UNC offense, State defense early watch spots
Posted July 7
Preseason ACC football camps will open in approximately a month with almost all of the 14 teams dealing with personnel issues.
Here are three of the most interesting.
1.UNC quarterback: The general assumption seems to be that graduate transfer Brandon Harris (6-3, 218) from LSU will step into the position vacated by Mitch Trubisky, but Larry Fedora certainly has not publicly endorsed such thinking.
At the end of spring drills and even after Harris made his commitment to the Tar Heels, Fedora continued to remind fans and the media that Trubisky a year ago was roughly in the same situation as returnees Logan Byrd (6-3, 220, redshirt freshman), Nathan Elliott (6-1, 195, sophomore) and Chazz Surratt (6-3, 205 redshirt freshman).
Harris does have the experience advantage, but it’s not by much as you might think. After playing in 12 games as a sophomore in 2015, he played in four games last season and attempted only 25 passes with 13 completions and one touchdown.
Fedora and QB coach Keith Heckendorf will make the call, of course, but it likely will take a while in August to sort through the pecking order. It’s worth remembering that Surratt, who played prep ball at East Lincoln near Charlotte, arrived in Chapel Hill amid future-star predictions.
With September conference games against Louisville, Duke and Georgia Tech, there won’t be a lot of time for Trubisky’s successor to find a soft landing spot.
2.NC State defensive depth: On paper, the unit is among the three or four most impressive in the conference.
But is this an aces-and-spaces group or one that actually will be capable of dealing with the likes of Clemson, Florida State and Louisville in the hot-wired Atlantic Division?
Last season’s defense began with high expectations as well, but quickly struggled in a 33-30 loss to ECU.
If all-star candidates Bradley Chubb, Airius Moore and Kentavius Street can stay healthy, there should be no shortage of leadership and defensive playmakers.
Technically, only three defensive starters were lost from last season’s 7-6 (3-5 ACC) team that ended with a bowl win over Vanderbilt.
But all three – Josh Jones, Jack Tocho and Dravious Wright – were defensive backs and the secondary will get tested immediately against South Carolina in the Sept. 2 opening game at Charlotte.
Regardless of how it goes in the opener, 2017 should be the year that clearly defines Dave Doeren’s recruiting progress. Almost everything points to improvement, but only if the depth chart holds up.
3.Lamar Jackson support: The Louisville quarterback won the Heisman Trophy last season and will begin 2017 as co-favorite with Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold to repeat.
But for all of his accomplishments and dazzling plays, Jackson was not the same player late in 2016 as he was in a 63-20 early win over Florida State and a 42-36 loss at Clemson.
The Cardinals lost their final three games – 36-10 to Houston, 41-38 to Kentucky and 29-9 to LSU in the postseason to finish 8-4 overall (7-1 ACC).
It was obvious by halftime of the game against Houston that defenses finally had found a way to contain Jackson long enough to limit his field-flipping plays.
At the same time, there wasn’t a clear Plan-B on offense, which is something Bobby Petrino and his staff reportedly spent a lot of time trying to develop at season’s end.
Either way there’ll be a fast verdict. The Cardinals open in Indianapolis against Purdue, then go to UNC and return home for a visit from Clemson.