2007 North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 North Carolina Tar Heels Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

North Carolina Tar Heels

Recap: Despite winning only four games, new head coach Butch Davis laid the foundation for the future in Chapel Hill, filling his two-deep with a number of freshmen and sophomores that'll benefit from this year's hands-on experience.  Save for games at South Florida and Wake Forest, the Heels were competitive every Saturday, picking up building-block wins over Miami and Maryland along the way.  Sensing that far better days lie ahead at Carolina, Davis remained committed to the program, even after other schools showed interest in his services in December.     

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Hakeem Nicks

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Durell Mapp

Biggest Surprise: The Oct. 6 upset of once-beaten Miami.  The Heels jumped all over the ‘Canes, holding on for a 33-27 win, and handing Davis his first signature win versus his former employer.  It was the type of victory that the neophyte Carolina program will point to when it eventually makes it back to the postseason.

Biggest Disappointment: Losing to NC State on Nov. 10.  Although the Tar Heels probably grew numb to close defeats by the final month of the season, this one really stung.  North Carolina blew a fourth quarter lead, rallied back down the field, but stalled on the Wolfpack 7-yard line with a few ticks left on the clock.

Looking Ahead: Don't get bogged down solely by wins and losses when evaluating North Carolina's progress as a program.  Davis is back in his element, rebuilding a sleeping giant with budding talents on both sides of the ball, such as QB T.J. Yates, DT Marvin Austin, and S Deunta Williams.  If Yates continues to develop and the Heels learn to win the close ones, they'll be competing for more than just moral victories next November.      

- 2007 UNC Preview
2006 UNC Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 3-9
2007 Record: 4-

Sept. 1 James Madison W 37-14
Sept. 8 at East Carolina L 34-31
Sept. 15 Virginia L 22-20
Sept. 22 at South Florida L 37-10
Sept. 29 at Va Tech L 17-10
Oct. 6 Miami W 33-27
Oct. 13 South Carolina L 21-15
Oct. 27 at Wake Forest L 37-10
Nov. 3 Maryland W 16-13
Nov. 10 at NC State L 31-27
Nov. 17 at Georgia Tech L 27-25
Nov. 24
Duke W 20-14 OT

Nov. 24
North Carolina 20 ... Duke 14 OT
North Carolina took advantage of a missed field goal in overtime with a 25-yard Greg Little touchdown run in the comeback win. The Tar Heels started out the scoring with a nine-yard pass play to Brandon Tate, but Duke's defense held until late in the fourth while the offense got Jomar Wright touchdown catches from 25 and four yards out. Little ran for a seven-yard touchdown midway through the fourth to tie it, but Duke had one last chance late to win it in regulation with a 40-yard field goal attempt that went wide left.

Player of the game: North Carolina RB Greg Little ran 26 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 11 yards.
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 18-27, 219 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Clifford Harris, 6-44. Receiving: Jomar Wright, 8-91, 2 TD
North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 11-24, 75 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Greg Little, 26-154, 2 TD. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 6-38

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Tar Heels have lost games this year when they've played well, and now they've won one after playing like garbage. They had no right to pull off the win over Duke with so many mistakes and so many misfires from the passing game, but the defense did a great job of bending, but not breaking, while Greg Little ran extremely well to carry the offense. It's all about building for the future for the young team, and this win might turn out to be a huge stepping stone for next season. Winning ugly is still winning.

Nov. 17
Georgia Tech 27 ... North Carolina 25
Georgia Tech PK Travis Bell overcame an earlier miss to nail a 27-yard field goal with 16 seconds to play for the win. The Yellow Jackets lost four fumbles, but the defense more often than not bent without breaking as UNC settled for four Connor Barth field goals and got into the end zone on a 14-yard Hakeem Nicks catch and a one-yard Anthony Elzy run. Greg Smith caught touchdown passes from 40 and 47 yards out for Tech, while RB Tashard Choice, who ran for 142 yards, threw a 17-yard scoring pass to QB Taylor Bennett. UNC finished converting just one of 13 third down chances.
Player of the game: Georgia Tech WR Greg Smith caught six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Georgia Tech - Passing: Taylor Bennett, 13-24, 196 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Tashard Choice, 33-142. Receiving: Greg Smith, 6-155, 2 TD
North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 21-35, 283 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Greg Little, 24-89. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 7-162, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Third down conversions. North Carolina couldn't come up with them against Georgia Tech and it lead to four field goals. A more experienced team would've been able to put the game away this week by taking advantage of every opportunity, and better production from T.J. Yates on key plays would've made it happen. Even so, this was another good performance that just so happened to turn into a loss. UNC is about five plays away from being around 7-4 and in the bowl picture. Again, more experienced teams get those plays.

