This Tar Heel team is a difficult team to project. It's clear they are going to be a really solid football team next year but their ceiling is yet unknown. They’re returning two of the most impactful offensive people in all of CFB next year but have to replace almost all of the production around them.
The conversation surrounding UNC’s offense might not start where you would expect.
Offensive Coordinator Phil Longo appears to be one of the best in the game right now. His offense manufactures easy completions through the use of fluid route concepts and he couples that with a lethal, counter-heavy running game. The question still remains as to who will run these route concepts and follow their pulling guards but, as is the custom for any Air Raid oriented coach, these pieces are interchangeable by design.
The one offensive position Longo won’t have to worry about is quarterback. Sam Howell is on all of the early projections for Heisman candidates, and rightfully so. He uses ruthless efficiency (see his career 64% completion percentage) to lull defenses towards the box and then slings the ball over the top. In many respects, he draws comparisons to a Heisman winner from a few years ago who is now spending his time dragging the Browns out of irrelevance.
There are definitely reasons to be skeptical about this offense. Dyami Brown, Dazz Newsome, Michael Carter, and Javonte Brown will be large shoes to fill but I’m not sure if there's a better OC plus QB combination in the country (outside of OU) to help bridge that gap.
The defense lost very few pieces from last year but the one that will leave a mark was linebacker Chazz Surratt.
Outside of him, there wasn’t a lot to ring home about this Tar Heel defense last year. In almost every defensive category they hovered around average. Some returning experience might help UNC take a step up in this next season but it's doubtful whether they have the playmakers needed to become the top 25 defense they need to be in order to vault UNC into playoff contention.
Florida State vs. North Carolina Final Thoughts
UNC is the poster child for what a rebuild should look like. Early in head coach Mike Norvell's tenure, FSU looks to be following a similar trajectory, but they are still two years behind.
North Carolina will be a good football team. One that is fully expected to finish in the top 3 of the ACC next year. Mack Brown has this team rolling on the field and now on the recruiting trail as well.
The good news for Seminole fans is that Norvell and co. stole a game from the Tar Heels last year. They had a solid game plan and executed well enough to win. This year, however, UNC is not likely to overlook the ‘Noles. While another win against a top 15 preseason team would be huge for the rebuilding process it's probably wise not to expect lightning to strike twice in the same place.