What you need to know ... The
Tar Heels had a night-and-day turnaround improving by almost 100
yards per game in total defense and over five points per game in
scoring D with a surprisingly consistent season. It's a no-name
defense with seven starters returning and enough productivity to
hope for a repeat. The line has the most concerns after losing
top pass rusher Tommy Davis and tackle Chase Page, but it should
be fine if Kyndraus Guy and Shelton Bynum can shine in the
middle. Outside linebacker Larry Edwards is an all-star caliber
talent ready to lead the back seven. Safeties Trimaine Goddard
and Kareen Taylor are unsung rocks.
Tackles: Larry Edwards,
Kareen Taylor, 3.5
Interceptions: Tramaine Goddard, 3
Star of the defense: Senior LB Larry Edwards
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
LB Chase Rice
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DT Cam Thomas
Best pro prospect: Edwards
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Edwards, 2) FS Kareen
Taylor, 3) SS Trimaine Goddard
Strength of the defense: Experience, safety
Weakness of the defense:
Sure-thing pass rushing defensive ends
There's a little bit of work to be done after
losing pass rushing star Tommy Davis and the solid interior presence of
Chase Page. This will be a productive, no-name group with Kyndraus Guy
the new star in the middle until Khalif Mitchell finally turns into a
player. More is needed from the good-sized ends when it comes to getting
into the backfield, but Brian Rackley and Kentwan Balmer should be good
against the run. There's good enough depth at each spot to form a strong
rotation with more on the way with a great class of recruits looking for
The key to the unit: Find a few players to anchor the front four
and continue to get production out of the reserves.
Defensive Line Rating:
- DE Brian Rackley, Sr. - 15 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL
Rackley was an average starter over the opening eight games before
suffering a concussion and missing the final three games. He got bigger
filling out his 6-5 frame to become a solid 263 pounds, but he hasn't
progressed into a dangerous pass rusher.
- DT Kyndraus Guy, Jr. - 21 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFL, 1
Guy had a far stronger sophomore season after struggling mightily as a
raw freshman. He's still not huge for a tackle at 6-2 and 282 pounds,
but he has the talent and the skills to grow into a tough run stopper to
work around. He got much better at using his quickness to get into the
backfield and showed off his athleticism by nearly scoring a touchdown
on a 37-yard interception against Maryland.
- DT Shelton Bynum, Sr. - 22 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
The light finally went on for the 295-pound senior. Always a good
reserve, Bynum turned into a good space-eater in the middle showing good
interior quickness. The potential is there for an even better season if
he can stay healthy; he missed time last year with a leg injury.
- DE Kentwan Balmer, Jr. - 17 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL
A very tall and athletic end, the 6-5, 285-pound junior was on his way
to a decent season before getting knocked out with a knee injury. He's
back and should be one of the team's better players at getting into the
backfield and one of the team's top pass rushers at either end of
- DE Melik Brown, Sr. - 7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 3
A reserve over his first three seasons, Brown hasn't been able to build
on a good, 21-tackle freshman season with only 20 stops over the past
two seasons. He has seen enough time to be in the mix for the starting
job on the right side.
- DT Khalif Mitchell, Jr. - 13 tackles, 2 broken up passes, 4
Mitchell was one of the team's star recruits a few years ago, but hasn't
been able to come close to living up the hype with 28 career tackles.
He's a huge 6-6, 315-pound athlete with the quickness to play end. He'll
once again rotate at tackle providing a bigger option than the 295-pound
- DE Hilee Taylor, Jr. - 12 tackles, 1 sack
Just a pass rusher, the 6-3, 230-pound junior is a situational defender
who'll combine with Brian Rackley at left end. He didn't build on a
promising freshman season when he made 4.5 sacks and forced three
fumbles partly due to a sprained foot.
- DT Cam Thomas, RFr.
The 330-pound redshirt freshman will play a big role providing bulk on
the inside behind the 282-pound junior. He was used as a monster-sized
fullback on high school and should grow into an active tackle.
Several players got key playing time last season when Doug
Justice was lost for the year early on. Larry Edwards is on the verge of
All-ACC honors if he can have another 91-tackle season on the strongside.
Durell Mapp showed signs over the second half of last season that he can
be a consistent defender, so the big question is on the weakside with
Chase Rice and Martel Thatch looking to take over for Tommy Richardson.
It's the job of this group to stop the run and generate pressure from
the outside. The pass defense is left up to the secondary.
The key to the unit: Quickly figure out how to
replace Timmy Richardson's production on the outside and hope for an
even bigger season from Larry Edwards.
Linebacker Rating: 6.5
- Larry Edwards, Sr. - 91 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 8 TFL, 1
Edwards showed in spring ball last year that he might be on the verge of
big things. After tying for a team-leading 91 tackles, the 6-2,
230-pound senior showed that he's ready to be among the best defenders
in the ACC. He's a steady performer with the toughness to play in the
middle and the speed to continue to shine on the outside. He's a
tackling machine when he gets in a groove.
