Midseason report: North Carolina

North Carolina Tar Heels

Record: 3-2 (1-1 ACC)

Surprisingly, the only things that have gone right for the Tar Heels this year have gone right on the field. The highly-publicized NCAA investigations sidelined seven defensive starters for the season opener against LSU, and 15 players were missing for injuries or suspensions on Saturday against Clemson.

Now, the college careers of Greg Little, Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn are over. No matter. The players have refused to let the negative headlines become a distraction and have won three straight games after starting the season 0-2. A 17-13 win at Rutgers was the turning point, as UNC had to climb out of a 10-0 hole with a dozen players suspended.

UNC’s backups have proven to be even more effective than some teams' starters, and quarterback T.J. Yates, who has only thrown one interception this season, has been one of the most improved players in the country. This team is not producing any eye-popping statistics, but it is finding a way to win together. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what could have been had Carolina’s roster remained intact.

Offensive MVP, RB Johnny White: He entered the season with just one rushing touchdown. Against Clemson last weekend, he rushed for more yards (89) and gained more receiving yards (90) than any player on either team. He gained 179 of Carolina’s 255 yards from scrimmage. He has now scored four rushing touchdowns, and the Tar Heels wouldn’t have beaten Clemson without two of them.

Defensive MVP, LB Bruce Carter: He’s a proven game-changer, and with so many starters missing on defense, that ability has been invaluable. At Rutgers, Carter blocked a fourth-quarter punt and the Tar Heels took over at the Rutgers 35. Carolina kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive. He also has one interception for 55 yards. He’s fourth on the team with 14 tackles, including one for a loss.