ACC: Jay Wooten
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Special teams are critical, especially in Blacksburg, and it's one of the Hokies' few weaknesses this year. They're in need of a kicker for the third time in three seasons, but Virginia Tech is hardly the only team in the ACC with big holes to fill. Here's how the ACC's special teams units ranked:
1. Miami -- Matt Bosher has already gotten plenty of ink in the blogosphere, but he's only one reason the Canes are No. 1 here. Bosher converted 18 of 20 field goal attempts and averaged 40.3 yards per punt. It's possible Jake Wieclaw could give Bosher some relief on kickoffs. If Travis Benjamin stays healthy, the return game will be in great shape. Benjamin led the team and the ACC in punt return yardage (173) and was ninth in the ACC in kick return yardage (477). Thearon Collier is also another return threat.
2. NC State -- The combination of kicker Josh Czajkowski and speedy return specialist T.J. Graham make the Wolfpack one of the best in the ACC. If they find a punter this summer, the unit will be complete. In his first season as starter, Czajkowski made 84.2 percent of his field goals (16 of 19), and he made 33 of 34 PATs to finish with 81 points and seventh place in the ACC in scoring. Graham's 1,028 yards in kickoff returns set the school record for a single season and already ranks fifth on the Wolfpack career list. They have to replace punter Bradley Pierson, though. Jeff Ruiz and Carl Ojala are both options.
3. Maryland -- The Terps have to replace kicker Obi Egekeze, but they've still got the ACC's top punter in Travis Baltz. He pinned Maryland opponents inside their own 20-yard line 24 times last year. Wide receiver Torrey Smith had a record-setting season as a kickoff returner, as he set the ACC single-season record for kickoff return yards with 1,089. There are high expectations for Nick Ferrara, who will be a true freshman, to replace Egekeze, but the job is wide open.
4. Virginia Tech -- Not only did the Hokies lose placekicker Dustin Keys, but they also lost punt returner Victor "Macho" Harris. The good news is that punter Brent Bowden returns, as does kickoff man Justin Myer, and snapper Collin Carroll. Matt Waldron and Myer enter summer camp as the favorites for the placekicking and kickoff duties, respectively. Incoming freshman Cody Journell might give them both a run for their money, though. Ryan Williams came out of spring practice as the starting punt returner, but Dyrell Roberts and Danny Coale are also options.
5. Clemson -- The Tigers have to replace veteran starters Mark Buchholz and Jimmy Manners at the two kicking positions. Spencer Benton, a redshirt freshman, is the frontrunner to take over the placekicking duties, but he'll get some competition from Richard Jackson. Dawson Zimmerman, who started two games and punted in three last year, should be the starting punter. Zimmerman averaged 38.5 yards for his 12 punts last season. The return game is in good hands -- C.J. Spiller's. Jacoby Ford is also experienced as a return man, and has a punt return and a kickoff return of more than 90 yards for scores.
6. Georgia Tech -- This is the area where coach Paul Johnson wants to see the most improvement, and with good reason: The Yellow Jackets ranked 11th in the ACC in net punting, 10th in kickoff returns and ninth in punt returns last year. Junior Scott Blair did a respectable job last year, as he was the first Yellow Jacket to handle both kicking and punting duties in 25 years. He'll get some competition, though, at one or both positions from sophomore Chandler Anderson, the holder last season. Anderson, who missed spring practice after a bout with appendicitis, punted six times in '08 for an average of 41.7.
7. Boston College -- Steve Aponavicius returns for his senior year. He went 14-for-21 on field goals last season. Newcomer Nate Freese, who kicked a school-record 52-yard field goal in Ohio, will challenge Aponavicius. Ryan Quigley and Billy Flutie both return to their punting duties. Quigley serves as the main punter and averaged 39.6 yards per kick with nine pinned inside the 20-yard-line. Flutie was used in short situations and pinned opponents inside the 20 seven times. Unheralded veteran long-snapper Jack Geiser also returns.
8. Duke -- The Blue Devils return placekicker Nick Maggio and punter Kevin Jones. Jones punted 71 times last fall and 27 of those kicks pinned Duke's opponents inside their own 20-yard line, the most by any punter. He finished second in the ACC in punting, with 40.8 yards per kick as a sophomore. Maggio made 11 of 14 field goal attempts.
