Preview 2010 - Sept. 4 LSU vs North Carolina
LSU WR Russell Shepard & UNC CB Kendric Burney
LSU WR Russell Shepard & UNC CB Kendric Burney
Posted Jul 16, 2010

A quick early look at the opening weekend LSU vs. North Carolina showdown.

Preview 2010 - Sept. 4

LSU vs. North Carolina (in Atlanta)

- 2010 LSU Preview | 2010 LSU Offense
- 2010 LSU Defense | 2010 LSU Depth Chart

- 2010 North Carolina Preview | 2010 North Carolina Offense
- 2010 North Carolina Defense | 2010 North Carolina Depth Chart

CFN Early Line: LSU -2.5

Offense: Coordinator John Shoop has the most important job in Chapel Hill this year—locating a pulse on his Tar Heel offense. A year after finishing 108th nationally and averaging just 22 points against teams not named The Citadel, this unit has become the program's biggest hurdle to an ACC championship. There is no shortage of objectives over the next few months. Topping the list will be getting more consistent play from QB T.J. Yates, who's trying to hold off hot-shot redshirt freshman Bryn Renner. Carolina also needs to get a little more pop from the running game, bring along the gifted young receivers, and plug holes in a mediocre offensive line. If Shoop can somehow pull everything together, go ahead and put him on the Broyles Award short list.
Defense: Sometimes a mob mentality isn't such a bad thing. All six of Carolina's defensive all-stars put off the NFL Draft for one more season, ensuring that the program will again boast one of the nation's nastiest and stingiest defenses. The group that allowed 17 points and an ACC-low 269 yards brings back All-America candidates at every level, Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin up front, Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter at linebacker, and Deunta Williams and Kendric Burney in the secondary. From creating turnovers to creating pressure, there's nothing this veteran unit doesn't do well, meaning the only offseason objectives are to build more depth and guard against overconfidence.

Three North Carolina Players To Know

1) Losing two starters on the defensive line might unnerve most programs, but not North Carolina, which has recruited the position exceedingly well. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have All-America candidates on the outside and inside. Junior DE Robert Quinn had his coming-out party last fall, making 52 tackles, a league-best 19 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, and six forced fumbles en route to a spot on the All-ACC first team. Unusually quick at 6-5 and 270 pounds, it'll be a shock if he isn't on someone's NFL roster at this time next year.

2) Senior Marvin Austin is to the interior what Quinn is to the ends, a returning all-star and a lineman who requires more than one blocker. A potential first round pick had he opted for the NFL in 2010, he combines an explosive first step with the upper body strength to shove linemen into reverse. Another All-ACC first teamer a year ago, his 42 tackles, six tackles for loss, and four sacks don't even begin to shed light on his disruptive nature.

3) To the surprise of most observers, North Carolina welcomes back all four starters from a secondary that yielded a touchdown pass in just five of 13 games. The Heels have a returning All-ACC first teamer at cornerback and safety. Senior CB Kendric Burney earned all-star recognition for the second straight year, making 52 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and five picks for a school-record 200 return yards. While only 5-9 and 190 pounds, he's a ferocious hitter and one of the league's best cover guys.

Offense: Yeeeesh. The offensive line stunk, and everything crashed from there. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's attack sputtered and coughed finishing last in the SEC and 112th in the nation in total yards with little running game, not enough from the passing game, and too many problems up front allowing far too many sacks (37). The line might not be special, but it'll be more about being physical and doing more for the ground game than anything else, and if QB Jordan Jefferson gets time and the running backs get holes, the O will finally start to move. The receiving corps has talent, even without Brandon LaFell, and Michael Ford leads a dangerous group of running backs that should be far more effective than last year's group, but, again, it's all up to the line. The Tiger front five gets back three starters with the two new faces to the equation, Will Blackwell and Alex Hurst, coming off of great offseasons on the right side.
Defense: The defense came up with a far better year than it got credit for. It wasn't a great D, there were way too many inconsistencies, and several players had disappointing years, but the Tigers sill allowed a mere 16.2 points per game. Defensive coordinator John Chavis did a nice job despite the lack of a steady pass rush and with a mediocre year from the front seven, and while only four starters are back, the potential is there to be far better. At the very least, this will be an ultra-athletic group led by a loaded secondary with four corners holding down the starting spots highlighted by Patrick Paterson, arguably the nation's best corners. There are a few young, very talented ends to form a strong pass rushing rotation, but the tackle situation is a bit of a question mark as is outside linebacker with athleticism needing to overcome inexperience.

Three LSU Players To Know

1) Junior corner Patrick Peterson would probably be starting for most NFL teams this year and will almost certainly be one of the top three defensive backs picks in next year's draft (if he chooses to leave early) and he could be a top ten overall selection. All the skills are there with 6-1, 211-pound size and terrific coverage skills. While he might be not be a blazer, he has sub-4.5 wheels and fluidly cuts like a much smaller player, and he can hit like a safety. 43 of his 52 tackles last year were made in the open field, and he led the way with 13 broken up passes to go along with two picks. While he earned second-team All-SEC honors last year, he should be on everyone's All-America list coming into this season.

2) Senior Kelvin Sheppard is the unquestioned leader and star of the linebacking corps as the only returning starter and after finishing last year as the leading returning tackler making 110 stops with a sack and 8.5 tackles for loss. At 6-3 and 239 pounds he's just big enough to work on the inside, but he's fast enough to move to the outside if absolutely needed. With the speed to be more of a pass rusher from time to time, and with unlimited range, he's an all-star who'll be the main man for the defensive front seven.
3) With Brandon LaFell gone, senior Terrence Toliver gets his turn to be LSU's next great big wide receiver. At 6-5 and 206 pounds with deep speed and NFL skills, he'll be on the short list on every scout's list of must-haves. He grew into a more reliable target last season catching 53 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns, but he only scored once after starting out the year with two touchdowns against Washington. Considered by many to be the nation's top receiver recruit three years ago, he hasn't come close to living up to his potential; a broken hand suffered in a fight this offseason might not do much to help that. Expected to be ready in time for the start of the season, he has to be special at the outside X position.