Mitch Tribusky and the Tar Heels enter the season ranked in Athlon Sports' Top 25
Larry Fedora seems to be really building something special in Chapel Hill. In a world devoted to the ball that bounces from November to April, the Tar Heels football coach generated considerable interest in his team by winning the Coastal Division title and playing Clemson to the wire in the ACC Championship Game.
With that success comes lofty expectations... and rightfully so. North Carolina, which is ranked No. 22 in Athlon Sports' Preseason Top 25, is the favorite to emerge as the king of the Coastal again and here are five reasons why that will happen.
1. A Loaded Backfield
UNC finished the 2015 season as the 18th-best rushing team in the country and the key running back components return. Elijah Hood lived up to his five-star billing during his sophomore season, rushing for 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 220-pounder will receive All-American consideration after being selected first team All-ACC last fall. T.J. Logan is back for his senior year, giving the Heels a reliable change-of-pace option when Hood needs a break.
2. Mitch Trubisky is Ready to Go
The junior from Mentor, Ohio, will not be the running threat that Marquise Williams was at UNC. But Trubisky showed last season that he is a very accurate passer. No one expects him to complete 85 percent of his throws like he did in 2015 now that he is the starting quarterback. But he has all the tools needed to succeed, those around him believe in his abilities, and he will be throwing to a talented wide receiver group featuring Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard and Mack Hollins.
3. A Veteran Offensive Line
The Tar Heels do lose star guard Landon Turner, but the rest of the unit is back, something that makes both Hood and Trubisky very happy. Jon Heck will be a four-year starter for the Heels and is coming off a second team All-ACC season. Guard Caleb Peterson also was selected to the All-ACC second team while center Lucas Crowley made the third team. All-ACC recognition may be in the future for left tackle Bentley Spain down the line. If UNC can successfully fill Turner's spot at right guard, North Carolina will have the best offensive line in the Coastal Division.
4. The Defense’s Second Year Under Gene Chizik
The performance of the defense last fall was a huge improvement over 2014. However, the previous year was so dreadful it was hard not to make strides. Chizik, who won a national title when he was Auburn’s head coach, fixed a big problem with the pass defense and now he must go to work to correct an ailing rush defense. North Carolina does need to replace some important front seven contributors. But there is talent in guys like Andre Smith, Dajuan Drennon and Jeremiah Clarke. And there also is a very smart defensive mind that knows his personnel a little better after a year in the system.
5. The Power Teams are Still in the Atlantic
Miami could be better under new head coach Mark Richt, and the could be said for Virginia Tech under Justin Fuente. Duke and Pitt should be solid and Georgia Tech can’t be as bad as it was last year. But the Coastal is still the weak half of the ACC. Not only do Clemson and Florida State reside on the other side, so too does a Louisville team that many project as the third-best team in the league. Despite the potential possessed by several Coastal teams, North Carolina is still the division's most talented team.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.