9. North Carolina -- This might be the Tar Heels' biggest concern, as they have to replace punter Terrence Brown, and placekicker Jay Wooten decided to transfer. Connor Barth was UNC's primary field goal kicker in 2008 and Wooten was used as the kickoff man. Reid Phillips is a walk-on who is now in the mix, and walk-on Grant Shallock, who handled the punting duties this spring, is another option. The staff is eager for the arrival of prized recruit C.J. Feagles. Another concern is the return game, which survived without Brandon Tate last year with the help of walk-on Trase Jones. He finished the season with five returns for 36 yards.
10. Florida State -- The Noles took a huge hit here with the graduation of Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano. The good news? FSU returns its long-snapper, Zack Aronson, and holder, Shawn Powell. James Esco and Nathan O'Jibway handled the kicking duties this spring, but neither have attempted a field goal in a game during their careers. There are high hopes for freshman Dustin Hopkins. Powell, who started the first seven games of 2008 as punter, will replace Gano there.
11. Wake Forest -- Veteran Sam Swank only started seven games last year before being injured, and that allowed Shane Popham to get his feet wet. Popham said he's much more confident heading into this season and gained valuable experience last year. He could handle both duties a
gain like he did last year. Popham made 7 of 12 field goal attempts and averaged 39.2 yards on 54 punts, pinning opponents inside the 20 on 19 occasions.
12. Virginia -- After three season as head coach at Kansas State, Ron Prince returns to Charlottesville to coach special teams, and it won't be an easy gig. Senior Yannick Reyering's injury-marred career is over, so sophomore Chris Hinkebein, who handled the kickoff duties for five games while Reyering was slowed with an injury, is expected to contend for some of the placekicking responsibilities. Robert Randolph shared some time with Reyering last year and made 3 of 4 attempts. Junior Danny Aiken is a proven long-snapper, and sophomore Jimmy Howell was one of five true freshmen to see time last year. He averaged 39.0 yards on 64 punts.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
On Tuesday afternoon, Tim Hall of 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh stumped me with a question: Which team in the state of North Carolina will be better this fall, North Carolina or NC State?
It's a question I've gotten in the mailbag, too.
Andrew in Charlotte, N.C. wrote: Which North Carolina team do you see going the farthest this season and why?
First of all, don't count out Wake Forest, even though the Demon Deacons lost some of their best defensive players to come through the program. Riley Skinner is one of the winningest quarterbacks in the league, and he's got a much better and deeper supporting cast to work with this fall. But I do think UNC and NC State are the teams to beat this year on Tobacco Road. Don't forget that Tom O'Brien and the Wolfpack owned the state last year with wins over East Carolina, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke. Nate Irving played in all of those games, though.
Here's how the Carolina schools stacked up in the last ACC Power Rankings:
Since then, Irving, NC State's top playmaker on defense has suffered serious injuries in a car accident, and Dominique Ellis, a potential starter in the secondary, has decided to leave the program. Meanwhile, North Carolina's young receivers are still unproven and kicker Jay Wooten has decided to transfer. Both of these teams have a few issues.
NC State appears to be stronger on offense, and North Carolina probably has the better defense. The two will face each other in the regular season-finale on Nov. 28 in Raleigh. It's the first end-of-the-year meeting at NC State since 1995. And who knows? Irving might be back to his old self by then.
So who wins?
Carolina. The Tar Heels return a league-high nine starters on defense, including the entire defensive line. They've got an efficient quarterback in T.J. Yates. And they've got a talented tandem of running backs in Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston who will help take some pressure off of the young receivers. The departure of Ellis and possible loss of Irving isn't going to knock the Wolfpack out of the running for the Atlantic Division, but it definitely won't help their chances.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
It's almost all about recruiting in July ...
Georgia Tech is still evaluating offensive lineman Zak Tait, who had two knee sugeries but says he's bigger, stronger and faster now.
Maryland no longer has to wait for this defensive tackle's commitment. Andre Monroe is a little undersized, though, which might explain why the Terps were his lone BCS conference offer.
Clemson is getting close to luring in this defensive back.
Florida State's defensive linemen are all making progress, including Moses McCray, whose hip flexor injury bothered him all of last season.
And the leftovers:
First, if you've seen some of these already, I apologize. I scoured a bunch of ACC papers to see what I missed out on last week. Some things were news to me, like UNC's Jay Wooten wanting to handle all of the kicking duties at an FBS school so badly he's willing to transfer and sit out a year to do it.
