2010 North Carolina Preview
North Carolina DT Marvin Austin
North Carolina DT Marvin Austin
Posted Jul 16, 2010

UNC head coach Butch Davis has been building the program for this moment. With NFL talent after NFL talent on defense, including DT Marvin Austin, the Tar Heels aren't going to give up a thing. Will the offense be able to hold up its end of the bargain? Check out the CFN 2010 North Carolina preview.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Preview 2010

- 2010 North Carolina Preview | 2010 North Carolina Offense
- 2010 North Carolina Defense | 2010 North Carolina Depth Chart
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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Butch Davis
4th year: 20-18
Returning Lettermen
Off. 21, Def. 15, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 11
Ten Best North Carolina Players
1. DE Robert Quinn, Jr.
2. DT Marvin Austin, Sr.
3. CB Kendric Burney, Sr.
4. LB Quan Sturdivant, Sr.
5. S Deunta Williams, Sr.
6. LB Bruce Carter, Sr.
7. CB Charles Brown, Sr.
8. WR Greg Little, Sr.
9. PK Casey Barth, Jr.
10. RB Shaun Draughn, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 LSU (in Atlanta)
Sept. 11 OPEN DATE
Sept. 18 Georgia Tech
Sept. 25 at Rutgers
Oct. 2 East Carolina
Oct. 9 Clemson
Oct. 16 at Virginia
Oct. 23 at Miami
Oct. 30 William & Mary
Nov. 6 at Florida State
Nov. 13 Virginia Tech
Nov. 20 NC State
Nov. 27 at Duke

All six of last year's defensive all-stars are back. The coaching staff returns completely intact for the first time in a decade. Yup, there's sense of continuity in Chapel Hill that could lead to the school's first ACC championship in three decades.

When Butch Davis was hired in 2007, he was asked to upgrade the talent of the program and get it moving in the right direction. So far, so good. Carolina has been recruiting as well as any team in the conference and has won eight games in back-to-back years for the first time since Mack Brown was around in the 1990s. Can the Heels take the next step and grab a league that's perennially up for grabs? That goal became a whole lot more attainable when DE Robert Quinn, DT Marvin Austin, LB Quan Sturdivant, LB Bruce Carter, CB Kendric Burney, and S Deunta Williams banded together and decided to put off the NFL for another year. North Carolina will again be home to a championship D, but what about the offense?

The Tar Heels are a tale of two very different stories. The better half, the defense, ranked No. 6 nationally a year and should be every bit as good in 2010. The offense, well, has been rather offensive ever since Davis got on board. A year ago, it averaged only 20 points against FBS opponents, and was held below 300 yards on six different occasions. This is ground zero for the school's ability to reach all of its immediate goals. Solve it, and Carolina becomes the class of a very deep Coastal Division. Fall short, and another eight-win season might be as high as the bar goes.

All of those defensive stars returned to school for reasons that extend beyond just draft grade. They want to play in a BCS bowl game and bring a title to Chapel Hill. Davis has been building to this point ever since he came out of coaching retirement. The opportunity is there for the taking provided the defense isn't once again forced to carry the program on its back.

What to watch for on offense: The maturation of the young wide receivers. A year ago, they were painfully green and trying to somehow offset the losses of Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, and Brooks Foster. This season, however, it should be a different climate at the position. With senior Greg Little as the go-to guy, Carolina has a wave of young wideouts just itching to be the second and third options. After scratching the surface, Erik Highsmith, Jheranie Boyd, and Joshua Adams are all ready to explode into more productive players.

What to watch for on defense: The newcomers on the defensive line. The nine returning starters are getting all of the offseason, but how about DE Quinton Coples and DT Tydreke Powell. The juniors had to wait in line for this opportunity, but now that E.J. Wilson and Cam Thomas, respectively, have graduated, both have the opportunity and the talent to be special. Coples is a 6-6, 275-pound man-child on the outside and Powell has the quickness to shoot the gap and take advantage of the double teams Marvin Austin will see.

The team will be far better if … the offense becomes markedly more efficient. It's no secret that this is the most tender area of the program...by far. A year ago, the Tar Heels were No. 10 or lower in the ACC in passing, scoring, turnovers lost, and total offense. Now while no one is banking on a prolific attack, Carolina has to do a better job of moving the chains and scoring six when it reaches the red zone.

The Schedule: This might be the most talented North Carolina team in several years, but it's going to be pushed hard over the first part of the season starting out against LSU in Atlanta and jumping into the ACC season with both feed facing Georgia Tech. On the plus side, the game at Rutgers is one of just three tough true road games that should be a challenge if UNC has its head on straight. The Virginia Tech game is in Chapel Hill, but that's coming after dealing with three road games in four weeks including dates with Miami and Florida State. There are just enough relative breathers thrown into the mix to allow the Tar Heels to take a little break in between several tough games, and getting NC State and Duke to close things out should help

Best Offensive Player: Senior WR Greg Little. Although it took a while before finding a home, Little has settled in very nicely at wide receiver. And a year after catching a team-high 62 passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns, he's beginning to turn the heads of NFL scouts. A former running back, he's still learning all of the nuances of the position, but has the speed and 6-3, 215-pound frame to do a lot of damage on pure physical ability alone.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE Robert Quinn. Everyone on the staff knew he'd be good, but few were certain he'd be this good, this fast. Quinn absolutely erupted as a sophomore, making 52 tackles, an ACC-best 19 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks. At 6-5 and 270 pounds, he proved to be just a little too big and just a little too quick for most opposing tackles. Even when he isn't showing up in the boxscore, he's usually commanding more than one blocker or forcing the quarterback to step up to avoid the pressure.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB T.J. Yates. It's not even up for debate. In fact, you could argue that Yates is one of the dozen or so most important individuals in the entire country in 2010. A fourth-year starter, his career has been marked by sporadic play, tossing almost as many career interceptions as touchdown passes. If the Tar Heel offense is to come off life support, he needs to be the one to flip the switch by igniting an impotent passing attack.

The season will be a success if ... Carolina wins the ACC championship. With 19 offensive and defensive starters returning, there's no reason this program shouldn't be thinking big in Davis' fourth season. Plus, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech must travel to Kenan Stadium in the fall. With so many seniors on both sides of the ball, this might be the Heels' best chance for a while of wearing the league crown.

Key game: Sept. 4 vs. LSU. No, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta won't have any direct bearing on the ACC race, but it might set the tempo for the rest of the season. Depending on the outcome, this could wind up being a launching point and one of the seminal moments in the history of Carolina football. The league has not fared well against Alabama in this setting the past two years, affording the Tar Heels an enormous opportunity to make a national statement versus a top-tier opponent.

2009 Fun Stats:
- North Carolina scored six non-offensive touchdown, four on interceptions, one on a punt, and one on a fumble return
- Opponents converted only 30% of the time on third downs, which was No. 4 nationally
- North Carolina led the nation with 508 return yards on interceptions

- 2010 North Carolina Preview | 2010 North Carolina Offense
- 2010 North Carolina Defense | 2010 North Carolina Depth Chart
- North Carolina Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006