Nov. 10
NC State 31 ... North Carolina 27
Jamelle Eugene ran for his third touchdown with 1:41 to play, taking it in from one-yard out, and the defense held as NC State survived a late rally. The Wolfpack got up 17-0 early and appeared on the verge of a blowout, when Charles Scott took a Daniel Evans pass 92 yards for a touchdown. Down 24-10 in the second half, UNC got a 50-yard touchdown catch from Brandon Tate, a 27-yard field goal, and a 76-yard Kendrick Burton interception return for a score to take a 27-24 lead. But an interception from DeMario Pressley set up the Wolfpack on the Tar Heel 25 to set up the final score. UNC LB Durrell Mapp made 23 tackles.
Player of the game: NC State RB Jamelle Eugene ran 32 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns, and caught six passes for 33 yards. In a losing cause, North Carolina LB Durrell Mapp made 23 tackles and a sack
Stat Leaders: North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 22-42, 241 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Anthony Elzy, 4-10. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 5-56
NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 26-42, 229 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Jamelle Eugene, 32-159, 3 TD. Receiving: Marcus Stone, 6-68, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... North Carolina did a great job to come back against NC State twice when it could've gotten blown out, but it gave up a key turnover late and couldn't hold. There has to be more of a running game, gaining a mere 12 yards, and the entire offense can't be all on T.J. Yates, but the team is making strides. Now any hope of bowl eligibility is gone, but that doesn't mean the season is over. Beating Georgia Tech and Duke would set a great tone for 2008.

Nov. 3
North Carolina 16 ... Maryland 13
Connor Barth hit two 45-yard field goals in the second quarter, along with a 23-yarder, and Hakeem Nicks caught a 30-yard touchdown pass as North Carolina shocked Maryland. The Terp struggled offensively all game long, but rallied from a 16-3 deficit to get a five-yard Keon Lattimore touchdown run and a 29-yard Obi Egekeze field goal, but couldn't get any closer as a final drive stalled allowing the Tar Heels to run out the clock. The two teams combined for 20 penalties and five turnovers.
Player of the game: North Carolina DB Tramaine Goddard made ten tackles and picked off a pass.
Stat Leaders: Maryland - Passing: Chris Turner, 20-36, 209 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Lance Ball, 15-69. Receiving: Darrius Heyward-Bey, 5-64
North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 16-26, 149 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Johnny White, 18-92. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 8-88, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It might not have been a thing of beauty, but the Tar Heels will take it. A win over Maryland keeps the dream of a bowl game alive, but to get by road games against NC State and Georgia Tech, before dealing with Duke, there has to be more offensive production. They got away with 259 yards against the Terps, but that's a tough way to try to win. T.J. Yates threw two picks, there was a fumble, and 11 penalties, but the team found a way to win. The explosion has to start to kick in; the Terps didn't respect the deep ball at all.

Oct. 26
Wake Forest 37 ... North Carolina 10
Wake Forest jumped out to a 10-0 lead helped by a six-yard Josh Adams touchdown run. and then answered a 38-yard Connor Barth field goal with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Kevin Marion. The Demon Deacons only gained 269 yards of total offense, but took advantage of every opportunity with Adams running for a 14-yard score on the first play after a turnover, and LB Aaron Curry took a pass 77 yards for a score. Sam Swank became the Wake Forest all-time leading scorer hitting field goals from 23, 22 and 46 yards out.
Player of the game: Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry made seven tackles and two interceptions, taking one for a score.
Stat Leaders: Wake Forest - Passing: Riley Skinner, 12-15, 133 yds
Rushing: Josh Adams, 18-82, 2 TDs. Receiving: Kenneth Moore, 4-41
North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 26-33, 236 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Johnny White, 6-31. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 9-87

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... North Carolina had two weeks off and came up with that? The defense did a decent job against Wake Forest with few long drives allowed, but it wasn't tight when it absolutely had to be, and it didn't do much to help out the struggling offense. T.J. Yates had a decent day throwing the ball, but there weren't any game-changing passes to save the struggling running game. With Maryland up next, there has to be more offensive pop.

