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by Darren Anderson

August 28, 2018

 

Introduction
It’s that time of year again. Summer is winding down, the kids are back in school, and football is back! The smell of fresh cut grass fills the air and fields are being laced with hash marks, yard lines, and school colors; none of which are better than our powder blue. After a disappointing season in 2017, riddled with unfathomable injuries that seemed to come more frequent than touchdowns, this year couldn’t come fast enough. We could now start our journey back to an ACC championship contending team as we were in 2015.

Off Season
The off season started off with a bang. Antonio Williams, Ohio State RB, announced he would be transferring to UNC to be closer to family. Typically transfers will sit for one year before being eligible to play, but UNC immediately sought a waiver for hardship that was eventually granted in late July. Williams will be able to play this season with two years of eligibility remaining. The second bang of the off season was one straight to the gut of a fanbase still licking its wounds from the academic scandal that loomed over our basketball program for four years. The last thing we needed was another scandal. UNC self reported that thirteen football players sold team issued Jordan’s, some of which were sold for as much as $2500 a pair. Most players we’re dealt four game suspensions, which the NCAA allowed UNC to stagger across multiple games. The full suspension list is as follows:
Four Games:
OL Quiron Johnson
QB Chazz Surratt
OL Brian Anderson
DE Malik Carney
WR Beau Corrales
DE Tomon Fox
DE Tyrone Hopper
LB Malik Robinson
OL Jordan Tucker

Two Games:
DB Greg Ross
DB Tre Shaw

One Game:
OL Jonah Melton
QB Jack Davidson

The last bang this off season was another blow to the now diminished defense. DT Aaron Crawford suffered a knee injury during practice last Monday. There were no specifics on the injury other than he was expected to miss around four weeks. The earliest expected return date for Crawford is when Carolina hosts Pitt on Sept. 22.

Season Opener
UNC will open its season on a revenge trip to face UCal in Berkley, CA. The Golden Bears spoiled our home opener last year with a 35-30 victory in Chapel Hill. QB Chazz Surratt will be suspended for the season opener, so Nathan Elliott will be under center. The Golden Bears were ranked 112th in yards allowed last season so big plays down the field could be an effective way to attack their young defense. Even though there will be some key defensive players missing on our end, stopping the run and getting to the quarterback will be two focal points for the defense in this game. After allowing 200+ yards per game on the ground last season, a more experienced defensive line looks to drastically improve on that number. UCal RB Patrick Laird will be a formidable opponent to test their improvement, and if he’s stopped it could be a determining factor in the game. Lastly, UNC has to get to the QB against a shaky offensive line. All five starters are returning from last year’s team that were poor in pass protection, allowing their QB to be hurried and sacked even on short routes. If the Tarheels can stymie the running game and get to the QB often, the chances of spoiling their opener and exacting revenge drastically increase.

 

Season Outlook
After going 3-9 in 2017, there has to be only one direction this season can go right? Up! I’m not saying we are going to go 12-0, or that we will finish atop the Coastal Division, but going back to a bowl game this year is a definite possibility and should be an expectation. After reviewing the schedule, it is actually pretty favorable for a winning season. We are escaping another year without having to face the power house teams of the Atlantic conference in Clemson and FSU. Also, four of our toughest five games on the schedule will be played at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Minus a brutal trip to Miami, we are getting Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, UCF, and NC State in front of a home crowd. If we can stay healthy, stay committed to Larry Fedora’s process, and stay out of the headlines, 2018 can be the bounce back year that every UNC fan can be proud of.

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