The 2018 spring college football rankings, taking the first look at the North Carolina Tar Heels.
No. 46: North Carolina Tar Heels
Spring Practice Starts: March 4
Spring Game: April 14
North Carolina Tar Heels Spring Status
2017 was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but it wasn’t expected to be 3-9 bad.
The team perked up late in the year, killing Pitt’s bowl hopes with a stunning road win, and winning two of the last three games, but it was ugly along the way.
The O went through a six game stretch failing to hit 20 points, the defense couldn’t pick up the slack, and overall it was a forgettable run. But now the payoff has to come.
Eight starters are back on defense – with seven of the main eight guys returning on the front line – but it’s up to the offense to step it up. The backfield should be solid, but the main receivers are gone, and the line has to replace four starters.
North Carolina Biggest Depth Chart Battle
Quarterback. None of it matters if the offensive line can’t rock with four new starters, but the quarterback fight between Chazz Surratt and Nathan Elliott could be the key to the season.
Brandon Harris is gone, and Surratt struggled to get the offense moving after being thrown to the wolves early on as the team tried to replace Mitchell Trubisky. Elliott provided a spark late – highlighted by the win over Pitt – but he struggled against Miami and NC State.
North Carolina Biggest Issue
Controlling the ball and the clock. Penalties were a big problem, and the time of possession side of things was all on the other side, but it all started with an inability to convert on third downs.
The Tar Heels were 13th in the ACC converting just 31% of their third down tries. They weren’t able to go on long marches, the defense was stressed, and it all broke down in the middle of the season. By comparison, UNC converted over 45% of the time in 2016.
North Carolina Biggest Positive
The defensive line and the pass rush. There has to be a lot more pressure generated, but there’s plenty of hope. It wasn’t great last season with just 23 sacks and 72 tackles for loss, but almost all of the key parts are back. The top four sackers return, and 16 of the top 19 tackle for loss producers return.
Really, Why Are The North Carolina Tar Heels Ranked Here?
Don’t expect miracles. The Tar Heels should be better as long as the O line can rebuild in a hurry, but the quarterbacks have a year under their belts, the defense has experience, and there’s too much in place to think another three-win season is possible. A bowl game is a much, but there won’t be too much more.