North Carolina Tar Heels
Head coach: Larry Fedora
2014 Record: 6-7; 4-4 ACC
2014 Bowl: 40-21 L to Rutgers at Quick Lane Bowl
2015 Returning Starters: 10 offense, 6 defense
Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +70000
Odds to win 2015 ACC Title: +2300
Regular Season Wins: Over 7 (-155); Under 7 (+125)
Bet these prop bets at 5dimes and receive a 20 percent deposit bonus!
The North Carolina Tar Heels return 10 offensive starters and have a number of key reserves back. In fact 99 percent of its passing yards return, 84 percent of its receiving yards and 100 percent of its rushing yards.
UNC QB Marquise Williams is coming off a season in which he set the single-season school record for total offense. By all surface measures, this is a team that can build on last season’s six wins and make strides towards being a formidable ACC team.
Williams is a great dual-threat QB but the Tar Heels don’t want to rely so heavily on him to rush the ball for them. In the backfield it will turn to a host of talented RBs and a strong OL to create the holes for it. T.J. Logan is a good all-around back while Elijah Hood is powerful and great in short-yardage situations. Romar Morris is lightning quick.
The OL features senior RG Landon Turner and another third-year starter in Jon Heck at RT. Sophomore Bentley Spain could be a real star at LT. The WRs have a lot of options, too, including Quinshad Davis, Mack Hollins, Bug Howard, all of whom are 6-foot-4 or taller. Ryan Switzer is 5-foot-10 but is a major big play threat and can run short and long route both very well.
Gene Chizik of Auburn is in as defensive coordinator to try to fix what has been North Carolina’s Achilles’ Heel. The team last year finished last in the conference in every major defensive category and set a league record for most points allowed.
Chizik has his work cut out for him, simply. He’s going to start by instilling a 4-3 base instead of the 4-2-5 scheme that last year’s disaster and had been responsible for mediocre performances the last three years.
Players say the 4-3 is easier to understand, and hopefully that leads to greater comfort on the field and guys knowing where they are supposed to be in given schemes.
The DL is without any major talents, but it has some nice prospects like Nazair Jones, Dajuan Drennon, Jeremiah Clarke and Jalen Dalton. Senior MLB Jeff Schoettmer will have to lead this defense like he did in the spring and he finished second on the team in tackles last year. Seven of UNC’s top eight backs are returning, and Brian Walker is a major talent at CB.
The Tar Heels just have to do a lot better than the 31 TDs it allowed in ACC play last year, and it’s hard to imagine Chizik doesn’t at least start to make an impact already. It’s a major disaster to be resurrected, but he’s capable of doing it and changing the scheme could pay wonders for a defense that really never was in sync in 2014.
The special teams struggled in punt returns last season but led the nation in 2013 when it had five returned for TDs. The special teams are not good, though, right now. Kickoff specialist Nick Weiler and redshirt freshman Freeman Jones are battling for placekicking duties.
Last year? UNC missed all seven of its attempts beyond 30 yards while it is also breaking in a new punter. Special teams could be very problematic all season.
Marquise Williams remains the headline talent on this team and the reason it is capable of playing at least a .500 season. How much better it can be than that depends on how quickly the defense picks up its new 4-3 scheme and starts getting stops.
The Tar Heels play in the Coastal Division so it skirts Florida State and Clemson in the standings, and it won’t play either of them, nor Louisville this season.
That soft schedule should make it possible to win 7 or 8 games and return to Bowl play. Last year it lost 40-21 to Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl, and it’s really tough to expect more wins than the O/U mark of 7 set at 5dimes. North Carolina just has too far to go defensively.
Prediction: 7 wins