After a quality 2019 season, the North Carolina Tar Heels could very well find themselves in the ACC Championship game this fall.
I will put it out there right now, I believe this North Carolina Tar Heels team has a chance to be special in 2020. I’m not saying they’ll win the ACC, be a playoff contender, or anything like that but I believe very well this team could go 10-2 and win the ACC Coastal. Let’s look at why…
Last season, the Tar Heels went 7-6 in the first year of Mack Brown’s second tenure, showing great promise as a young team but also struggling at times, the downfall of being rather inexperienced. After starting 2-0 on the season, they struggled over their next three dropping games to Wake Forest, Appalachian State, and Clemson. But those were all closes losses, coming by a combined 10-points including a one-point loss to Clemson.
The 2019 Matchup:
Last season, the Tar Heels defeated the Yellow Jackets 38-22 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Tar Heels took a commanding 17-0 lead going into halftime. The Yellow Jackets would get the game as close as nine-points in the second half but while they scored 22 second-half points, they allowed the Tar Heels to score 21 of their own int he fourth quarter alone.
Key Losses: DT Jason Strowbridge, S Myles Dorn, LB Dominique Ross, OL Charlie Heck
If North Carolina is going to have questions this season, it’s going to be on the defensive side of the ball. Strowbridge, a draft pick of the Dolphins in this year’s NFL Draft had 44 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss last year as the Tar Heels top defensive lineman. Dorn, on the other hand, was their third best tackler last season with 83 tackles, he also had two interceptions and six pass deflections.
While the Tar Heels return a pair of linebackers that will lead them defensively in 2020 (see below) the loss of Dominique Ross is notable from a production standpoint (60 tackles, 6.0 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception). Finally, while the Tar Heels return a majority of their starting offensive line from last season, they did lose Charlie Heck, a fourth-round pick of the Houston Texans.
Key Returners: QB Sam Howell (3,461-yards, 38 touchdowns, 7 interceptions), RBs Michael Carter (177 carries, 1,003-yards, 3 touchdowns) and Javonte Williams (166 carries, 933 yards, 5 touchdowns), WR Dazz Newsome (72 receptions, 1,081-yards, 10 touchdowns), WR Dyami Brown (51 receptions, 1,034-yards, 5 touchdowns)
Well if you can’t tell, the North Carolina offense in 2020 is going to be elite. They return one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Sam Howell who is going to be just a sophomore while returning two of the best running backs in the ACC and two of the best wide receivers. It’s going to be hard for any defense to stop this ultra-talented offense.
This didn’t even include the return of linebacker Chazz Surratt, a former quarterback who had 115 tackles in his first season on the defensive side of the ball.
Overall, it’s easy to see why myself and many writers across the country are high on the Tar Heels. It’s going to be hard to stop their offense and if their defense can make up for the losses of Jason Strowbridge and Myles Dorn they should be okay on that side of the ball. They still may drop a game or two from being rather young and not being used to the spotlight that will be on them but overall this very well may be the best team in the ACC Coastal in 2020.