North Carolina football outlook for 2016. Despite breaking in a new quarterback, the Tar Heels and Larry Fedora are in a position to make another run at the Coastal title.
North Carolina is out to prove this season that it has long-term staying power.
The Tar Heels were thrilled to win 11 games and appear in the ACC Championship Game in 2015. It was a breakthrough moment for then-fourth-year head coach Larry Fedora. But the program has bigger aspirations, such as becoming a perennial Coastal Division favorite and even chipping away at Clemson’s and Florida State’s seemingly insurmountable market share in the league.
Even at a basketball school, Carolina has long been a sleeping ACC giant—good facilities, desirable university and a fertile region for recruiting talent. Last season, the program awoke. And that makes this fall all about causing nightmares for the rest of the Coastal.
All eyes will be on junior QB Mitch Trubisky, the only unproven commodity on a loaded offense that normed more than 40 points per game in 2015. Trubisky patiently waited and learned behind Marquise Williams for this opportunity to orchestrate Fedora’s attack. And the combination of his solid spring and his robust supporting cast indicate that the Tar Heel point machine will be just fine in 2016.
Even more than the explosive offense, it was the improvement of the D under first-year coordinator Gene Chizik that really helped to propel Carolina to new heights in 2015.
Chizik was nothing shy of remarkable in his debut season in Chapel Hill, overseeing a massive overhaul of results but not personnel. However, if the Tar Heels want to move up a rung on the ACC ladder, it’s now up to Chizik’s kids to be even tighter in 2016. Carolina was trucked over the final three games, allowing 756 yards to injury-depleted Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and additional overall progress will only be possible if the defense can become stingier.
Fedora and his staff are no longer pitching hope. They’re selling results and a bright future. And the area’s blue-chip recruits are listening, as evidenced by February’s signing class of the next generation of Heels. Carolina hasn’t been this optimistic about its football team in almost two decades, when Mack Brown was coaching the team. Sure, the NCAA is still fishing around the entire athletic program following last year’s Notice of Allegations, and a new quarterback is being broken in. But Fedora finally has the wind at his back, and enough returning talent to capture the Coastal for a second straight year.