Oct. 13
South Carolina 21 ... North Carolina 15
South Carolina jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead on two Chris Smelley touchdown passes, with a three-yard strike to Dion Lecorn and a 30-yard play to Kenny McKinley, and was up 21-3 at halftime on a 12-yard Jared Cook touchdown catch. And then the Gamecock offense couldn't put any points on the board, while the Tar Heels got a touchdown pass and run from T.J. Yates to pull within six with three minutes to play. Yates had one last shot, getting to the South Carolina 31, but couldn't get any closer as time ran out. Durrell Mapp made 14 tackles for the Tar Heels.
Player of the game: South Carolina QB Chris Smelley completed 17 of 26 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns with an interception.
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Chris Smelley, 17-26, 172 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 20-95. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 5-64, 1 TD
North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 22-42, 285 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Johnny White, 6-37. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 8-114

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Week after week, there are positive strides for the young team. T.J. Yates is improving, defense did a great job against South Carolina, and now, this is a tough out week in and week out. There will be problems along the way, forget about a winning season of a bowl, but after the way the Tar Heels played against Miami and South Carolina, hope is sky high. A few wins in the ACC race would accelerate the process.

Oct. 6
North Carolina 33 ... Miami 27
North Carolina roared out to a 27-0 lead highlighted by a 54-yard Brandon Tate touchdown on an end around, and a 39-yard Anthony Elzy scoring dash, and then held on for dear life. Miami roared back in the third quarter, scoring 20 points on a one-yard Kyle Wright touchdown run, a four-yard pass to Sam Shields, and then a 97-yarder bolt of lightning from Darnell Jenkins. The Tar Heels were able to stay ahead with two of Connor Barth's four field goals for just enough points to overcome a one-yard Javarris James scoring run set up by a long Jenkins punt return. UNC recovered the onside kick and ran the clock out. Miami threw four interceptions, while UNC only lost one fumble.
Player of the game: North Carolina LB Durrell Mapp made eight tackles with an interception
Stat Leaders: North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 15-23, 218 yds
Rushing: Anthony Elzy, 25-95, 1 TD. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 5-76
Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 17-33, 302 yds, 2 TD
Graig Cooper, 13-77. Receiving: Sam Shield, 5-80, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UNC might have had to hold on to its breath, but thanks to an impressive early start, clutch play from the defense, and the leg of Connor Barth, it pulled off the shocker over Miami. This is a young team that might feed off this win, having the confidence to do more in ACC play in a few weeks. It helped that Miami didn't tackle well early on, but give credit to the Tar Heels for being creative, and taking advantage of the holes that were there. Butch Davis had to have enjoyed this.

Sept. 29
Virginia Tech 17 ... North Carolina 10
It wasn't pretty, but Virginia Tech pulled off the win with short touchdown runs from Tyrod Taylor and Branden Ore, and got stingy defense throughout. The Tar Heels only managed a 32-yard Connor Barth field goal in the first 54 minutes, and then made things interesting with a one-yard scoring run from Anthony Elzy. They got into Hokie territory on a final drive, but a sack and a false start penalty killed the comeback attempt. UNC outgained Tech 306 yards to 241. The two teams combined for ten sacks.
Player of the game: Virginia Tech LB Cam Martin had 10 tackles and three sacks.
Stat Leaders: North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 16-25, 182 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Anthony Elzy, 11-74, 1 TD. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 8-94
Virginia Tech - Passing: Tyrod Taylor, 10-19, 66 yds, 1 INT
Branden Ore, 19-93, 1 TD. Receiving: Eddie Royal, 4-14
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Tar Heel defense did a great job of keeping the Virginia Tech offense in check, while the offense had its moment. T.J. Yates is a baller; he was hit time and time again, and still hung tough under the pressure. Anthony Elzy ran well, and Hakeem Nicks had a nice game, but to beat the better teams, someone has to explode. Miami is beatable, but the offensive line will have to play far better next week to come up with the huge home win.

