On Christmas I gifted you an analysis of the North Carolina Tar Heel offense. I realize that probably isn’t what you asked for for Christmas. In fact it’s probably the opposite of what you wanted and will be headed to the trash faster than that eye sore of a sweater your grandma knitted you. “Thanks, grandma. I was hoping for another reason for the kids at school to kick my ass in between classes.”
But enough about my sad, pathetic childhood. Let’s get to the preview of UNC’s defense that Brendon Kay will be working to dissect in the Belk Bowl.
Like North Carolina’s hogmollies on the other side of the line of scrimmage, this is a good-not-great unit. And quite frankly, outside of defensive end Kareem Martin (#95), the Tar Heels’ DL isn’t all that impressive. Martin really does carry the unit. He’s notched 78 tackles, paced the team with 20 tackles for loss, a team-leading 11 sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, and 3 forced fumbles this season. There’s no question he’s NFL bound.
But like I mentioned, outside of Martin, North Carolina’s defensive line isn’t anything to write home about. No other lineman has picked up more than 2.5 tackles for loss or a single sack in 2013. The gameplan for Cincinnati is essentially double-team Martin and keep the others at bay.
The Tar Heels do an excellent job masking their deficiencies along the defensive line with an active linebacking corps led by Travis Hughes (#9), Darius Lipford (#23), and Norkeithus Otis (#8). The trio are bruisers, averaging about 237 lbs per player but the one to keep an eye on is Otis. The junior has just 43 tackles on the season but 12 of them have occurred behind the line of scrimmage and he paces the unit with 7.5 sacks. Otis has also forced 3 fumbles this season like Martin along the defensive line. On passing plays, Cincinnati will need to do whatever it takes to keep him in check on Saturday.
North Carolina’s passing defense is above average, allowing just 224 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks. The headliner of the secondary, and arguably the best player on defense other than Kareem Martin, is Tre Boston. For those of you who have been tracking Bearcats recruiting for the past few years, that name probably rings a bell. Boston was actually a verbal commitment to Brian Kelly and Cincinnati back in 2009. But when Kelly left for Notre Dame, Boston opened up his recruitment and ultimately signed with North Carolina.
UC definitely lost a good one in the aftermath of Kelly’s departure. Now a senior (boy how time flies), Boston is leading the Tar Heels in tackles with 85, interceptions with 4, and pass breakups with 8. This is clearly a ball hawking safety who must be accounted for tomorrow afternoon.