Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Tarheels' view on their team

Thanks again to Heelsblog for providing an excellent overview of their team for Jacket fans. If you wish to check out what I had to say about our Yellow Jacket team, it should be up shortly on their blog. Hopefully this is something I can do each week to have an idea of what to expect from out opponents.

Despite pessimism from the media, Tar Heel fans have reason to
believe this year's team will prove to be a solid one. Yes, there are
questions, but, for the first time in the John Bunting era, there are
more answers.

The Tar Heel offensive line returns three starters from a team that
finished second in the ACC in total offense. Skip Seagraves returns
from a foot injury and rising star sophomore Ben Lemming stepping in
at center for All-ACC Jason Brown, now with the Baltimore Ravens.

Senior Matt Baker has been waiting for this season for four years.
Studying behind Darian Durant, Baker has proven to be a capable
backup in spot duty. Now it's his turn to be the man, though. While
not quite the athlete Darian was, Baker has a cannon and is a good
decision-maker. But again, this time it's for real. Is he ready for
his close-up?

The big questions for the Tar Heels come in the backfield. Projected
starter Ronnie McGill, a junior, tore a pectoral muscle this summer,
and won't even begin drills until October. He may redshirt. LSU
transfer sophomore Barrington Edwards was expected to be the natural
candidate to step in, but it looks as though freshman James 'Cooter'
Arnold will take the first hand-off on Saturday. Arnold was all-state
at both tailback and defensive back his senior year, so we know he's
an athlete. That's about all we know at this point. Sophomore Vince
Wilson chose to transfer. Other possibilities include freshmen Richie
Rich and Nick Starcevic.

Senior Rikki Cook will start at fullback, taking over duties from
Madison Hedgecock. Cook is a big bruiser, and could get more carries
than a typical fullback given the questions behind him.

I don't think it's the fan in me saying that the Tar Heel receiving
corps, on paper, could be the best in the ACC. 5-8 ball of fire
Jawarski Pollock returns for his final campaign, and will likely
break the school record for career catches. He's not afraid to go
across the middle and take a hit. Senior Derrelle Mitchell and junior
Jesse Holley provide big targets for Baker, and junior Mike Mason is
the speed option. Senior walk-on Wallace Wright will surprise, and
6-5 freshman Kenton Thornton could see the field as well.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Tar Heels return 9 regular
starters, with Chase Page, a senior who missed last year with a hand
injury sliding in at defensive tackle, and senior Mahlon Carey taking
over at Strong Safety for the departed Gerald Sensabaugh.

By all accounts, the defense should be much improved. They have to
be. With a year under their belts and Page (who would have started
last year) returning), the defense has nowhere to go but up. Carey
has contributed at linebacker, safety and even running back in
previous seasons, so he knows the field very well. He beat out
sophomore Trimane Goddard for the starting job Saturday, but the
Heels have a lot of friendly competition and depth in the secondary.

Junior Larry Edwards and Senior Jeff Longhany have battled all spring
and preseason for the Strongside linebacker spot, with Edwards slated
to get the nod Saturday.

It's not a stretch to say the defense looks the best it's been since
2001. How that translates to the field remains to be seen. To say
that a defense that ranked 109th in the nation in 2004 has improved
is not saying a whole lot, but the experience and a few coaching
changes give fans hope for improvement.

I think the Jackets are riding a wave after a big win over Auburn,
and should have the Wreck fans out in full force. The Heels will be
seeing live action for the first time, and it won't be against
William & Mary.


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