2011 Pre-Season Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

2010 Record: (8-5, 4-4 in ACC)

Head Coach: Butch Davis (28-23 at UNC, 79-43 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2010 Music City Bowl (beat Tennessee 30-27)



ACC Roundtable

Pre-Spring All-ACC Team

Returning ACC Offensive Firepower

Spring Football Questions: ACC Coastal



9/3: James Madison

9/10: Rutgers (2010 result: won 17-13)

9/17: Virginia (2010 result: won 44-10)

9/24: at Georgia Tech (2010 result: lost 30-24)

10/1: at East Carolina  (2010 result: won 42-17)

10/8: Louisville

10/15: Miami, Fl (2010 result: lost 33-10)

10/22: at Clemson (2010 result: won 21-16)

10/29: Wake Forest

11/5: at NC State (2010 result: lost 29-25)

11/17: at Virginia Tech (2010 result: lost 26-10)

11/26: Duke (2010 result: won 24-19)

2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 25.3 ppg (7th in ACC, 75th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 125.69 yds/game (10th in ACC, 94th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 264.0 yds/game (4th in ACC, 26th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 389.7 yds/game (6th in ACC, 51st in Nation)


2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 23.2 ppg (8th in ACC, 44th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 125.62 yds/game (4th in ACC, 22nd in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 212.9 yds/game (6th in ACC, 50th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 338.5 yds/game (4th in ACC, 30th in Nation)


2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: +0.08 per game (6th in ACC, 50th in Nation)

Penalties: 58.2 yds/game (9th in ACC, 89th in Nation)


Returning Starters:

Offense: 6

Defense: 7

Kicker/Punter: 2


Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: QB Bryn Renner, Soph (1 of 2 for 14 yds)

Rushing: RB Ryan Houston, Sr (191 for 713 yds, 3.7 ypc 9 TD)*

Receiving: WR Dwight Jones, Sr (62 rec for 946 yds, 4 TD)

Tackles: LB Kevin Reddick, Jr (74)

Sacks: DE Quinton Coples, Sr (10)

Interceptions: LB Zach Brown, Sr (3)

*stats from 2009


Bowl Predictions:

Athlon Sports: Sun (vs Washington)

Phil Steele: Champs Sports (vs USF)


Last year looked like it was going to be a break-thru season at UNC for Butch Davis. Expectations were high for the Tar Heels as they returned what was maybe the most talent ever assembled on one team at North Carolina. Then summer hit and the NCAA started investigating Marvin Austin and then John Blake. When all was said and done, according to Phil Steele, the Tar Heels lost a total of 89 starts to either injury or suspension. Despite losing a ton of guys UNC showed a lot of heart in the opening week 31-24 loss to LSU in the Georgia Dome. That game set the tone for UNC and let the world know that while they might not be full strength they were still going to give it everything they had and make a season of it. When the dust cleared UNC finished the season at 8-5 including a win over a ranked Florida State team on Nov 6th. This year UNC again sets their sites on Virginia Tech and the Coastal Division Championship. After going 8-5 (and 4-4 in the conference) for three consecutive years is this the year that Butch finally gets his team over the hump? I have UNC ranked #24 in my personal pre-season Top 25. My blogmates didn’t agree so they missed the cut on making the CFBZ Top 25. To get a local perspective on the team we caught up with Friend of the Blog and former UNC Tar Heel Michael Felder of In The Bleachers to get his take on the 2011 North Carolina Tar Heels. Make sure you follow him on Twitter @InTheBleachers or link up with him on the new Google +.


Last year was a rollercoaster ride for UNC. They came into the year with big expectations but lost a ton of guys to NCAA investigations. What is your take on Butch Davis? Is he in the clear or is he on the hot seat due to the NCAA investigations?

Personally, I’m a Butch Davis guy. I think, with the exception of losing to NC State, he’s doing the job that he was brought there to do for the Heels. As for his status following the investigations, the parking tickets and the NOA he appears to be about as much in the clear as you can be after that much turmoil. His name was not mentioned in the Notice of Allegations and the administration has tied themselves to Davis.  

So no, he isn’t in the clear but he’s as strong in his job as a man in his position can be. That has as much to do with his on-field results as the off the field progress he’s made from a donations, renovations and additions standpoint. Big money folks are tied into Butch, he’s making progress from a recruiting and talent perspective and the Heels are winning more than they have at any point aside from Mack Brown’s final years. Every retain/fire situation is a cost-benefit predicament and right now the benefit element is on Davis’ side.  


Other than suspensions, what are the biggest opportunities from last year that need to be addressed going into this season if UNC is going to be a player in their half of the ACC?  