Sept. 22
South Florida 37 ... North Carolina 10
South Florida suffocated North Carolina's offense all game long, not allowing a touchdown until the final minute, while the Bull offense overcame three turnovers to get three Delbert Alvarado field goals, five-yard touchdown runs from Mike Ford and Benjamin Williams, and a 12-yard Amarri Jackson 12-yard scoring grab. Jamar Taylor added a one-yard touchdown for a 37-3 lead late in the game. The Tar Heels were held to 164 yards of total offense.
Player of the game ... South Florida DE George Selvie made seven tackles and three sacks
Stat Leaders: North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 11-27, 85 yds, 4 INT
Rushing: Ryan Houston, 11-43, 1 TD  Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 3-32
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 17-30, 230 yds, 1 TD
Benjamin Williams, 15-64, 1 TD  Receiving: Taurus Johnson, 3-34

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Tar Heel offense will have to get used to several uneven offensive performances, especially against phenomenal defenses like South Florida's. In games like this, it'd be nice if there was a pounding running game to take the heat off QB T.J. Yates, and to slow down the pass rush, but it wasn't happening. Yates never had a chance to breathe, and now it'll only get worse with a trip to Virginia Tech ahead. To survive, the Yates will have to get the ball out of his hands quicker.

Sept. 15
Virginia 22 ... North Carolina 20
Virginia held on as North Carolina's two-point conversion attempt after a two-yard touchdown catch to Richard Quinn got the Tar Heels close. Cedric Peerman ran for a one-yard score, and was the workhorse all game long. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, several drives ended in field goals instead of touchdowns, with Chris Gould connecting from 51, 28, 37, 48 and 32 yards out. North Carolina stayed alive on the combination of T.J. Yates to Hakeem Nicks, with the two hooking up for a four-yard score in the final seconds of the first half, and Nicks taking a short pass and weaving and bruising his way to a 53-yard score.
Player of the game: Virginia RB Cedric Peerman ran for 186 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, and had three receptions for 37 yards.
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 11-17, 96 yds
Rushing: Cedric Peerman, 30-186, 1 TD. Receiving: Maurice Covington, 4-40
North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 25-38, 339 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Johnny White, 16-60. Receiving: Brooks Foster, 7-139

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Fine, so the Tar Heels couldn't win at home against a mediocre team like Virginia, but this was still a positive step forward for the rebuilding program. QB T.J. Yates appears to be a keeper. He showed good poise, made several big plays, and while he got a ton of help from Hakeem Nicks and the receivers, he played like a leader the program needs. The defense couldn't handle the Virginia ground game, but it did a good job of generating pressure.

Sept. 8
East Carolina 34 ... North Carolina 31
ECU PK Ben Hartman missed three field goals, but he nailed a 39-yard shot with no time left on the clock to beat North Carolina. The two teams were in a shootout for three quarters, with Patrick Pinkney throwing three touchdown passes for East Carolina and UNC getting a huge day from Brandon Tate, but Hartman's field goal were the only points in the fourth. Pinkney connected with Chris Johnson on touchdown passes from 78 and 24 yards out, and Johnson added a four-yard touchdown run, while Tate caught touchdown passes from 39 and 51 yards and returned a punt 58 yards for a score.
Player of the game: East Carolina QB Patrick Pinkney went 31-of-41 for 406 yards and three touchdowns, and ran ten times for 22 yards.
Stat Leaders: North Carolina
- Passing: T.J. Yates, 20-32, 344 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Johnny White, 9-43. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 6-77, 1 TD
East Carolina
- Passing: Patrick Pinkney, 31-41, 406 yds, 3 TDs
Rushing: Patrick Pinkney, 10-22. Receiving: Jamar Bryant, 6-93
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense is going to be a work in progress, as East Carolina exposed with the passing game, but under Butch Davis, that'll quickly come around. The big concern was the offense, and it appears to be in good hands as T.J. Yates had a terrific game, and Brandon Tate was all but unstoppable on his two touchdown catches and a punt return for a score. UNC needs to be explosive to make up for a lack of running game, and now the defense has to start coming up with more stops. That shouldn't be a problem against Virginia.