Might Maryland and Florida State have a similar problem with their coach-in-waiting plan? As in, the coach in waiting is kept waiting too long?
Bobby Bowden and the experts seem to differ on the generation gap between coaches and players.
Is Bowden a hypocrite? Mike Bianchi calls him out on it.
NC State's recruiting class is growing while North Carolina's is shrinking.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Considering how evenly matched the ACC is expected to be yet again, there should be a significant amount of close games -- as in, the kind of games won with a swift kick and good field position, not just a strong arm. The problem is, even the best teams in the league are in search of dependable kickers and punters. Florida State took a huge hit with the graduation of Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano. Miami and NC State seem to have the edge with Matt Bosher and Josh Czajkowski, respectively.
Here's a rundown of who's in good shape and who's not when it comes to the kicking game:
IN GOOD SHAPE
Boston College: Finally, a plus for the Eagles -- kind of. BC returns both placekicker Steve Aponavicius, who has 36 career starts, and Ryan Quigley, who has 14 career starts. The problem has been consistency. Aponavicius, who received an extra year of eligibility, needs to improve upon last year's 14 of 21 field goals made. Challenging him for the job will be newcomer Nate Freese, from Ohio. Quigley serves as the main punter and had a strong freshman season, averaging 39.6 yards a kick and had nine inside the 20-yard line and five over 50 yards. Billy Flutie was used in short situations and pinned opponents inside the 20 seven times.
Duke: The Blue Devils return placekicker Nick Maggio and punter Kevin Jones. Jones punted 71 times last fall and 27 of those kicks pinned Duke's opponents inside their own 20-yard line, the most of any punter. He finished second in the ACC in punting, with 40.8 yards per kick as a sophomore. Maggio made 11 of 14 field goal attempts.
Miami: Matt Bosher is a legitimate candidate to win the Lou Groza Award this fall, and he doubles as kicker and punter. Bosher made 90 percent of his field goal attempts last year, his first season of double duty (18 of 20 attempts). As a punter, he averaged 40.3 yards per kick with 19 punts inside the 20-yard line.
NC State: In his first season as starter, Czajkowski made 84.2 percent of his field goals (16 of 19), and he made 33 of 34 PATs to finish with 81 points and seventh place in the ACC in scoring. They have to replace punter Bradley Pierson, though. Jeff Ruiz and Carl Ojala are both options.
OUT: The Tigers lose placekicker Mark Buchholz, who was 15 of 21 in field goals last year, and punter Jimmy Maners, who ranked fourth in the ACC in putting average (40.5). Buchholz made 15 of 21 field goals last year and was perfect on 40 extra points in leading the team in scoring with 85 points. He established a Clemson record for consecutive extra points with a perfect 88-88 performance over his two years on the team.
IN: Spencer Benton, a redshirt freshman, looks to take over the placekicking duties, but will be pressured by Richard Jackson. Dawson Zimmerman, who started two games and punted in three last year, should be the starting punter. Zimmerman had a 38.5 average for his 12 punts last year.
• Florida State
OUT: Graham Gano. This will be a huge loss, as Gano led the nation in field goals (2.18 per game), and finished fourth in scoring, despite missing two games. He doubled as both kicker and punter.
IN: James Esco and Nathan O'Jibway handled the kicking duties this past spring. Neither has attempted a field goal in a game during their careers. Dustin Hopkins, a highly touted recruit, should add to the competition there this summer. Shawn Powell, who started the first seven games last year as the team's punter, will return to that job.
• Georgia Tech
IN: Scott Blair is back as both the kicker and punter, and he did a solid job last year, but special teams has been an area of concern and point of emphasis for Paul Johnson since he arrived in Atlanta. Blair will get some competition. Chandler Anderson, the holder last year, had appendicitis and missed all of spring. Kevin Crosby will also challenge at punter and Chris Tanner will compete at kicker, along with Andy Elakman.
OUT: Placekicker Obi Egekeze, who had 26 career starts and made 15 of 24 field goals last fall. The Terps can take solace in the fact punter Travis Baltz returns. He pinned Maryland opponents inside their own 20-yard line 24 times last year.
IN: There are high expectations for Nick Ferrara, who will be a true freshman. But while he wasn't on campus yet, Mike Barbour and Nick Wallace were battling it out. The job is wide open.
