#80 North Carolina 2018 Football Preview

North Carolina Tar Heels
Overall Rank: #80
#13 ACC
 North Carolina Logo
North Carolina heads into the 2018 season with some work to do after bottoming out with a 3-9 record in 2017. The season got off on the wrong foot when California came to Chapel Hill in week one and surprised North Carolina by a score of 35-30. This loss to the Golden Bears sent the Tar Heels into a tailspin that they could never recover from as they ended up losing eight of their first nine games. It is going to be vital for North Carolina to do a better job of finishing games in the fourth quarter in 2018 as they lost several games last season by blowing leads late.
2017 Record: 3-9, 1-7
2017 Bowl: None
Coach: Larry Fedora (43-34 at North Carolina, 77-53 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chris Kapilovic
Defensive Coordinator: John Papuchis
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jordon Brown, RB, 613 yards
Passing: Chazz Suratt, QB, 1,342 yards
Receiving: Anthony Ratliff-Williams, WR, 635 yards
Tackles: Cole Holcomb, LB, 93
Sacks: Malik Carney, DE, 5.5
Interceptions: Two players with 2 each
Other Key Returnees: RB Michael Carter, WR Dazz Newsome, FS Myles Dorn, DB Myles Wolfolk, RT Charlie Heck, DT Aaron Crawford
Key Losses: WR Austin Proehl, DB M.J. Stewart, S Donnie Miles
Chazz Suratt is the projected starter at quarterback, but he will be pushed by Nathan Elliott. It is highly likely that both Suratt and Elliott will play during the early stages of the season as the Tar Heels don’t play an ACC game until September 22nd. Jordon Brown and Michael Carter should form a solid 1-2 punch at running back after combining for 1,100 yards between them in 2017. Anthony Ratliff-Williams can stretch opposing defenses with big plays and it will be important for him to stay healthy and find a way to catch about 60 passes in 2018. A key for North Carolina in the passing game will be its ability to develop a quality number two wide receiver that will keep defenses honest. The offensive line is a bit of a question mark as Charlie Heck is the most experienced returner at right tackle.
Cole Holcomb anchors a defense that will need to make more big plays and find a way to get off the field more consistently in 2018. Holcomb had 93 tackles and should be primed for a 100 plus tackle season in 2018 if he stays healthy. The defensive line has some potential as Malik Carney, Aaron Crawford, and Jalen Dalton are back and will need to control the line of scrimmage so that teams won’t just pound the ball down their throats. Myles Dorn and Myles Wolfolk are part of a secondary that needs to find a way to become more dominant as teams were a little too comfortable throwing the football against the Tar Heels last season.
The Bottom Line:
A return trip to California will kick off the 2018 season for North Carolina. This game is beyond vital for the Tar Heels as they can ill afford to start 0-1 as their schedule starting September 15th against UCF is brutal. The Golden Bears beat North Carolina 35-30 in Chapel Hill last season and that game was very entertaining. Playing in Berkley can lull visiting teams to sleep, see Ole Miss and Washington State last season as examples. Thus, a fast start for the Tar Heels in that game will help them keep the crowd very quiet. Three ACC games that will swing the direction of the season for North Carolina are on September 22nd against Pittsburgh, October 13th against Virginia Tech and on October 20th at Syracuse. The game against the Panthers is important because it’s the conference opener and they won at Pittsburgh last season. The games against Virginia Tech and Syracuse are important because the Tar Heels need to pull an upset in conference play to get bowl eligible. Also, the Syracuse game is one of those games that is a must win for North Carolina if they want to win six. Bottom line, this team will improve to about five wins in 2018 and the pressure on Larry Fedora will increase heading into the 2019 season.
Projected Bowl: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 144.2 (90th in nation, 13th in conference)
Passing Offense: 225.4 (70, 9)
Total Offense: 369.6 (96, 11)
Scoring Offense: 26.0 (83, 11)
Rushing Defense: 213.0 (113, 14)
Pass Defense: 223.1 (63, 9)
Total Defense: 436.1 (99, 12)
Scoring Defense: 31.3 (88, 13)
Turnover Margin: -0.50 (103, 13)
Sacks: 1.92 (74, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 2.50 (96, 11)

Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#52 William Barnes
#179 Dyami Brown