Sept. 1
North Carolina 37 ... James Madison 14
North Carolina jumped all over James Madison early on with a 21-0 first quarter lead, highlighted b a 65-yard touchdown pass from T.J. Yates to Brook Foster on the opening drive. Foster caught an eight-yard touchdown pass and Anthony Elzy ran for two short scores in the easy with. JMU managed just 249 yards of total offense and only got into the end zone on a four-yard L.C. Baker catch in the second quarter and on an eight-yard Rodney Landers run with 41 seconds to play.
Player of the game ... North Carolina QB T.J. Yates was 13-of-18 for 218 yards, three touchdowns and a pick, and ran twice for five yards.
Stat Leaders: James Madison - Passing: Rodney Landers, 14-22, 100 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Eugene Holloman, 23-82  Receiving: L.C. Baker, 4-37, 1 TD
North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 13-18, 218 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Johnny White, 12-49  Receiving: Brooks Foster, 4-87, 2 TDs
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Tar Heels got up so quickly on James Madison that it seemed like the team went on autopilot. The running game had to show more than it was able to, only netting 100 yards, but T.J. Yates did a great job of opening things up through the air. He needs to do more on third downs, and he needs more help from the running game, but those things should hopefully come over the course of the season if the defense gives the O chances to work, like it did against JMU. Next week will be a good test against a strong East Carolina defensive line.

Sept. 1 – James Madison

Sept. 8 – at East Carolina
Offense: Skip Holtz likes to spread the field out and turn his quarterback loose, but with the battery of James Pinkney and Aundrae Allison gone, the Pirates will put more emphasis on the ground game.  That means extra carries this year for versatile senior Chris Johnson and his young understudies, Dominique Lindsay and Norman Whitley.  While strong-armed sophomore Rob Kass will replace Pinkney behind center, an adequate replacement for Allison will be much tougher to find.  Look for the quarterback to utilize a group of tight ends that has the potential to be as good as any in Conference USA.  For ECU to improve on last season's weak offensive output, the veteran line needs to give Kass an extra second or two in the pocket and create more daylight for the backs.        
Defense: If the Pirate defensive line doesn't outright dominate at times this season, heads will roll at the end of the year.  There's way too much talent and depth on this unit for it not to make a quantum leap from 2006.  Junior end Marcus Hands, in particular, has the size and quickness to be special after underachieving last fall.  Penetration up front figures to help a secondary that's easily the weak link of this defense.  Three starters, including both corners, need to be replaced from a group that was one of the underrated team strengths for the past two seasons.

Sept. 15 - Virginia
Offense: Until the receivers prove they can play, it'll be run, run and run some more with mobile quarterback Jameel Sewell and decent backs Cedric Peerman and Keith Payne working behind a much improved, veteran line. The tight ends are excellent, but the receiving corps suffered a nasty blow when it lost leading receiver Kevin Ogletree with a knee injury. Now it'll be up to Sewell, a rising star but an inconsistent passer, to make everyone around him better. Don't expect anything flashy for a while.
Defense: Somewhat quietly, the Virginia defense had a terrific year finishing 17th in the nation in total D and 22nd in scoring D. It should be even better with ten starters returning, including top linemen Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald to anchor the front three. All four starting linebackers are back to form a solid group that doesn't make a whole bunch of mistakes. This might not be the most athletic defense, but it's aggressive and is always around the ball.

Sept. 22 – at South Florida
Offense: This is Matt Grothe's offense, but unlike last season, he shouldn't have to do everything short of crafting the weekly gameplan in order to make the unit hum.  Although he led the offense in passing, rushing and scoring, the program realizes it needs to protect its most important commodity and give him more support.  Can freshman Mike Ford live up to the hype?  Plenty is expected from a back that should ignite a rushing attack that did little in 2006 when Grothe wasn't slithering through opposing defenses.  Originally headed to Tuscaloosa, he's the highest-profile recruit to ever sign with USF.  The Bull receivers are a dynamic bunch that's loaded with size, speed and underachievers that need to get their act together.
Defense: Like all teams from Florida, the USF defense pursues well and is built on speed.  Wally Burnham's unit is well-coached, prevents the big play and is vastly underappreciated and unnoticed on a national level.  That could change if the Bulls crack the top 10 in total defense in 2007, a distinct possibility.  Next level corners Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins allow the defense to sell out on occasion, and the front four, led by sophomore rush end George Selvie, returns seven linemen that started games in 2006.  Importing defensive line coach Dan McCarney and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie from Iowa State were coups that'll pay immediate dividends.

