North Carolina 2006 Preview
North Carolina RB Ronnie McGill
Posted Jul 31, 2006

Once again, North Carolina will be above-average, but can everything come together to finally be more of an ACC player?

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

The basketball school has always been average at football with enough good wins here and there, despite killer schedule after killer schedule, to be decent after a rough two-season stretch winning five games in 2002 and 2003 under head coach John Bunting. Now the Tar Heels have to show they can do more

The biggest problem under Bunting has been to put everything together. The offense was fantastic in 2004, but the defense couldn't stop anyone. The defense made a huge improvement last season, but scoring points was like pulling teeth.

This year's team should even out on both sides with the defense taking a little but of a slide, but not much of one, while the offense should be better than 105th in the nation in scoring and 103rd in total offense despite having only five starters returning.

Head coach: John Bunting
6th year: 24-36
11th year overall: 62-50-2
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 14, Def. 20, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 33
Ten Best Tar Heel Players
1. LB Larry Edwards, Sr.
2. RB Ronnie McGill, Sr.
3. WR Jesse Holley, Sr.
4. FS Kareen Taylor, Sr.
5. SS Trimane Goddard, Soph.
6. DT Kyndraus Guy, Jr.
7. TE Jon Hamlett, Sr.
8. RB Barrington Edwards, Jr.
9. LT Brian Chacos, Sr.
10. OG Charlston Gray, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7

9/2 Rutgers
9/9 Virginia Tech
9/16 Furman
9/23 at Clemson
10/7 at Miami
10/14 South Florida
10/19 at Virginia
10/28 Wake Forest
11/4 at Notre Dame
11/11 Georgia Tech
11/18 NC State
11/25 at Duke

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 5-6

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/10 at Georgia Tech L 27-21
9/17 Wisconsin L 16-5
9/24 at NC State W 31-24
10/1 Utah W 31-17
10/8 at Louisville L 69-14
10/22 Virginia W 7-5
10/29 at Miami L 34-16   
11/5 Boston College W 16-14
11/12 Maryland L 33-30 OT
11/19 Duke W 24-21
11/26 at Virginia Tech  L 30-3

The key to the team's success will be the steady play of the running backs. Ronnie McGill and Barrington Edwards form a tremendous 1-2 punch, but they have to prove they can be on the field for a full season. They have to carry the offense until the quarterback situation irons itself out. Nebraska transfer Joe Dailey and redshirt freshman Cam Sexton add far more mobility than Matt Baker did last year, and now they need to prove they can be consistent passers.

The no-name defense should be more than fine if it can come up with a steady pass rusher to replace Tommy Davis and a playmaking corner to take over for Cedrick Holt. The UNC aggressive style of defense brings pressure from several areas with enough athleticism in the front seven to get into the backfield on a consistent basis, and the corners will be there to prevent too many big plays. Safeties Trimane Goddard and Kareen Taylor are excellent cornerstones to work around.

Yes, UNC should be solid again, but it has been solid over the last few seasons. Schedules have been the issue.

Nine of UNC's 11 games in 2005 were against bowl bound teams, and nine of this year's games are against teams that went to bowl games. Part of it is playing in the ACC, but part of it is the lack of many cupcakes in the non-conference schedule. Fine, there's a breather against Furman, but there are also games against Notre Dame, Rutgers and South Florida. That's not completely taking it easy like it probably should do to get to a bowl game.

Yes, the Tar Heels are just good enough to come up with a win or two it shouldn't, and just average enough to get blasted here and there like it did last year against Louisville and Virginia Tech. The coaching staff has done a good job, even if the record hasn't always shown it, and the players are in place to make some noise in the Coastal Division.

The Schedule: Furman is the only non-bowl team from last season on the schedule until the Wake Forest game in late October. There are tough road trips to Clemson, Miami and Notre Dame, but the Tar Heels are good enough to win at Virginia and Duke. Rutgers and South Florida have to be must home-wins from the non-conference schedule, and there can't be slips in Kenan Stadium against Wake Forest or NC State.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Ronnie McGill. Talent isn't a problem with speed to burn in a 5-11, 220-pound frame, but he hasn't been able to stay on the field with injury issues. Last year he missed half the season thanks to sheer bad luck tearing a pectoral muscle while lifting weights. If he can last a full twelve games, he should be a lock for 1,000 yards.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Larry Edwards. Able to play inside or out and produce, the 230-pound senior is productive no matter where he plays. He's great at getting into the backfield able to be used like another defensive end because of his strength.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Joe Dailey and/or redshirt freshman QB Cam Sexton. North Carolina has its third starting quarterback in three seasons needing more production and more pop after finishing ninth in the ACC in passing efficiency. Both Dailey and Sexton are mobile, but the key will be to keep the offense moving after the offense only converted 35% on third downs.

The season will be a success if ... North Carolina gets back to a bowl game. This isn't a good enough team to win the Coastal Division, but there's enough experience to come up with a winning season and get a 13th game. While Bunting and his staff have done a decent job, a fifth straight non-winning season might bring a coaching change.

Key game: Sept. 9 vs. Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels haven't beaten the Hokies since 1997. Fine, so the two have only played twice since the 42-3 Gator Bowl drubbing, but it might be a must-win situation for North Carolina in the ACC opener with the next three conference games at Clemson, at Miami and at Virginia.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Second half scoring: Opponents 163 - North Carolina 81
- Yards per carry: Opponents 3.5 - North Carolina 2.8
- Fielded fair catches: Opponents 14 - North Carolina 3

The Last Time North Carolina…
…played in a bowl game…2004 (Continental Tire Bowl vs. Boston College)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…1999 (Duke)
…was shutout…2004 (Louisville)
…scored 50 points…2001 (Duke)
…went undefeated…1898
…won a conference title…1980 (ACC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…1997 (Jonathan Linton)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…never
…had a first-round draft choice…2002 (DE Julius Pepeprs and Ryan Sims)

Related Stories
North Carolina Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Jul 31, 2006
NC State Preview 2006 - Defense
 -by  Jul 31, 2006
North Carolina Preview 2006 Further Analysis
 -by  Jul 31, 2006

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