• North Carolina
OUT: Punter Terrence Brown, who had 25 career starts, has to be replaced. Walk-on Grant Schallock handled the punting duties this spring. The staff is eager for the arrival of prized recruit C.J. Feagles.
IN: Sophomore Casey Barth returns with 10 games of placekicking experience, but it's not a given that he's the guy. Walk-on Reid Phillips is also in the mix, as is Jay Wooten, who was used as the kickoff man last year.
OUT: Yannick Reyering's injury-marred career is over. The former soccer star had a strong leg, but made just 6 of 11 field goal attempts.
IN: Robert Randolph shared some time with Reyering last year and made 3 of 4 attempts. Chris Hinkebein, who handled the kickoff duties for five games while Reyering was slowed with an injury, is also expected to contend for some of the placekicking responsibilities this season. The good news is they return Jimmy Howell at punter, but he only has 12 starts. He was one of five true freshmen to see time last year and averaged 39.0 yards on 64 punts.
• Virginia Tech
OUT: Dustin Keys. For the third time in three seasons, Frank Beamer needs to find a new kicker. Keys finished eighth nationally in field goals per game, and made 23 of 29.
IN: Matt Waldron appears to be the leading candidate to replace Keys, but Justin Myer, Tim Pisano and Chris Hazley are also in the mix. They'll compete with incoming recruit Cody Journell for the job in August. The good news is punter Brent Bowden is back, and he averaged 40.4 yards per kick and had 24 kicks inside the 20-yard line last year. The coaches would like him to be a little more consistent, but he is entering his third season as a starter.
• Wake Forest
OUT: Sam Swank and his 45 career starts. Swank only started seven games last year before being injured, and that allowed Shane Popham to get his feet wet.
IN: Popham. He could handle double duties again like he did last year, and should be more confident after being thrown into the fire in 2008. Popham made 7 of 12 field goal attempts and averaged 39.2 yards on 54 punts, pinning opponents inside the 20 on 19 occasions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The Tar Heels begin spring practice today and coach Butch Davis and his staff have a lot of work to do in order to improve upon last year's impressive eight-win season. At the top of the list is finding a few players who can catch the ball.
Here are the highlights of our conversation, with the warning that Davis turns around programs faster than he tends to answer questions (not that there's anything wrong with that):
|Bob Donnan/US Presswire|
|Greg Little will be someone the Tar Heels look to this season.|
Everyone knows you have a lot to replace at wide receiver. What can you tell me about the guys who have the potential to step in there this spring?
BD: That will probably be our No. 1 main objective going into the spring, at least from a position standpoint, is replacing those three unbelievably talented wide receivers. And Cooter Arnold was a really significant player when we got into four wide receiver packages, but having said all that, I think that we've got five guys on campus right now that we're excited to find out about. They've had an opportunity to watch for this last year or so. They watched those three guys practice, how hard they practiced, how much film they studied, how much trust and confidence they developed with the quarterback, and certainly Greg Little is probably the most experienced player that we have. He's played wide receiver, and he's started games at wideout, he's played as a running back. He's got pretty significant game experience.
After that, then most of the guys, they're kind of somewhat young, but we think they've got some talent. Dwight Jones was one of the most highly recruited receivers in the country a couple of years ago. We think he is poised to step in and be able to contribute and do some things. We're also very excited about Todd Harrelson, a receiver we recruited last year that redshirted this past season. We think that he's got some things he can certainly bring to the table. One of the most highly recruited kids in last year's class was Josh Adams, that enrolled in midterm. So he's been going through our offseason program and that was part of the recruiting program, knowing a year ago we were going to lose some guys to graduation. We didn't know Hakeem (Nicks) was going to go out early in the draft, but that was one of the things in trying to get Josh. We knew he'd be able to come in at midterm. We've got another kid that's going to be a junior, Rashad Mason.
A lot of these guys have been waiting in the wings, flying under the radar, so to speak, because we had those three guys that did probably 85 percent of the playing over the last two years. So now will be a time for us to really work with some consistency, some continuity in the springtime, and it will be an ongoing process all summer long and certainly into training camp. We think by the start of the season we've got some other kids we signed -- we signed three other receivers to come in in this class that we think they'll have an opportunity to add a little bit to the position.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Guys, once again, these are from the league office, voted by members of the media, not a list I make up every week. It does say something, though, that Duke and North Carolina are represented here and Florida State and Miami are not. (I know, the Hurricanes had a bye week, but you get what I'm sayin').
