2017 Football Preview – ACC – Tar Heels
Looking for 2017 North Carolina Tar Heels predictions? The Tar Heels have been a steady football program under the stewardship of head coach Larry Fedora, but 2017 will present some undeniable challenges. Sure, UNC has won 19 ballgames over the past two years, but much of their core group has departed.
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- 2017-18 College Football Preview – North Carolina Tar Heels
- Head Coach: Larry Fedora
- 2016 Record: 8-5
- North Carolina Tar Heels Odds to win the 2017 FBS Championship: +50000
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How the Tar Heels replenish some vulnerable spots will be the key to how successful the Chapel Hill faithful will be in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.
Most of the programs in UNC’s Coastal division have improved, so it should be a real dogfight to simply duplicate a seven or eight-win campaign in 2017, although young studs could always emerge.
2017 North Carolina Tar Heels Predictions: Team Strengths
Sick Secondary: Maybe the strength of the Heels’ entire roster in 2017 is the veteran defensive secondary. New defensive co-ordinator John Papuchis has plenty to work with on that side of the ball, particularly in the back seven. Safety Donnie Miles is as steady as they come, with 102 tackles a year ago and a surefire all-ACC candidate.
Senior CB M.J. Stewart is also a cover beast, with a team-high 11 pass breakups in ’16. Fellow CB Patrice Rene brings NFL size to the position (6’2, 200 lbs).
Come to think of it, UNC’s whole defense is pretty well balanced. North Carolina’s ‘D’ is almost never better than its offense, but this year may be the exception to the rule.
The linebacker position is solid if unspectacular, with the team’s two leading tacklers back in Cole Holcomb (115 tackles) and Andre Smith (113 stops).
The D-line is led by upperclassmen at DE with junior Malik Carney and senior Dajuan Drennon. All of this is to say that UNC’s defense has far more experience than its attack.
It’s not a perfect picture mind you – the Heels have a persistent issue stopping the run (opposition routinely racks up an average of 200 yards per game) – but Carolina’s success this season likely hinges on the ‘D’ leading the way.
Eyebrow-raising Grad Transfer: Star QB Mitch Trubisky must be replaced after being drafted into the NFL, but the Heels think they’ve found their man with LSU transfer Brandon Harris. Trubisky’s backup last year was sophomore Nathan Elliott, but he’s only thrown nine career pass attempts.
At least Harris is used to the rigors of the SEC. Harris was touted to be the leading man for the LSU Tigers for quite some time, which suggests that if a program of that stature was so interested, there must be something there for Carolina to utilize in 2017.
2017 North Carolina Tar Heels Predictions: Team Weaknesses
Plenty to Replace: On top of Trubisky putting Chapel Hill in the rearview mirror, UNC also loses its two leading rushers (Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan) and its top two pass-catchers (Ryan Switzer and Bug Howard). That is a ton of impact players on offense to replace.
In addition to Harris, the Tar Heels need major impacts from freshman RB Michael Carter and the WRs around senior Austin Proehl, who is a ‘Steady Eddie’ at the position. Seniors Jordan Cunningham, Thomas Jackson and soph Anthony Ratliff-Williams need to snag as many balls as possible.
If freshman RB Carter cannot carry the mail, UNC will likely turn to sophomore Jordon Brown in the backfield. The underclassmen will be assisted by some experience on the front line in the form of senior OT Bentley Spain and interior lineman Cameron Dillard and R.J. Prince.
North Carolina has a crack punter in sophomore Tom Sheldon, who averaged almost 43 yards per punt as a frosh a season ago, although the Heels lose K Nick Weiler, a savvy vet that hit a 54-yard game winner versus the heavily favored Florida State last year.
North Carolina Tar Heels Prediction: 7-6
Given all the personnel losses on offense, this has to be considered a rebuilding year for Coach Fedora and his Tar Heels. Former LSU man Harris must become the go-to guy at quarterback, and players that we buried down the depth chart last year have their chance to emerge as difference-makers.
It is crucial a few of those guys make that leap so that the defense doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting.
The veterans on the UNC defense have to continue to do what they do, but sharpen their run defense in the meantime.
If the offense can catch up to the ‘D’ early in the season, UNC has a chance to contend in the Coastal division, thanks to other teams in that group (Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech, Pitt, Duke and Virginia) also having questions to answer.
Carolina draws Notre Dame out of conference, which does the Tar Heels no good in 2017.
There are also daunting challenges on the road with V. Tech, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, and in-state nemesis NC State. Seven wins should be considered a decent outing for this club in 2017.
2017 North Carolina Tar Heels Football Schedule
- 9/2/17 TBD CAL
- 9/9/17 TBD LOU
- 9/16/17 TBD at ODU
- 9/23/17 TBD DUKE
- 9/30/17 TBD at G. TECH
- 10/7/17 TBD ND
- 10/14/17 TBD UVA
- 10/21/17 TBD at VT
- 10/28/17 TBD MIA (Fl)
- 11/9/17 TBD at PITT
- 11/18/17 TBD W. CAR.
- 11/25/17 TBD at NC ST.
What do you think about our 2017 North Carolina Tar Heels predictions? Please leave us a comment below telling us how you think they’ll do in 2017!
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