Sept. 29 – at Virginia Tech
Offense: Can Tech win a national title with a mediocre offense? It was 99th in the nation in total offense, but it did a great job of taking advantage of all the breaks generated by the defense. Eight starters return, led by ACC Player of the Year candidate Branden Ore at running back, but he needs the line to be healthy for a full season, and better. The passing game has good pieces, but it has to be far more consistent considering there are four talented senior receivers returning. Quarterback Sean Glennon had a good off-season, and now it has to translate into better production.
For two years in a row, Tech has led the nation in total defense, and last season, was number one in scoring defense allowing 11 points per game. There's no reason the D can't be even better with eight starters returning led by the 1-2 linebacking punch of Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Corner Brandon Flowers is emerging as one of the best in the nation, "Macho" Harris is a good defender on the other side, and the line is loaded with size, quickness, depth and experience. As good as things were, and will be, it's not like the D played a who's who of offensive machines, so the overall numbers might be a tad bit overrated, but make no mistake about it; this is a special defense.

Oct. 6 - Miami
Offense: After a miserably inconsistent year finishing 87th in the nation in both total and scoring offense, the attack needs to play up to its talent level. The backfield will be amazing with Javarris James and true freshman Graig Cooper each good enough star for just about anyone in the country. The line has potential with two good tackles in Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood to work around, and now the passing game has to be far better. The Kyle Wright vs. Kirby Freeman quarterback battle will be an ongoing debate, and the receiving corps has to step up and be better. Lance Leggett emerging as a true number one target would be a start.
Defense: The defense finished seventh in the nation last year despite not getting any help from the offense. The starting 11 should be good enough to shut everyone down, but there will be early concerns with the depth on the defensive line and the secondary. Safety Kenny Phillips and end Calais Campbell might be the two best defensive players in the nation, and everything will revolve around them; they must stay healthy. The linebacking corps might not have name stars, but it'll be a rock against the run with a good rotation of talents.

Oct. 13 - South Carolina
Offense: This should be a balanced attack that'll rely on the running game early on and the steady play of emerging QB Blake Mitchell to be more explosive and consistent than last year. The big concern is a line that was overmatched throughout the spring as it tried to break in three new starters. Getting a push for the nice 1-2 rushing punch of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis is job one, while Mitchell will have to make quick decisions early on until things start to come together. The loss of Sidney Rice won't be a killer if Kenny McKinley handles the number one job like he's expected to and a good number two emerges.
Defense: The defense has plenty of returning experience, depth, young options waiting to step up and shine, and good stars to build around. MLB Jasper Brinkley is one of the best in America, and now his twin brother will move from defensive end to outside linebacker to help out (though he might end up back on the line). The secondary is emerging as a potential force if everyone starters to play consistently. There's speed at corner, depth and experience at safety, and an emerging star in SS Emanuel Cook. The defensive line has to be far better against the run, and it should be with the return of Marque Hall from injury and the emergence of freshman Ladi Ajiboye.

Oct. 27 – at Wake Forest
Offense: Wake Forest will never come out and outbomb anyone, but it'll run effectively behind a veteran offensive line, get the timely passes when needed, and won't screw up. The attack only averaged 21.6 points per game and was 96th in the nation in offense, but there were only 15 giveaways. QB Riley Skinner is back after helping the offense lead the ACC in passing efficiency, but everything will revolve around the ground game with several good runners and four starters returning up front. The receiving corps will be an issue needing to move 2006's leading rusher, Kenneth Moore, back to his natural receiver position.
Defense: The D could be even better than last year when it was solid at bending but rarely breaking finishing 12th in the nation in scoring defense. There's not a Jon Abbate to rely on, and a few key defensive backs need to be replaced, but there's plenty of experience everywhere and lots of speed and athleticism in the secondary. There needs to be more pass rush from the defensive front and there could stand to be fewer big plays allowed against the pass, but the overall production should be solid.

