The North Carolina Tar Heels defense was nothing short of impressive in 2009. The same and more will be expected of them in 2010. Here is a look at how good this defense is with a spring report card.
Defensive Line A
The best talent and overall depth can be found on the defensive line, even after losing Cam Thomas and Aleric Mullins.
Quinton Coples, Marvin Austin, Tydreke Powell and Robert Quinn are the clear front-runners to start. Barring unexpected injury those will be the starting four.
Even after one of the best starting four linemen in the country the talent is pretty incredible. The depth on the line will be a key to this defense with young studs Michael McAdoo, Jared McAdoo, Jordan Nix and Donte Paige-Moss all expected to receive time.
Michael McAdoo was impressive in the Spring Game and Donte Paige-Moss is extremely talented. The coaches are just waiting for him to mature enough to be a force on the line.
Freshman defensive end Brandon Willis has even looked good early on and could receive playing time.
This group of linemen cannot be graded below a solid A. The starting four are among the best in the country and the depth is tremendous.
This linebacker group is laden with talent, particularly in the starting lineup. The starting lineup will be Quan Sturdivant at the Will linebacker, Kevin Reddick at Mike linebacker and Bruce Carter as the Sam linebacker.
The linebacker group has some depth, but Coach Davis has said he wants to see the backups begin to make plays and be smarter players in general.
The fastest player on the team, Zach Brown, has not been as smart of a linebacker as Butch Davis likes to see. With improvement from Brown they easily could have four very good linebackers.
Herman Davidson and Dion Guy can also expect to see some action. This is a very good group with two 2011 draft picks, Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter. They are deserving of an A-, and even higher if depth can be found.
Defensive Backs A-
The secondary could use the most improvement over last season. The defense was sixth overall in defense in 2009, but ranked 45th in passing defense, according to Foxsports.com. It was not hard to see last year that catches were at times way too easy to make for opposing wide receivers. Guys were simply too wide-open.
The cornerbacks must close the gap this season. The two starting cornerbacks, Kendric Burney and Charles Brown, have much experience and should be outstanding. Burney and Brown rank in the Top Ten in NFLDraftScout.com’s cornerback rankings.
Depth is a concern, as in the defensive backfield. LeCount Fantroy should bring solid play, and surprisingly Mywan Jackson looked outstanding in the Spring Game. They both should receive solid minutes. Let’s just hope they take their outstanding play into the season.
The key to cornerback will be those backups. They must prove themselves able to defend on any play. Burney and Brown, both seniors, should hold their own against any receivers in the ACC, but the stops must continue down the depth chart.
Both safeties, Deunta Williams and Da’Norris Searcy, are also among the best in the country. Deunta Williams is frequently named at the top of draftable free safeties. He is certainly impressive. Both of these players should also keep the passing yards down.
One impressive thing about the UNC defensive backs last season were their interceptions. They recorded 19 total. Deunta Williams had the most interceptions with six and Kendric Burney was close behind with five. Charles Brown added five interceptions.
If they once again can pick off that many passes and contain their men, this group will be very much deserving of an A-.
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