North Carolina’s season opener is just around the corner, as the Tar Heels will meet the South Carolina Gamecocks in Charlotte this Saturday. Mack Brown’s return to the Tar Heels’ sideline has generated excitement and optimism around the program during the preseason. After what seems like a really long wait, we finally get to see what lies ahead this year.
One thing that seems certain is improvement. Following a dismal 2-9 season last year, the Tar Heels have a young but talented squad, along with an entirely new coaching staff. So, how will it all play out? We look at five predictions for North Carolina football.
Five Predictions For North Carolina Football
Javonte Williams Will Score 10 or More Rushing Touchdowns
Before the final two games of last season, running back Javonte Williams played only sparingly. However, he got to put his skills on display against Western Carolina and NC State, and Williams responded with four touchdowns in two weeks. He is now set to be the workhorse of North Carolina’s ’ running back trio.
Williams is shifty enough to run around defenders and strong enough to run through them. Only lightly recruited during his high school years, Williams plays with a chip on his shoulder. When the Tar Heels reach the red zone, they will put the ball in his hands. While Michael Carter will see his workload increased as well, Williams will establish himself as the leader of the North Carolina backfield.
Stability and Leadership Will Emerge At Quarterback
The Tar Heels are starting from scratch at quarterback, with true freshman Sam Howell winning a three-way competition in the pre-season. Over the last two seasons, the position has been a revolving door for the Tar Heels, but that will no longer be the case.
Howell originally committed to Florida State, but instead signed with North Carolina shortly after Brown’s arrival. A four-star recruit from Charlotte, Howell was the prize of this year’s recruiting class.
The first few weeks of the schedule will be tough, and Howell will have to learn on the job. However, if he and the rest of the offense remain healthy, he will hit his stride as the season progresses. The Tar Heels will finally have a level of consistency at the position, something that hasn’t happened since Mitch Trubisky departed for the NFL three years ago. At quarterback, the future is right now.
The Secondary Will Step Up
Last season, North Carolina surrendered nearly 35 points per game. The Tar Heels simply have to improve on that number for wins to come. Change should come for the better this season. Gone are the days of North Carolina having to score 40 points to have a shot at winning games.
The Tar Heels defense as a whole will be improved, but especially in the secondary. All four defensive backs are experienced, having been thrown into the fire soon after their arrival in Chapel Hill. Cornerbacks Patrice Rene and Trey Morrison join safeties Myles Dorn and Myles Wolfolk to form a solid secondary that will become better as the season progresses. Freshman Storm Duck will likely see playing time at safety as well, gaining valuable experience for 2020. This group of defensive backs will cut down on opponents’ ability to strike with big plays through the air this season.
Desmond Evans Will Commit To North Carolina
North Carolina’s 2020 recruiting class includes several four-star defensive players, but the Tar Heels’ top target is still undecided on his college choice. We talked about the Tar Heels’ recruiting battles recently.
Desmond Evans is a five-star defensive end, ranked as the top high school player in North Carolina and #21 nationally. This is a player who will come into the college game and make life miserable for opposing offenses right away. The Tar Heels haven’t had a defensive player with Evans’ level of talent since Julius Peppers.
North Carolina has reportedly been in the lead to sign Evans, who announced his final five college choices last week. The Tar Heels will have to fight off Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia Tech to get him, but Brown’s recruiting magic, along with the program’s improvement this fall, will lead Evans to stay at home in North Carolina. By the time this season is a few weeks old, he will have made his decision to play for the Tar Heels in 2020.
Regular Season Record: 6-6
August and September
The Tar Heels’ schedule is brutal in the first few weeks. After facing a very solid South Carolina squad, Miami comes to Chapel Hill. The Hurricanes defense might be the toughest North Carolina faces all season.
In week three, the Tar Heels go on the road to take on Wake Forest. While the Demon Deacons will be a slight favorite, this is a game North Carolina has a good chance to win, especially if the Tar Heels have a productive ground game.
Week four brings Appalachian State to Chapel Hill. The Mountaineers might be the most underrated team in the nation. With veteran players at the skill positions, Appalachian is probably better than half of the teams in the ACC.
At the end of September, the Tar Heels have the unenviable task of hosting Clemson. North Carolina will come out swinging in front of a sold out crowd, but the Tigers’ talent will be too much. The Tar Heels will finish the month at 1-4, with a win coming against Wake Forest or Appalachian State.
North Carolina takes a trip to Atlanta in October, taking on a listless Georgia Tech squad. By this time, the Tar Heels’ offense will be humming, and they get it done against the Yellow Jackets. Next up is a Virginia Tech team that will be better after an disappointing season last year.
On October 26, the Tar Heels host Duke, which will be trying to replace quarterback Daniel Jones. The Blue Devils have a suspect defensive unit, and the Victory Bell won’t be returning to Durham after this year’s battle. At the end of October, North Carolina’s record will be 3-5.
November opens up with a visit from Virginia. Bryce Perkins and the Wahoos will be just good enough to edge the Tar Heels. Next up is a trip to Pittsburgh. The Panthers will slip this year after losing their top two running backs, and North Carolina will take this road tilt.
The Tar Heels will return to Kenan for a meeting with the Mercer Bears, who will resemble sacrificial lambs. North Carolina will put 50 points on the board in this one. Finally, the Tar Heels wrap up the regular season in Raleigh, against NC State. The Wolfpack has a strong defense, but will be down on offense after having to replace Ryan Finley and Kelvin Harmon. In a tight defensive struggle, the Tar Heels running backs will control the time of possession. North Carolina edges the Wolfpack to finish the season 6-6, becoming bowl eligible.
This should be a season of close games that can go either way. In recent years, close games have gone against the Tar Heels, but by the middle of this season, the team will be finishing strong and winning tight contests. Win or lose, this year’s team will be hungry, competitive, and fun to watch.