Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker had a tough challenge last weekend as the Yellow Jackets went up against the Temple Owls. This week, he’ll have another quality challenge in front of him with the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Through five weeks, the North Carolina Tar Heels have been an above average offense that has shown the ability to score but also has had it’s struggles. Through five games, they’re averaging 24.2 points per game and 392-yards per game. A quality start for offensive coordinator Phil Longo.
Leading the Tar Heels on the field is true freshman quarterback Sam Howell. A former, top-100 recruit in the 2019 recruiting class and a former Florida State commitment flipped and signed with the Tar Heels during the early signing period. So far, it looks like a huge loss for Florida State and a big gain for Mack Brown’s Tar Heels.
Howell through five games this season has performed well above expectations. Stat wise, his numbers are great with a 62.5% completion percentage, 1,168-yards, 11 touchdowns, and just two interceptions. That being said, Howell has also been benched this year during games including the Tar Heels 24-18 loss to Wake Forest.
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Last week against Clemson, Howell played as much as you would think a true freshman would play against the nation’s defending national champions. He completed 15-of-27 passing attempts for 144-yards. He did, however, throw two touchdown passes and engineered a fantastic potential game winning drive that was a two-point conversion away from giving the Tar Heels the lead against the Tigers.
The bad news for the Tar Heels at quarterback is, if Sam Howell would go down with an injury, backup quarterback Jace Ruder is out of action for an indefinite amount of time with a lower-body injury. Backing up Howell against Clemson was Vincent Amendola, a walk-on freshman but we’ll see if Amendola is once again his backup against the Yellow Jackets.
Howell has a good set of receivers to throw to this weekend with four Tar Heels having 10 or more receptions already this season. Leading the Tar Heels receiving core this year is junior Dazz Newsome who has 21 receptions for 286-yards and two touchdowns. Right now, he’s questionable for Saturday as he battles an injury.
If Newsome is unable to go, Dyami Brown will be the top receiving threat for Howell. Brown has 18 receptions for a team leading 347-yards as well as a team-leading four touchdowns. Beau Corrales and Rontavious Groves are the two other names to know in the Tar Heels receiving core. Both have 13 receptions this season for 159 and 119-yards respectively.
While Sam Howell has been a tremendous quarterback for the most part this season, the North Carolina rushing attack can also be quite dangerous at times. The Tar Heels are averaging 154.2 yards per game but just 3.8 yards per carry.
The Tar Heels have two primary running backs at this point, one in sophomore running back Javonte Williams and one in junior running back Micahel Carter. Carter leads the Tar Heels in carries with 64 and has gained 319-yards so far this season, an average of 5.0 yards per carry. He also has eight receptions for 55-yards and two touchdowns.
Williams, on the other hand has 63 carries for 348-yards, an average of 5.5 yards per carry. He also has two touchdowns. Like Carter, he has also been in involved in the receiving game with seven receptions for 71-yards. Look for both Williams and Carter to have 10-12 carries against the Yellow Jackets on Satuday afternoon.
If the Georgia Tech defensive line is going to have a breakout game, going up against the Tar Heels offensive line could be the best matchup. The Tar Heels have struggled so far this season, as seen by their mere 3.8 yards per carry this season. That being said, they’ve also struggled mightily in pass protection, allowing 19 sacks, or 3.80 sacks per game so far this season. That gives the Tar Heels, the nation’s 124th ranked offensive line in sacks allowed per game, with just five teams allowing more sacks per game than the Tar Heels.
Turnovers and Penalties:
The Tar Heels haven’t been bad with turnovers so far this season but they haven’t been great either. Right now, they’re averaging one turnover per game with two interceptions and three fumbles. They don’t hurt themselves too much in the form of penalties either with an average of five per game.
Overall, the North Carolina offense is a quality offense that can put up a good amount of points and yards. The strength of their offense is easily their passing attack with Sam Howell but their bad offensive line at the same time, holds back the passing games complete potential. Their rushing attack isn’t going to kill a defense with carry after carry but they’ll have the chance to rip a long run, here and there.