It is tough to relate the opportunities from last year that UNC missed to this season because the team is so different. Last season’s missed chances were late game missed chances on offense and errors on the defensive side of the ball that cost the Heels. This year’s edition will have to overcome a new quarterback and plenty of new faces on the defensive side of the ball to be successful and that means a slew of “new” problems as they feel themselves out.  

This teams biggest opportunities will come on the offensive side as Brynn Renner fills out the shoes left vacated by TJ Yates. He does have experienced receivers to work with which means they can make up for his mistakes provided he leaves them the ability to make some plays.With an experienced and talented offensive line Renner will get plenty of time to make the throws and we should, finally, see a respectable running game out of Chapel Hill.  


A silver lining in the suspensions from last year might be all of the young guys that got playing time on the defensive side of the football. Who are some guys to keep an eye out for this year?  

Obviously the name everyone knows is Quinton Coples. He’s likely the ACC’s best defensive lineman and being forced to play defensive tackles and defensive end gives this kid a shot to be exceptionally dangerous from a multitude of positions in given situations. Tre Boston is another Heel to look out for on the defensive side. Got plenty of playing time in the back end while Deunta Williams and Da’Norris Searcy were suspended and he showed himself quite well as a freshman. He is a “Butch Davis prototype” at the position, a guy to watch as he learns the ins and outs in the first season where much is expected out of him.  


UNC finished 10th in the ACC last year in rushing and was 9th in yards per carry. Will UNC be running back by committee or do you see one guy stepping up and taking the starting job?   

The season will start with Ryan Houston getting the bulk of the carries, the senior is back after redshirting last year and by all accounts he’s a bit leaner and ready to tote the rock. However, the guy most Heels football fans are looking forward to seeing is Giovanni Bernard. He’s a burner out of Florida that wowed some folks in the summertime and early in camp before tearing his ACL a season ago. If he can play as advertised he’ll be the dynamic back the Heels have lacked on a consistent basis.  

The biggest key to this running game won’t be who is carrying the ball but the men in front of him. I like this offensive line, something that I haven’t been able to say since 2004 when the group came together mid-season to really start opening holes for Chad Scott. These guys are big, athletic and capable of giving Butch Davis the push he is looking for at the point of attack. Look for Travis Bond, a massive 330+ lbs guard, to be at the point in clearing holes for Bernard and Houston.  


Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?  

North Carolina State, first and foremost is a “must win” game from a pride perspective. We just had a class of kids leave that was 0-4 against the Wolfpack. Unacceptable by Tar Heel standards and with the communities that Heels fans live in being jampacked with Wolfpackers this is a point of contention that will only go away by beating the guys in red and white.  

Another game from that standpoint that gets the “must win” tag is the East Carolina contest. Butch lost in Dowdy-Ficklen his first season and this year he can avenge that loss and show folks that the Heels are the big dogs in the state.  

From a conference perspective Virginia Tech, Miami and Clemson are likely the most important games. The Hokies have a stranglehold on the Coastal Division and a win in Blacksburg can set the Heels up for a shot at getting to Charlotte. Miami, with the exception of last season, is a team Butch has handled quite well, beating them while they’re in the Golden year one transition phase would be a feather in UNC’s cap. Clemson is a game that can tip recruiting scales for the Tar Heels and help them get a step closer to Charlotte with an out of division win.  


What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

I’d like to say the Heels break through with a 9 win season but history always repeats itself and with so many unknowns on defense and at quarterback I think 8 wins is what we’re going to see out of this unit. For the year to be a success we need to see Renner grow up quickly, the defense gel and the team close out games. If this unit can beat ECU, NC State and win two of three against VT, Clemson and Miami the rest of the season should take care of itself.


Next Preview: Colorado

Coming in August: ACC Preview

Coming in August: CFBZ Top 25 Countdown


2011 Team Previews

ACC- Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Maryland, Miami, NC State, Wake Forest

Big 12- Baylor , Iowa St, Kansas St, Texas Tech

Big East- Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, UConn, USF

Big Ten- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota ,Northwestern, Penn St, Purdue

C-USA- East Carolina, Houston ,Marshall, SMU, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, UAB, UCF

Independent- Army

MAC- Akron, Ball St, Bowling Green, Buffalo ,Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Temple, Toledo, Western Michigan

MWC- Air Force, New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming

Pac-12- Arizona , Arizona St, Oregon St, UCLA, Washington

SEC- Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee

Sun Belt- FAU, FIU, Louisiana, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy , ULM, Western Kentucky

WAC- Fresno St, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, San Jose St

Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Student Section and founder of College Football Zealots