North Carolina Tar Heels
Preview 2008 - Defense
2008 CFN North
2008 UNC Offense
2008 UNC Defense
2008 UNC Depth
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What you need to know:
defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano left to coach the Baltimore
Ravens, it opened the door for Everett Withers to return to his
Carolina roots. An energetic teacher with a specialty for
coaching defensive backs, he inherits far more young talent than
he left behind at Minnesota. The Tar Heels will feature
up-and-coming sophomores at each level, including DT Marvin
Austin, LB Quan Sturdivant, and FS Deunta Williams. Withers
would like to turn his smallish, athletic group of defenders
loose on the blitz periodically, but he’ll need to have more
confidence in a young and vulnerable group of cornerbacks that
took its lumps a year ago. Finding a replacement for sack-happy
DE Hilee Taylor will be one of the staff’s main priorities.
Tackles: Charles Brown,
Trimaine Goddard, 59
E.J. Wilson, 5
Interceptions: Deunta Williams, 3
Star of the
Sophomore FS Deunta Williams
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Quan Sturdivant
Best pro prospect: Sophomore DT Marvin Austin
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Deunta Williams, 2)
Austin, 3) Sturdivant
Strength of the defense: The middle of the defense, the
Weakness of the defense: Proven depth at cornerback, edge
Projected Starters: The Tar Heels will have work
to do on a line that loses its two best players to graduation,
DE Hilee Taylor and DT Kentwan Balmer. The hope is that Balmer’s
interior presence can be replaced by 6-3, 305-pound sophomore
Marvin Austin, one of the most touted recruits in school
history. Austin showed off his unique package of explosive speed
and raw power, collecting 26 tackles, six tackles for loss, four
sacks, and a slew of postseason honors as a true freshman. He’ll
likely be joined on the inside by junior Aleric Mullins,
who started the final four games and began flashing some of the
run-stuffing ability that made him one of the program’s top
recruits of 2006. While not in the league as Austin, the 6-3,
295-pounder used a quick first step to make 19 tackles, 3.5
tackles for loss, and two sacks in his first season of
Someone needs to pick up the slack left by Taylor, who had 16
tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks a year ago. The top candidate is
E.J. Wilson, a 6-2, 265-pound junior that had 44 tackles,
9.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks as a 12-game starter. A
speedy convert from the offensive side of the ball, he needs to
get even more pressure on the quarterback without having Taylor
around to deflect attention.
The battle at the opposite end will be an interesting and
important one that’ll last throughout the summer. Sophomores
Greg Elleby, Darrius Massenburg, and Darius Powell
will all have a fair shot to show the staff they can beat
opposing tackles and collapse the pocket. At 6-4 and 285 pounds,
Elleby is big enough to defend the run, but needs to show the
explosion necessary to make plays for negative yards. Massenburg
played in eight games as a freshman, earning a letter and making
11 tackles. Now 6-3 and 280 pounds, he has grown considerably
since arriving from high school, but missed spring ball
recovering from a broken bone in his wrist.
While Powell is the smallest of the contenders at 6-2 and 230
pounds, he’s also the fastest, flashing the type of burst off
the edge that made Taylor so successful as a senior.
Projected Top Reserve: While there’s genuine
concern about the depth at end, such a problem doesn’t exist at
tackle. The Heels really like the upside of their reserve
interior linemen, who’ll get plenty of chances for reps this
fall. Junior Cam Thomas has lettered in each of the last
two seasons, starting three games a year ago. A space-eater at
6-3 and 330 pounds, he won’t get much penetration, but will
occupy multiple linemen and provide support against the run.
Classmate Tavares Brown, a 6-0 and 290-pound junior, made
a pair of starts and nine tackles last year, gaining the
experience needed to bolster Carolina’s depth on the second
His redshirt season behind him, 6-3, 310-pound freshman
Tydreke Powell can begin fulfilling the expectations that
made him one of the nation’s top prep tackles of 2007. Another
explosive big man, he’s quick enough to rip through the gap and
make plays behind the line.
