4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NORTH CAROLINA DEFENSE
– Awful, the defense allowed 35 points and 448 yards per game with a painful inability come up with a key stop. The pass rush was great, but it didn’t lead to much of anything. The defensive coordinator combination of Tommy Thigpen and Jay Bateman have six of the top nine tacklers back, but the top three are gone. However …
– The defensive line has hope and promise. 285-pound senior Jason Strowbridge isn’t flashy, but he’s a productive defensive tackle who made a lot of plays and can get behind the line. Combined with 310-pound senior Aaron Crawford, there’s hope for a decent year on the inside – at least if experience matters.
Top pass rusher Malik Carney is done, and junior Tomon Fox has to do more to get to the quarterback. He can get behind the line, but he has to generate more pressure.
– Top tackler Cole Holcomb is done, but Dominque Ross is a quick, active option who can play inside or out, and Jonathan Smith has the upside to be the team’s leading hitter in the middle if he can stay healthy for a full season. Overall it’s a young group, but it has to be far, far steadier against the run.
– Four of the top five defensive backs return for the new coaching staff to play around with. Overall, the defensive backs came up with just seven interceptions. Corners Patrice Rene and Greg Ross can hit, but they need to be better when the ball is in the air.
6-2, 210-pound senior Myles Dorn has good range at free safety who missed a part of the season but still came up with 55 stops. Sophomore Trey Morrison had a nice first season with 46 tackles doing a good job in the open field.