NORTH CAROLINA

 

QUARTERBACK - TBD. New starter.

The two challengers for the Tarheels' job are Nebraska transfer Joe Dailey (right) and redshirt freshman Cam Sexton. Dailey has the benefit of starting 11 games at Nebraska, but after throwing 19 interceptions versus only 17 touchdowns with a paltry 49.4% completion percentage he's hardly a proven college quarterback. Seeing as how Dailey was recruited to Nebraska as an option QB, he's very mobile and good when he's on the move, but at some point a quarterback needs to become confident in the pocket to succeed. Sexton is also a mobile quarterback who has a good chance to beat out Dailey, but has yet to throw a pass in college. He was a highly-regarded prep QB and was considered the backup QB as a freshman before a broken ankle sidelined him. Depth: The loser of the Dailey/Sexton battle will become the backup for the team. Joey Bozich, who was the backup QB last year and is the only returning Tarheel who threw a pass last year, was moved to fullback in the spring.

 

RUNNING BACK - Ronnie McGill. 2005 stats: 130 attempts, 530 yards, 5 TDs. Returning starter.

Ronnie McGill missed the first five games for the Tarheels last year due to injury, but still ended up leading the team in rushing and touchdowns. He also led the Tarheels in rushing as a freshman. Still, with 337 career carries and 1,654 yards he is definitely a veteran running back. Now he just needs to show he can be the feature back and stay healthy. Depth: Barrington Edwards started the season when McGill was out and notched 455 yards and 2 touchdowns on 114 carries. The LSU transfer will give the Tarheels an experienced backup to McGill. Justin Warren, redshirt freshman Richie Rich, and four true freshman, including Anthony Elzy, give the Tarheels a very deep stable of running backs.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

Jesse Holley.
47 receptions, 670 yards, 1 TD. Returning starter.
Brooks Foster. 0 receptions, 0 yards, 0 TDs. New starter.

Jesse Holley(right) is the star of this outfit, but also the only receiver on the team who caught a pass last year. A durable All-ACC honorable mention, the 6-3 Holley was also a walk-on with the basketball team as a freshman. On the football field he was the team's leading receiver, yet he only caught one touchdown last year. The #2 spot opposite Holley looks like it's still up in the air with Brooks Foster the early leader. Foster is another basketball team walk-on and starred on special teams last year. Like Holley, Foster is 6-3 which gives the Tarheels a fairly tall starting receiver lineup. Depth: Brandon Tate was the team's best returner as a freshman last year and might find more passes thrown his way in his sophomore season. The biggest receiver on the team at 6-5, 225 pounds, Kenton Thompson has high expectations from UNC fans but first has to crack the rotation. Freshman Deunta Williams was a big recruit who will add more speed to the receiver depth chart.

 

TIGHT END

Jon Hamlett.
21 receptions, 212 yards, 1 TD. Returning starter.

Jon Hamlett returns for his second year as the Tarheel starter and is a steady, though unspectacular tight end. Only 3 of his 46 career receptions went for touchdowns, although it's possible he'll become more of a red zone threat this season. He'll add a veteran presence to the team and Coach Bunting is high on his improvement, so he could come through with a solid junior year. Depth: Junior Rock Wells is a blocking tight end who will fight for the #2 TE spot with sophomore Richard Quinn.

OFFENSIVE LINE

LT - Brian Chacos.
Returning starter.
LG - Charlson Gray. (#11 G) Returning starter.
C - Ben Lemming. Returning starter.
RG - Kyle Jolly. New starter.
RT - Garrett Reynolds. New starter.

Brian Chacos will return to the Tarheels after getting the NCAA to greenlight a sixth year of eligibility. He was healthy last year and started every game at left tackle, where he is expected to be a solid force yet again. Ben Lemming is listed as a returning starter, but he's only played in two games in his career. He started at center in the 2005 season opener, hurt his shoulder, came back two games later, re-injured his shoulder, and missed the rest of the year. Expectations are high on him should be be able to keep his shoulder healthy this year. The right side of the line is young with redshirt freshman Kyle Jolly expected to land the starting right guard spot and redshirt sophomore Garrett Reynolds starting next to him at right tackle. Depth: Junior Scott Lenahan is the backup plan at center while redshirt freshman Andre Barbour will contend with Reynolds for a starting right tackle spot. Nearly all of the depth on the team is very inexperienced.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

Brian Rackley.
15 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 FR, 1 FF. Returning starter.
Shelton Bynum. 22 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 PBU. New starter.
Kyndraus Guy. 21 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU. New starter.
Melik Brown. 7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 FF. New starter.