Watch Out For ... Austin. The Tar Heel line is
searching for an identity, something Austin is capable of
providing in his second year. He has the skill set and mindset
of an All-American to go along with an opportunity to become the
defense’s new leader up front.
Strength: Interior depth. Even after losing Balmer
to the NFL, the Tar Heels have a ton of potential on the inside
that begins with Austin and Mullins and ends with Thomas and
Weakness: Outside pressure. Someone other than
Wilson needs to step up and replace some of Taylor’s production
as a pass rusher. Although there are plenty of candidates, none
of them have proven anything at this level.
Outlook: While you don’t get better by losing
players like Taylor and Balmer, the Heels are optimistic that
they’ve recruited well enough to overcome the losses. With the
middle of the line shaping up nicely, the key here will be to
develop a couple of ends that can disrupt an opposing passing
Projected Starters: While the Tar Heels lose the
services of top linebacker Durell Mapp, they get back senior
Chase Rice, who was lost for the season in the opener with a
broken ankle. A starter on the strongside at the time of the
injury, the 6-3, 230-pounder was on the verge of having the best
season of his Carolina career. The time away from the game had
its benefits for a bigger and wiser Rice, who worked off his
pent up energy in the weight room and the film room.
Rice is likely to be flanked on the other side by 6-2, 230-pound
Quan Sturdivant, a sophomore that played very well as a
rookie, making five starts and 46 tackles. nce his field
awareness catches up with his speed and sideline-to-sideline
range, he’ll have a chance to be an elite ACC linebacker.
Senior Mark Paschal worked his way into the lineup at
middle linebacker late last year, showing the tenacity and work
ethic of a defender that plans to keep his job. Despite being
6-0 and 230 pounds and starting just four games, he had 53
tackles and led Tar Heel linebackers with 6.5 tackles for loss.
In the finale with Duke, Paschal had a career day, making 17
tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing for time in the
middle will be junior Wesley Flagg, a faster option than
Paschal, who too often got caught out of position and is lacking
in football instincts and field awareness. On the outside, depth
and competition will be provided by sophomore Bruce Carter
and junior Kennedy Tinsley.
The 6-3, 225-pound Carter has a very bright future in Chapel
Hill after debuting with 25 tackles, two tackles for loss, and
three pass breakups in seven starts. A former quarterback and
safety, he still has plenty to absorb at the position, but has
the athleticism to help get him over the learning curve. Tinsley
is a 6-0, 220-pound career special teamer looking for an
increased role on defense.
Watch Out For ...Paschal to lead the Tar Heels in
tackles. He’s not the biggest or the quickest of the
linebackers, but he plays fast and has a knack for sniffing out
the play. With a full season as the starter, he’ll rack up big
numbers for a defense that’s on the prowl for senior leadership.
Strength: Outside speed. The return of Rice and
the development of Sturdivant and Carter give Carolina three
quality athletes that started games a year ago and can carry out
the staff’s desire to create backfield havoc.
Weakness: Proven depth. Aside from Carter, the
Heels are in a precarious position on the second and third
units. Reserve H-back Ryan Taylor has been relocated in
the hopes that his tackling ability on special teams will
translate to the defense.
Outlook: Even without Mapp, this unit has a chance
to be better than last year, provided it can make a few more big
plays and its depth doesn’t have to be tested. The top four of
Sturdivant, Paschal, Rice, and Carter have a nice blend of youth
and experience that could produce one All-ACC performer.
Projected Starters: The defense gets everyone back
from a young secondary that showed signs of progress late last
year. Although Deunta Williams is only beginning his
sophomore year, he’s already the star of the defensive
backfield. A receiver before the season began, he made a
seamless move to free safety, making 57 tackles and picking off
three passes en route to being named the ACC Defensive Rookie of
the year. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, he can pack a punch, yet has
the closing speed and playmaking ability of a corner.
Returning to strong safety is Trimane Goddard, a
third-year starter with the build and mentality of a
cornerback. At only 5-11 and 195 pounds, he has had at least 50
tackles in each of the last two seasons and forced three fumbles
a year ago as an improving open field tackler.