Here they are:
OFFENSIVE BACK -- Thaddeus Lewis, Duke, QB, 6-2, 200, Jr., Opa-Locka, Fla.
Lewis accounted for a total of 358 yards in the Blue Devil's 41-31 victory over Navy. He completed 25-of-35 (.714) passes for 317 yards and 3 touchdowns and led Duke in rushing with a career-high 41 yards on 12 carries. He extended his school record and national leading total of consecutive pass attempts without an interception to 206. Lewis put Duke ahead for good with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Eron Riley midway through the third quarter. He later helped seal the victory in the fourth period by connecting with Riley on a 49-yard scoring strike to give Duke a 10-point cushion.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN -- Thomas Austin, Clemson, C, 6-3, 315, Jr., Camden, SC
Austin graded 85 percent and had 12 knockdown blocks in Clemson's win over NC State as the Tigers gained 428 yards of offense. The leader of an offensive line that started three red-shirt freshmen for the first time since 1943, Austin did not allow a sack and had four knockdown blocks on Clemson's last drive of the game, a 96-yard drive that took 8:07 off the clock. Austin played all 59 snaps at center in the 91-degree heat.
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN -- Brett Warren, Virginia Tech, ILB, 6-1, 223, r-Sr., Warrenton, Va.
Warren recorded a career-high 15 tackles (five solo) with a half a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in Virginia Tech's 20-17 ACC win over Georgia Tech.
DEFENSIVE BACK -- Vincent Rey, Duke, OLB, 6-0, 240, Jr., Far Rockaway, N.Y.
Rey made 12 tackles in Duke's 41-31 victory over Navy. The Blue Devils held the Midshipmen to 207 yards on the ground, half of their NCAA-leading season average of 452 yards per game. Rey also tallied four tackles for loss, a sack and a 37-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
SPECIALIST -- Jay Wooten, North Carolina, PK, 6-3, 185, Fr., Laurinburg, N.C.
Wooten kicked three field goals and pinned Rutgers deep on kickoffs several times in the 44-12 win in Piscataway. Wooten's first career attempt was a 43-yarder in the second quarter which tied the game at 3. He later converted kicks of 29 and 27 yards. He tied the school freshman record for most field goals made in a game with three.
ROOKIE -- Rookie - Darren Evans, Virginia Tech, RB, 6-0, 215, r-Fr., Indianapolis, Ind.
Evans ran for a career-high 94 yards on 19 carries in Tech's win over Georgia Tech. He scored a touchdown for the third-straight game, taking it in from 8-yards out and had a long run of 24 yards on Tech's game-winning drive.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
With three teams off this week -- Miami, Boston College and Wake Forest -- there weren't many questions answered and just one true surprise -- Maryland.
The Terps' upset of Cal was the lone shocker, although UNC's road win against Rutgers was also impressive. Florida State did what it was supposed to do, expectations were low for Virginia without its starting quarterback, and Clemson continued to shake the ghost of Alabama. Duke beating Navy wasn't exactly an upset if you've been paying attention, and the featured game between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech could have gone either way.
There were still a few things to be gleaned, though, from the weekend:
1. Maryland can stop the run -- The Terps had to replace six starters on defense heading into the season, and defensive coordinator Chris Cosh has faced some scrutiny during his past two seasons in College Park. Saturday, though, the front seven looked impressive. Yes, Cal might have been snoozing through the first three quarters since it was playing a 9 a.m. game in its home time zone. And Pac-10 leading rusher Jahvid Best wasn't the same after he took a hard, sharp hit in the second quarter from cornerback Kevin Barnes. But the Terps held the Golden Bears to just 38 yards on 23 carries one week after Cal rushed for 391 yards in a 66-3 romp of Washington State. Maryland also recorded five sacks.
2. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will live and die by their quarterbacks' legs -- All afternoon, the duo of Josh Nesbitt and Tyrod Taylor got their respective teams out of jams with their shiftiness. Both are working behind struggling offensive lines and can make things happen on their own. They looked like mirror images of each other, neither throwing the ball more than 14 times. The Hokies are in dire need of playmakers on offense, and even lined up cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris at wideout to find one. Georgia Tech is still working out the fundamentals and technique of Paul Johnson's offense, but the main problem could be its line, save for veteran Andrew Gardner.
