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100 Days to Kickoff: 2017 Opponent Previews - North Carolina Tar Heels

A preview of the 2017 Tar Heels

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Countdown to Kickoff: 31 days

As our 100 Days to Kickoff continues on, we begin our opponent previews to provide a quick look at each of the teams coming up on our schedule this season. Each team has changed and provides new challenges than in years past, so this week is all about learning about those changes and learning exactly what Georgia Tech’s opponents have to offer.

2017 North Carolina Tar Heels

Who’s Gone?

As Tech fans, we know all but too well that the Tar Heel offense has had Ted Roof’s number the last couple seasons. It’s honestly a relief to see who they’ve lost. The offense turns over almost everyone and is certain to regress.

Among the UNC starters that have departed heading into 2017 are QB Mitch Trubisky, RBs Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan, WRs Bug Howard, Ryan Switzer, and Mack Collins, and they also lost 3 of their starting linemen.

For those keeping count, that’s every starting skill position player, and everyone but 2 offensive linemen. This year will almost certainly be a rebuilding year for the UNC offense, and it will be the tale of the tape of how well Fedora has been recruiting.

They also lost defensive coordinator Gene Chizik to retirement, along with safety Dominique Green and corner Des Lawrence.

Who’s Back?

The Heels return almost no one on offense, but Trubisky’s backup, Nathan Elliot, returns with very limited playing time. The sophomore went 8-9 passing in garbage time last season for 55 yards.

They return one receiver with playing time in Austin Proehl, who is projected to be the Fed Spread’s #1 receiver this upcoming season.

Unlike the offense, the Heel defense was very young last season, and returns their front 7. From SBN’s Bill C Tar Heel preview:

“End Malik Carney recorded 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks last year, while tackles Jeremiah Clarke and Aaron Crawford appear to have potential as boulders in the middle. Meanwhile, junior linebackers Cole Holcomb and Andre Smith and senior Cayson Collins combined for 15 TFLs and eight breakups. If younger players like ends Jason Strowbridge and Tomon Fox and linebacker Dominique Ross live up to flashes of potential, the front seven could be fun. And if it isn’t, it probably will be in 2018.”

Who’s New?

The most intriguing new player for the ’17 Tar Heels is probably LSU graduate transfer QB Brandon Harris. He completed 54% of his passes for 14.5 ypc in 2015 for the Bayou Bengals. He lost his starting job early last season after a rocky start and transferred to Chapel Hill.

Also new is the NCAA, who finally begin hearings on the litany of violations the Tar Heel athletic program is facing in 2 weeks. And by “new” I mean they’ve been “investigating for years.”

Season Outlook

With so much turnover on offense and the youth of the defense, the Tar Heels are not projected to be a contender for the Coastal Division this season. Advanced stats have them predicted at 6 wins with several toss up games.

However, they miss Clemson and FSU from the Atlantic and their toughest games are all at home with Notre Dame, Louisville, and Miami all making their way to Chapel Hill. If the Heels can get any sort of offense without returning almost any starters, they could make a run at the Coastal… but that’s a big “if”. The defensive front 7 should be better, but that probably won’t be enough to carry this team to a division title.

Projected Record

6-6 (3-5 ACC)