The Tar Heels started a pair of freshmen in 2007, Charles
Brown and Kendric Burney, who’ll benefit from last
year’s baptism under fire. Both are undersized, quick defenders
that are prone to getting burned by some of the league’s bigger
At only 5-9 and 180 pounds, Burney was surprisingly feisty in
run support, making 40 solo stops and 4.5 tackles for loss. A
little bigger at 5-10 and 190 pounds, Brown had 59 tackles, five
tackles for loss, and a pair of picks.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Melvin Williams
was signed out of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College to
contribute right away. One of the nation’s premier JUCO
recruits, he has the 6-0, 205-pound frame and intensity to play
safety, and the cover skills and speed to handle the corner.
Because of the dire need for depth at cornerback, the hope in
Chapel Hill is that Williams can beat out Burney or Brown and
solidify one side of the field.
The Heels are also cautiously optimistic that junior Jordan
Hemby is all the way back from an ACL tear he suffered in
2006. A 5-10, 185-pound special team performer a year ago, he
has the hips and change-of-direction to climb the depth chart in
Sophomore Johnny White was moved to corner from running
back to see if his 4.3 speed can be translated into success on
the defensive side of the ball.
Carolina loves its young safeties, who'll spend another year as
reserves before battling for Goddard’s job in 2009. Sophomores
Shaun Draughn, Da’Norris Searcy, and Jonathan
Smith lettered on special teams in 2007, and will spend this
fall improving their knowledge of the playbook and new defensive
coordinator Everett Withers’ system.
Watch Out For ...the “other” Williams. After
taking part in his first spring in Chapel Hill, Melvin Williams
left the coaching staff with no buyer’s remorse. He’s ready to
play in the ACC, with the versatility that makes him doubly
valuable on this defense.
Strength: The safeties. The Heels are set with
Williams and Goddard in the lineup, while the sophomore trio of
Draughn, Searcy, and Smith give the second unit a jolt of young
legs and substantial upside.
Weakness: Big plays. Carolina needs to make more
game-changing plays, while reducing the number of long balls
allowed, a problem last season. The Heels are too athletic in
the secondary to average just nine interceptions over the last
Outlook: After finishing No. 11 in the ACC in pass
efficiency defense and allowing 62% of opponents’ passes to be
completed, the young Tar Heel secondary has plenty of growing up
to do. Everyone is a year older, which will help immensely if
the corners don’t wilt against the better passing teams.
Projected Starters: The top priority on special teams will
be to replace K Connor Barth, a four-year starter and the Heels’
all-time leader in field goals. Redshirt freshman Jay Wooten was
recruited for this exact moment. One of the top-rated kickers of 2007,
the 6-3, 180-pounder is still a little raw, but has a huge leg on
kickoffs. If Wooten fails to lock down the job, Carolina will be forced
to turn to one of two sophomore walk-ons, Trase Jones or Reid
Senior Terrence Brown did a respectable job in his first year
as the Tar Heel punter, averaging 41.4 yards a punt and downing more
than a third of attempts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. His only
competition could come from Wooten, who doubles as a punter with long
legs and good thump on his kicks. At worst, Wooten is the front-runner
to handle both duties in 2009.
In senior Brandon Tate, North Carolina boasts one of the ACC’s
better return men, a versatile special teamer who led the league in
all-purpose yards and is already the school’s all-time leader in kickoff
return yards. He’s scored five touchdowns on returns with at least one
in each of the last three years.
Watch Out For ... better results from Brown. It’s his
second season since transferring from junior college, and the presence
of Wooten will provide just enough of a push needed to tighten up his
Strength: Tate. He consistently gives the Tar Heels good
field position, while providing a threat to go the distance every time
he gets a seam or a timely block downfield.
Weakness: Kick coverage. A strength two years ago, the Tar
Heels regressed in 2007, finishing 11th in the ACC in punt
coverage and last in kickoff coverage. Both numbers need to be reversed
if the special teams unit is going to provide any support to the
Outlook: While the Tar Heels must get better at covering
punts and kicks, this unit will be judged on how well Wooten can replace
Barth. While he certainly has the leg strength to play the position, he
needs to prove he can hit the clutch kicks nearly as well as his