3. UNC reasserted itself as a legitimate contender for the Coastal Division -- The Tar Heels were picked to finish second in the division behind the Hokies, but didn't look much like a contender in their season opener against McNeese State. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech didn't exactly play stellar football on Saturday night, but North Carolina looked impressive in all three phases of the game against Rutgers. Quarterback T.J. Yates threw three touchdown passes, Hakeem Nicks caught two of them, and the defense intercepted four passes. Freshman Jay Wooten also made three field goals, making for a complete game. It was a significant improvement from Week 1.
4. Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford is emerging from Aaron Kelly's shadow -- Tommy Bowden said the staff intended to get Ford a significant amount of touches against NC State based on a strong week of practice, and they made good on their plan. Ford, finally healthy, translated his best week of practice onto the field and was the Tigers' top playmaker. He had two carries for 48 yard and caught six passes for a touchdown and a team-high 106 yards. There's a good possibility this trend will continue.
5. It's official: There's little, if any, hope for Virginia and NC State -- Expectations were low to begin with, but this is bad. Virginia has had problems on and off the field, and NC State hasn't scored an offensive touchdown against a BCS team in 13 straight quarters, dating back to 2007. Both teams have had quarterback issues, and NC State has been plagued with injuries, but that doesn't explain things like a missed extra point or the missed 26-yard field goal. Virginia's defense gave up 506 yards to Connecticut and NC State managed 288 yards against a Clemson defense that has allowed 423 yards per game this season. Since neither team has shown significant improvement in the first few weeks, why should we expect any in the next few?
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Yes, Russell Wilson was named NC State's starting quarterback, but he knows there's more to life than football games. Baseball games, too. His father is still in the hospital after suffering a stroke this summer.
There is still a season opener to be played, though, and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier took a few people by surprise on Monday when he announced running back Taylor Rank will start against the Wolfpack instead of senior Mike Davis.
There shouldn't be any more surprises coming out of Coral Gables this week.
Shannon wasn't thrilled with the idea of his son, Xavier, joining the football team. And now that Xavier Shannon is a Hurricane, there's no favoritism -- or much talking about football -- going on.
Florida State's running game looked good in its final scrimmage, but the quarterbacks? Still looking for consistency. If the Noles are going to have a good season, the offense is going to have to play well for more than "a minute and a half." It might help if everyone who is supposed to be there was actually cleared to play.
UNC's game against McNeese State is a sell-out, but will the Tar Heels put on a season-long show for their fans? When asked for specifics about his kicking game, Butch Davis decided to punt. It looks like Jay Wooten and Casey Barth will get things done together.
I'm not the only one who thinks Clemson can actually git 'er done this year. Ron Morris points out plenty of reasons why Tommy Bowden should have a breakout season. Of course, there's always that question about the offensive line, but better to be concerned about your backups than your starters, no?
It's never good when a headline starts off with "Despite being tied to an academic scandal ..." but hey, Virginia defensive coordinator Bob Pruett is still "having a lot of fun."
As for offensive coordinators, I told you this guy was good.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
1. Can T.J. Yates bounce back from last season's injury and flourish in the second season of Butch Davis' offense?
Considering the Tar Heels return 99.5 percent of their output at running back and 98.6 percent of their receiving yards, it would seem as if all Yates has to do is manage the offense without turning the ball over. He should be capable of more with a healthy shoulder, but missed all of spring practice after surgery. Yates set a single-season school record in 2007 with 2,655 passing yards but wasn't as efficient toward the end of the season because of a small tear in his throwing shoulder.
2. How much drop-off will there be after the loss of defensive standouts Kentwan Balmer, Durell Mapp and Hilee Taylor?
Despite the loss of Taylor and Balmer, UNC's strength on defense should still be its front four. Marvin Austin, Cam Thomas, E.J. Wilson and Aleric Mullins all have had significant playing time. It will be more difficult to replace Mapp, the team's leading tackler, at linebacker. Sophomores Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant both played in all 12 games last year and had five starts.
3. Who will replace four-year starter and career field goal leader Connor Barth?
Redshirt freshman Jay Wooten appears to be the frontrunner, but he's got some competition from several walk-on players, including Barth's little brother, Casey, who is a freshman.