Nov. 3 - Maryland
Offense: It's all there for the Terps to be steady, explosive and very, very productive as long as everyone plays as well as they should. This will be one of the four best offenses in the league as long as injuries don't strike up front. The line is full of veterans and should be a rock, but there's no depth. The receiving corps might be the fastest in the ACC and Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore form a tremendous 1-2 rushing punch. It's all there for a big season, but that's what everyone said last year and the Terps were merely average.
The defense didn't exactly work last season, but it didn't seem to matter. No one stopped the run, the secondary was average, there weren't enough takeaways, and the 3-4 that was supposed to generate a serious pass rush wasn't even close. The Terps still won nine games helped be the defense coming through when it absolutely had to. This year's group won't be so fortunate and has to be better. The defensive line should be better with end Jeremy Navarre and tackle Dre Moore good enough to hope for All-ACC honors. Erin Henderson leads an athletic linebacking corps that needs experience, but should be good in time. The secondary is a concern, especially the corners hoping for Isaiah Gardner to become a shut-down defender after returning from a shoulder injury.

Nov. 10 – at NC State
Offense: This won't be a bombs away attack under Dana Bible, but it could be with a big, fast, experienced receiving corps that should be able to spread the field. The trio of running backs, Toney Baker, Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene, should be a major plus, but the line has to be far better and needs to replace the starting tackles. It'll be a three-man race for the starting quarterback job between Daniel Evans, Nebraska transfer Harrison Beck, and Justin Burke, with the one of them needing to be able to move the offense consistently, something that wasn't done this spring. This will be a running offense that will eventually grow into a 50/50 balance.
Defense: This will be a solid defense, but it won't be spectacular. It could be fantastic in 2008 when all the promising young prospects are ready to shine, but for now, this will be a good, sound D that should be far more consistent than last year. Demario Pressley and Martrel Brown lead a strong line that should be the strength, while three senior linebackers will keep the mistakes to a minimum. The secondary has to come up with more big plays after helping the Pack pick off just seven passes.

Nov. 17 – at Georgia Tech
Offense: Is it possible an offense can lose the offensive coordinator, a sure-fire NFL superstar and a four-year starting quarterback and be better? Absolutely. Calvin Johnson's departure will sting, but the passing game should be even better with Taylor Bennett (or any one of a slew of terrific prospects) taking over for Reggie Ball. Patrick Nix left to take over the Miami offense, but John Bond is a veteran who did a good job with the Northern Illinois program for the last three years. James Johnson will be a decent number one target, and now someone else has to quickly emerge to take the heat off and give Bennett more options. Tashard Choice is an All-ACC caliber back leading a deep and talented group of runners working behind a fantastic line loaded with experience and
Defense: The defense had two lousy games against Clemson and West Virginia and was solid against everyone else. With just about everyone returning, expect another great year holding almost everyone to under 300 yards and around 20 points. The defensive line will be one of the team's strengths with one of the best groups of ends in America. MLB Philip Wheeler deserves All-America attention while the safety tandem of Jamal Lewis and Djay Jones will be one of the ACC's best. The corners are a bit suspect and the proven linebacker depth is a bit thin, but those aren't glaring problems.

Nov. 24 - Duke
Offense: Eleven starters return to an offense that lived through the growing pains of a youth movement in an attempt to take a giant leap forward. New offensive coordinator Peter Vaas, who comes over from Notre Dame, should help make quarterback Thaddeus Lewis more consistent. Helping the overall cause even more is a veteran line that needs to be far better after doing next to nothing well throughout last year. It'll be tailback by committee with several different options to see carries, while the overall strength will be at receiver with several young, big, good-looking targets for Lewis to use to push the ball deeper.
Defense: The defense is still not going to be a rock, but there's promise with several good young players to revolve around. Top prospects Vince Oghobaase and Ayanga Okpokowuruk are rising stars on the line, while Patrick Bailey is a playmaker who'll be one of the ACC's better pass rushers. Michael Tauiliili is a playmaker at middle linebacker, but the outside linebackers are question marks. Safeties Chris Davis and Adrian Aye-Darko are good, and they'll need to be with major concerns at corner.



Related Stories
 -by ScoutFootball.com  Jan 22, 2008
 -by ScoutFootball.com  Jan 17, 2008
Saturday's UNC Links
 -by InsideCarolina.com  Jan 26, 2008

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