Our latest installment of Georgia Tech 2019 opponent rundowns focuses on an ACC Coastal Division rival, the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The North Carolina Tar Heels are in the middle of a regime change like the Georgia Tech football prorgam. The Tar Heels after going 3-9 and 2-9 in back-to-back seasons let go of head coach Larry Fedora and hired a familiar face around Chapel Hill to be the next head coach of the Tar Heels, Mack Brown. Brown formerly coached the Tar Heels from 1988 to 1996 before taking over at the University of Texas where he coached from 1997 to 2013. Brown will look to help turn around a North Carolina program that has lost it’s identity over the last few years.
As mentioned above, the Tar Heels went 2-9 last season, picking up their pair of wins over Pittsburgh (38-35) and Western Carolina (49-26). What that means is the Tar Heels played and defeated just one FBS program last year with Western Carolina being an FCS program. Last year, these two programs met on November 3rd where the Jackets came away with a 38-28 victory.
The Tar Heels on offense in 2018 were not as bad as one would expect, averaging 27.4 points per game which was 78th best in the country last season. That being said, there’s a lot of work to be done on the offensive side of the ball for the Tar Heels and finding their quarterback will be the biggest goal for the Tar Heels heading into this season.
Last year, the Tar Heels leading passer was junior Nathan Elliot who passed for 2,169-yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 61.8% of his passes. He did however throw nine interceptions on the season as well. The quarterback heading into the fall seems to like it would most likely be the incumbent Elliot versus incoming and talented freshman Sam Howell. Howell was a top-100 recruit in the 2019 recruiting class and flipped to the Tar Heels late in the cycle from Florida State.
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In the backfield leading rusher Michael Carter returns to the Tar Heels for his junior season after rushing for 597-yards and two touchdowns last season. Fellow 500+ yard rusher Antonio Williams also returns to the Tar Heels in 2019. Together the two should form a formidable one-two punch in the UNC backfield come this season.
The best player on North Carolina’s offense that is returning from last season however belongs to the wide receiver core, that wide receivers name is Anthony Ratliff-Williams. Ratliff-Williams is a potential big play maker for the Tar Heels who had 689 receiving yards on 42 receptions as a sophomore. Though he only had two touchdowns on the season. However, if you add in his 82-yards of rushing on the season, Ratliff-Williams had over 700-yards of total offense in 2018. Junior wideout Dazz Newsome will look most likely be the Tar Heels No.2 option and will look to follow up a strong 500+ yard campaign from last season.
If there’s one thing the Tar Heels did exceptionally well on offense was last year, it was their pass blocking. The Tar Heels were one of the top ten teams in the country when it came to giving up sacks, allowing just 10 on the season. Expect them to once again have a formidable and strong offensive line in 2019.
Last season, the Tar Heels were among the worst defenses nationally, allowing 34.5 points per game, best for 107th in the nation out of 130 FBS programs. Opposing offenses were able to punish the Tar Heels both through the air and on the ground, as they surrendered 228 passing yards per game and 218 rushing yards per game last season. They also struggled in causing turnovers with just 1.5 per game on average.
The bad news for the North Carolina defense is that entering this season, they top three leading tacklers from last season including linebacker Cole Holcomb who recorded 104 tackles last season including eight for a loss. The other two losses were safety J.K Britt and leading pass rusher Malik Carney who had 60 tackles, 12 for a loss, and six sacks. Replacing those three will be a difficult task for the Tar Heels entering this season and it could take several weeks to really find who best fits each role that needs to be filled.
Their top leading returning tackler is senior safety Myles Dorn who recorded 54 tackles including 2.5 for a loss last season as a junior. He’ll be expected to be the team leader in the secondary and one of the Tar Heels best weapons on defense. Leading the front seven will most likely be linebacker Dominique Ross who had 47 tackles last season including 3.5 tackles for a loss as a freshman.
The Tar Heels pass rush last year was pretty good all things considered, recording 32 sacks as a team, an average of 2.38 a game. Their top pass rusher entering this year will appear to be senior Jason Stowbridge who had 5.0 sacks last year which was second best on the team only behind Malik Carney.
Overall, the Tar Heels defense will probably be much like last years, below average with some redeeming qualities. That being said, it will be interesting to see if their struggles defensively last season were more of a result of the talent on the roster or poor coaching from the previous coaching staff.
What to expect on October 5th:
On October 5th, expect these two teams to play a sloppy but probably entertaining football game. Both programs are expected to be at the bottom of the totem poll in the ACC and ACC Coastal in 2019 but Homecoming should help redeem some potential attendance problems that could arise. Overall, the two teams are probably evenly matched which should provide a quality back-and-forth game, that being said, the Yellow Jackets should be able to find a victory against the Tar Heels.
North Carolina Season Outlook:
For the season, North Carolina’s outlook is rather grim but there is potential for putting together a quality season. They do have a tough non-conference schedule of South Carolina, Wake Forest, and Appalachian State. Add in tough conference games against Miami, Virginia Tech, and Clemson, it’s safe to say that the Tar Heels will have little room for error in 2019. Overall, I expect the Tar Heels to be around the 2-10 or 3-9 mark but 4-8 or 5-7 wouldn’t be terribly shocking depending on how the defense comes around for the Tar Heels.