North Carolina Preview 2006 - Defense
North Carolina Tar Heels
Posted Jul 31, 2006

North Carolina Tar Heels Preview 2006 - UNC Defense

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.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Larry Edwards, 91
Sacks: 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

Defensive Line
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 time.
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:

Projected Starters
- 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 interception
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 tackle.

Top Backups
- DE Melik Brown, Sr. - 7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 3 quarterback hurries
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 quarterback hurries
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 Shelton Bynum.
- 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

Projected Starters
- Larry Edwards, Sr. - 91 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 8 TFL, 1 interception
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.

Top Backups
- 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 take over 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.

Defensive Backs
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 11 interceptions.
The key to the unit: Replace the playmaking ability of Cedrick Holt and hope for even better seasons from Kareeen Taylor and Trimane Goddard.
Secondary Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- CB Bryan Bethea, Jr. - 14 tackles, 2 broken up passes
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.

Special Teams
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

Projected Starters
- 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..

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