Larry Fedora came to North Carolina in December 2011 with a great offensive reputation based on his success as a coordinator at Oklahoma State and as the head coach at Southern Mississippi. In no time, the Tar Heels offense improved, averaging 13 more points per game in 2012 than they did in ‘11.
Now Fedora must fix the other side of the ball and he has brought in a well-known defensive mind to get things going in the right direction. Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik will have his work cut out for him as he takes over a unit that ranked among the worst in the country in all four major defensive categories.
North Carolina’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Adapting to Chizik’s Scheme
One thing is obvious: last year’s plan set forth by defensive coordinator Vic Koenning didn’t work. The Tar Heels defense was most effective against the pass… and this unit still finished No. 101 in the country in that department. Chizik, who was an outstanding defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas before becoming a head coach, will switch to a 4-3 from the previous 4-2-5.
2. Getting Stouter Up Front on Defense
North Carolina really struggled stopping the run last season, ranking 117th by coughing up 240.5 rushing yards per game. The defensive linemen have pretty good size and have some talent; it’s all about learning their assignments this August. The Heels only had 22 sacks last year, but ends Jessie Rogers and Dajuan Drennon should improve that number this season. So in both defending the run and pressuring the quarterback, the defensive line must make some progress.
3. The Development of the Offensive Line
Four of five starters are back and new left tackle Brantley Spain has a ton of potential. That’s the good news. However, despite the strong showing of the offense in 2014, the line struggled at times. A lot will be learned in camp as the hopefully improving offensive line battles the hopefully improving defensive front on a daily basis.
4. The Running Game
UNC was not a great rushing team last year and a lot of that is on the offensive line. But Fedora would like to establish some type of rotation with the running backs. T.J. Logan will be the starter and he is a solid all-purpose back. What the Heels really need is for 220-pound Elijah Hood to stay healthy and become a between the tackles punisher to complement Logan. Quarterback Marquise Williams led the Heels in rushing last year and with the star quarterback recovering from hip surgery, North Carolina needs more out of a conventional running attack this season.
5. The Kicking Game
Two kickers combined to go 6-of-13 on field goals last year with a long of 30 yards. Yuck. Nick Weiler was one of those two kickers and he is the odds-on favorite to win the job going into camp. But freshman Freeman Jones will have a chance to claim the spot. Another freshman, Corbin Daly, is the leading candidate to replace punter Tommy Hibbard.
— 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.