- Victor Worsley, Sr. - 22 tackles
Worsley stepped in when Doug Justice went down for the season and became
a key player in the middle. At 235 pounds, he's a bigger option inside
than the 220-pound Durell Mapp or the 228-pound Mark Paschal.
- Durell Mapp, Jr. - 46 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL
Mapp took over the starting job in the middle over the second half of
the season and showed he could handle himself well. He's not huge at 6-2
and 220 pounds and has to prove he can hold up over the course of a
season, but he's quick with the range better suited for the weakside.
- Chase Rice, Soph. - 4 tackles
A special teamer last season. the 6-3, 220-pound sophomore has to use
his safety-like speed to be an impact player on the weakside hoping to
for Tommy Richardson and his 91 tackles. He's not nearly as big as
Richardson and has to prove he can consistently get into the backfield.
Jarrell Miller, Fr.
The team's top recruit should find a spot on the field somewhere. He's
6-3 and 235 pounds with a natural pass rushing ability and great
toughness. He can play any of the linebacking positions projecting to be
a dominant man in the middle.
The secondary turned got better allowing 211
yards per game but still didn't make enough big plays. The potential is
there for an even bigger improvement this season with Kareen Taylor and
Trimane Goddard forming an strong unsung safety tandem and Quinton
Person and Jacoby Watkins good enough at corner to grow into the
starting roles. There's decent depth and good all-around athleticism,
and now the entire group has to help the defense come up with more than
The key to the unit: Replace the playmaking ability
of Cedrick Holt and hope for even better seasons from Kareeen Taylor and
Secondary Rating: 7
- CB Quinton Person, Jr. - 36 tackles, 1 interception, 4
broken up passes
Person turned into a spot starter last season getting the call four
times and coming up with a great season. He's quick enough to be used as
a kick returner if needed and showed he can be tough against the run.
- FS Kareen Taylor, Sr. - 61 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 2
interceptions, 2 broken up passes
Taylor had his second straight strong season at free safety and should
be one of the leaders of the defense. With the improvement in the
defensive front seven, he was able to free lance a bit more and showed
he could make more big plays both as a pass rusher and against the pass.
He's corner fast in the body of a safety.
- SS Trimane Goddard, Jr. - 53 tackles, 3 interceptions, 5
broken up passes, 2.5 TFL
One of the team's faster players, Goddard moved from corner to safety
and was the team's fifth leading tackler. He's not big at 5-11 and 185
pounds and is coming off a broken foot suffered this off-season, but he
has the potential, when healthy, to grow into an All-ACC talent.
- CB Jacoby Watkins, Sr. - 19 tackles, 3 broken up passes
Watkins is a strong tackler with good size on the corner while his
coverage skills have improved. He needs to make more big plays using his
size and experience, but the biggest issue is a broken leg suffered
against Virginia costing him the second half of the season. He should be
fine for the start of the season.
- CB Bryan Bethea, Jr. - 14 tackles, 2 broken up
He's a quick corner with a little bit of starting experience to step in
if needed behind Quinton Person.
He's a key special teamer who came though big when needed
at corner in the win over Boston College.
- FS Cooter Arnold, Soph. - 48 carries, 187 yds, 3.9 ypc, 4
catches, 29 yds, 7.2 ypc
The former running back will move over to safety using his speed and
athleticism to grow into the job behind Kareen Taylor. He
saw time as a true freshman showing good flashes as a reserve as both a
runner and receiver. He'll need time, but he's too good an athlete to
keep off the field.
- SS D,J, Walker, Sr. - 9 tackles
He has turned into a special teamer after a good stat to his career with
a 26 tackle freshman season. He's quick enough to play free safety and
experience enough to be one of the stars of the special teams, but he'll
need to do more as a strong safety.
The kicking game will be more than fine with placekicker Connor Barth
back for his third season and punter David Wooldridge back for a fourth
season. Brandon Tate was one of the nation's better kickoff returners
last season and now needs to do more on punt returns after averaging a
pedestrian 9.2 yards per kick. The kickoff coverage unit was lousy
allowing 24 yards per return.
The key to the unit: PK Connor Barth has to be
consistent throughout the season while David Wooldridge has to take the
next step up in production and be an All-ACC punter.
Special Teams Rating: 8
- PK Connor Barth, Jr. - 11-21 FGs, 23-23 extra points
Barth had an inconsistent season after nailing 14 of 18 field goals in
2004. He hit a patch where he couldn't make anything, and then he got
hot hitting eight of his final ten. He has a good leg and decent range;
now he has to show it off a bit more.
- P David Wooldridge, Sr. - 66 punts, 2,713 yds, 41.1 yard per
kick, 13 inside the 20
Wooldridge came up with a fantastic season showing off a consistent leg
while pinning teams deep inside the 20 as well as by forcing 14 fair
catches. He has a three-year career average of 42.1 yards per kick and
should be in for an All-ACC caliber senior season..