Thursday, July 12, 2012
One good reason: North Carolina
By ESPN.com staff
This series gives one good reason why each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). In North Carolina’s case, the goal is to survive a transition year that includes an NCAA bowl ban. We’re going in alphabetical order, and the Tar Heels are up next.
The series continues today with one good reason why …
North Carolina will play the role of spoiler. There is plenty of talent to work with offensively. First-year coach Larry Fedora has it made. He inherited one of the ACC’s best offensive lines, he has one of the country’s leading returning rushers in Giovani Bernard and he has an experienced starting quarterback in Bryn Renner. As long as the players can comprehend and execute Fedora’s up-tempo, spread offense, North Carolina will put up enough points this year. Four starters return on the offensive line, but how they adjust to the increased pace remains a question. They’ll pave the way for Bernard, who accounted for 1,615 yards rushing and receiving last fall, the second-best total by a freshman in ACC history. The offense is in good hands with Renner, an underrated player who played some spread offense in high school and has a chance to flourish in this system.
Why it won’t: More changes than motivation. No bowl game to play for. No division or league title on the line. And they’re starting from scratch. Again. The Tar Heels have been through a lot in the past three seasons, as Fedora is their third head coach during that span. Butch Davis was fired just days before the start of fall camp last year, and interim coach Everett Withers was not retained. The players have spent the offseason learning Fedora’s fast-paced spread system, led by first-year offensive coordinator Blake Anderson. UNC will be looking for balance in the pass and run games. Defensively, North Carolina also made changes under first-year coordinator Dan Disch and assistant head coach for defense Vic Koenning. UNC is transitioning to a 4-2-5 scheme. It has talent at wide receiver, but is there enough depth to make it work? The same can be said for the defensive backs, a group that has to replace three starters and will need the most work on defense this summer.
More in this series