2015 ACC Football Preview: North Carolina

2014 Record: 6-7 (4-4 ACC)

Returning Starters: Offense-10 Defense-7

Key Players: Jeff Schoettmer, Marquise Williams, Nazair Jones, Ryan Switzer

North Carolina had quite possibly the worst defense on paper in the entire ACC last season, finishing 117th in the nation in total defense and prompting head coach Larry Fedora to bring in former Auburn head man Gene Chizik as new defensive coordinator. That won’t solve the troubles all at once, but it should get things moving in the right direction. Middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer leads the way for the rebuild and will figure prominently in Chizik’s scheme. Frankly, the whole unit will improve if they can simply tackle better so fundamentals and toughness are likely a key focus in preparation.

Nazair Jones will be an important factor up front. If the line can get pressure that will help a secondary that finished 101st in the nation last season in passing yards allowed.

Among the interesting names to keep an eye on is true freshman defensive end Jalen Dalton. The 6’6″, 280-pounder was highly recruited and is knocking on the door of the two-deep at defensive end. The pressure up front has to improve and it’s clear that young talent has an early chance to get on the field for Chizik’s unit.

The offense should once again score in bunches with quarterback Marquise Williams and his crop of returning receivers. Quinshad Davis, Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins all hope to have big seasons as the top targets for Williams. He’ll be protected by a good group up front that features center Lucas Crowley, guard Landon Turner and tackle Jon Heck. UNC hopes T.J. Logan can have a nice year rushing, but he remains another solid target in the passing game so sophomore Elijah Hood get more carries as UNC looks to establish the run.

Marquise Williams is a legitimate Heisman candidate. Last season he threw for over 3,000 yards while completing 63.1% of his passes with 21 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He also added nearly 800 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Given the potential at the skill positions for the UNC offense and Larry Fedora’s uptempo style, it’s no reason many people expect big things from Williams in his senior season.

Like so many teams in the Coastal division, Carolina has the talent to win the division and the capability to also finish near the bottom. Both results would make sense.

For more on the 2015 North Carolina Tar Heels, our very own Mike McDaniel got together with our friend Mark Rogers to discuss the prospects of the Carolina blue in depth for this season. Check out the video below.



You can follow me on Twitter @BestCates, Mike is on Twitter @MikeMcDanielACC, and Mark is on Twitter @MarkRogersTV. Also, give the site a follow @insidetheacc, and check us out on Facebook here. Mark Rogers YouTube Channel can be found here, as he examines college football teams around the country with featured videos.

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