After a 5-18 record over his final two seasons, North Carolina parted ways with head coach Larry Fedora. The Heels brought in a familiar face: Mack Brown. Brown was the head man at UNC from 1988-1997, racking up a 69-46-1 record before being hired away to Texas. After a decade and a half with the Longhorns, Brown seemingly retired, but after five years as an ESPN commentator, UNC brought Brown back.
Brown has already begun to revitalize the Tar Heels’ recruiting, but after just two wins last year I’m not sure that the talent is there to make a bowl year one.
On offense, Brown brought in Ole Miss OC Phil Longo who improved the Rebels’ offense in his two years at the helm in Oxford. His first order of business is to figure out the QB situation, where four guys played meaningful time, three of whom got injured. With Nathan Elliot gone and Chazz Surratt moving to linebacker, the QB race is wide open. Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder both ended up redshirting last year after injuries. Ruder looked somewhat impressive in his limited playing time. The Heels also bring in highly touted true freshman Sam Howell at the QB spot.
Luckily for whoever wins the job, the offense around them should be pretty good. Seven of the top eight return in the receiving corps along with the top two backs and four starters on the line. I expect this offense to improve under Longo, and they should hopefully avoid the injury bug at QB.
The defense was rattled by injuries last year to be fair, but they were nonetheless not good. On the bright side, a lot of the two-deep has playing experience for this year though.
The new DC is former Army coordinator Jay Bateman, he’ll be joined in the role by Tennessee LB coach Tommy Thigpen.
There is some talent on this team. Tackle Jason Strowbridge and end Tomon Fox combined for eight sacks and eight TFL, and young guys like Jake Lawler and Chris Collins should provide depth on the ends as well.
On the second level, two starters return and they add Surratt, who took limited snaps at QB last year. The secondary is probably the best unit on the team, five guys with significant starting experience return there.
I liked Bateman’s defenses at Army, and I have faith he shows some significant strides in year one.
There is a lot of talent on this team and the model expects the Tar Heels to win five games this year, two and a half times last year’s win total. UNC dealt with a lot of injuries in 2018 and should progress to the mean because of that, but the schedule is tough with South Carolina and Appalachian State in non-conference play and Clemson as an Atlantic division crossover opponent. I’m interested to see how the Mack Brown experiment grows, but win five games this year and keep recruiting at the same level and I’d say he’s on the right track.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|31-Aug||vs. South Carolina (charlotte, nc)||21||-6.8|
|13-Sep||at Wake Forest||55||-4.2|
|5-Oct||at Georgia Tech||69||-2.1|
|19-Oct||at Virginia Tech||37||-6.8|
|30-Nov||at Nc State||35||-6.8|
Average Projected Record: 4.9 wins, 7.1 losses (2.8 wins, 5.2 losses)