and redemption. Sad he's gone, but 2008 reliever QB Cam Sexton (The-Nicest-Kid-Ever-To-Tote-The-Shit-Bag-And-Still-Get-Demoted). Cam gradumatriculated and will use his final year of eligiblity for Catawba University (only a 35 minute drive away from Charlotte).

-Receiving corps is pretty well depleted of proven stars. WR's Hakeem "The Dream" Nicks and Brooks Foster (THE strongest player on the 2008 squad) move on to the NFL. We'll be looking for Greg Little (receiver-turned basketball player- turned running back-turned receiver again--and yes, you MUST catch the ball while open with a 10 yd cushion on the nearest WVA defender on National TV during a late 3rd quarter drive that may have sealed any hope of a Mountaineer comeback {again, not bitter}) , Dwight Jones and Rashod Mason to adapt quickly. If Greg does catch the ball, he has speed, power and memories of 'toting the mail'. He can be a force to bring down. Unfortunately, our stellar Fr WR recruit and early enrollee Joshua Adams (Cheshire Academy, CT), who was making noise for playing time, is doubtful after a summer workout knee injury. Yes those ARE MAN TEARS!

Special Teams: Down, Down, Down in a Burning Ring of Fire! KO/FG duties are 'under competition' which means he who scores best, scores last -- edge to Casey Barth (baby brother of KC Chief Connor Barth providing he hasn't been cut). New punter and holder (both walk-ons, NOT THAT IT MATTERS AT ALL - right Pat?). HUGE HUGE HUGE loss is WR/KR Brandon Tate (#2 NCAA all-purpose yardage and 397 yd UNC single game all-purpose record) to the NFL. Butch is still saying almost a year later, he may not be replaceable...NFL sayin' otherwise if he don't quit the 4:20 and lay off the wackygrass.

Schedule: The first half is mixed. 2 of the first 6 games are against FCS opponents (Citadel, Ga Southern). Hope we wear navy jerseys or pants for that game, otherwise visitors will think it looks like UNC vs UNC (yes, uniforms are THAT similar)...Nah, Butch'll probably wait til Week 2 and pull the navy pants on the BEast vs UCONN at The Rent (on the basis of Rutgers results last year). 3 of the first 6 games are also against the Option/Spread/Hurry-Up (UCONN, ECU and 22. GaTech). Our speed and recognition will be tested early by this trio.

The second half (after the only 'bye-week') starts ROUGH, stays TOUGH and ends with ENOUGH . Open with back-to-back Thursday ESPN games with 15. FSU (Home and off the bye-week) and 8. Va Tech (Away). Continues with upswing Duke & idunnowhut Miami (both Home) and finishes with BC & NC State (both Away). Duke and NC State swap the 'rivalry game' spots. Both could be disasterous if, a) early season Dookies avoid last year's key injuries and b) we don't go to MooU so hellbent for revenge we forget what came we to do.

Predictions: (and its a stretch) Start the season 5-1 with a fall into that pesky 3-3 slip in second half for an overall 8-4 repeat and a(nother) trip to the Meineke or maybe an Emerald bowl (that's just Nuts!). Not exactly where we need to be yet--although it could propel us to the threshold beginning in 2010 or 2011.

That's all I got to say 'bout that.

-Great thoughts and insanely in depth. Anyone else want to realistically break down their Top 25 squad for the upcoming year? Let us know.

Doc Saturday also has some thoughts regarding the 'Heels.

The question he raises is whether UNC can maintain their turnover margin proficiency from last year (+18 in 8 wins, -12 in 5 losses) while improving on their yards per game (-64 per game).

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