Brian Rackley (left) is the leader of this defensive line that returns six players overall with starting experience. Even though he missed the last three games of the 2005 season with a concussion, Rackley has 14 career starts and UNC fans are hoping for a breakout season. The other returning starter is tackle Kyndraus Guy, who started five games last year while playing in all 11. Like some of the other tackles on the schedule, Guy isn't all that big at 280 pounds. Teaming up with him in the middle is Shelton Bynum, a senior who started six games and does tip the scales at 300 pounds. The final starting spot is still up in the air, but Melik Brown has as good a chance as any to grab it. He's been a reserve so far in his career, but could have a productive senior year if he takes the starting job. Depth: Battling Brown for the spot is junior Hilee Taylor, who is in the quick pass-rushing mold of defensive end. Kentwan Balmer started three games at defensive end last year, but has been moved inside to tackle for this year to add depth. Cameron Thomas also has high expectation as the 330 pound redshirt freshman was a highly regarded recruit and will add a lot of bulk to the defensive tackle position.

 

LINEBACKERS

SLB - Larry Edwards.
(#25 - OLB) 91 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 8 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF. Returning starter.
MLB - Mark Paschal. 7 tackles. New starter.
WLB - Durell Mapp. 46 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, 1 FR, 2 FF. Returning starter.

The leader of this linebackering corp is strongside 'backer Larry Edwards (left). He led the team in tackles last season and is expected to contend for all conference honors this year as one of the team leaders on defense. Mark Paschal is the surprise starter at the middle linebacker position after a solid showing in the spring and fall camps. Another relatively small middle linebacker at 225 pounds, Paschal will have a lot of attention as the rookie running the middle of the Tar Heel defense. Durell Mapp started the final 6 games last year at middle linebacker for North Carolina but this season was switched to the weak-side spot. He missed the spring due to a shoulder injury and in fall camp sprained his knee. Assuming another injury doesn't hit him though, he should be healed up by the ND game. Depth: If Mapp can't go, sophomores Chase Rice and Garrett White will look to step into the starting lineup and contribute. Victor Woolsey is a veteran backup middle linebacker who holds some weight room records for the Tar Heels, but also has had injury issues in the past.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB - Jacoby Watkins.
19 tackles, 3 PBU. Returning starter.
CB - Quinton Person. 36 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PBU. New starter.
FS - D.J. Walker. 9 tackles. New starter.
SS - Kareen Taylor. 61 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF. Returning starter.

The strength of this Tar Heel secondary is strong safety Kareen Taylor (left). He has made 15 starts as the free safety spot and now moves over to the strong safety position due to the injury to Trimane Goddard. His physical, agressive play has made him an All-ACC candidate for 2006. D.J. Walker will try and replace Taylor at the free safety spot, but he is very inexperienced other than his work on special teams. At corner, Jacoby Watkins started every game in 2004 and was doing the same in 2005 until he broke his leg and was forced to miss the rest of the season. The injury also forced him to sit out spring ball. He's back in the starting lineup now and while he may be a bit rusty, should be back to normal by the ND game. Quinton Person filled in for Watkins last year and ended up starting 4 games. Now he's a full time starter without much starting experience, but has collected a decent amount of game experience the past two seasons. Depth: If D.J. Walker struggles at the free safety spot, sophomore Cooter Arnold will waiting in the wings. Arnold, who played running back last year as a freshman, is new to the secondary but is a very good physical athlete. Also, while Walker has dealt with some minor injuries in fall camp, Arnold stayed healthy and got valuable experience running with the first team defense. Kendric Burney also turned heads in fall camp and while the freshman is only 5-9, he has coaches and fans excited about his future at UNC.