The Tar Heels Are on the Rise

Nicholas McCutcheonContributor IAugust 19, 2009

WINSTON SALEM, NC - OCTOBER 27:  The University of North Carolina Tar Heels mascot during the ACC game at the Groves Stadium, on October 27, 2007 in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

A perennial powerhouse in basketball, North Carolina is now a force in ACC football.  With another top recruiting class and a more than manageable schedule, the Tar Heels will have a say in which team will represent the Coastal division in the ACC title game.
After an eight-win season in 2008, UNC (preseason No. 20) will return 15 starters in 2009.  Where the Tar Heels return the most experience is in the front seven on defense.  Six returning starters up front will give UNC a formidable defense for any team on the schedule to navigate.
The Tar Heel offense will go as far as the injury prone legs of quarterback T.J. Yates can carry them. After missing five games last year with an ankle injury, Yates will have to become comfortable with a new group of receivers, which may be difficult since the offensive line returns only two starters and is lacking depth.
The schedule sets up nicely with two FBS schools and a Connecticut program that is in transition.  East Carolina will visit Chapel Hill after playing a 2008 season that saw the Pirates become the country’s early season darling.
UNC should be able to get through its non-conference schedule without a blemish.  Two possible stumbling blocks will come when the ACC season opens with a trip to Georgia Tech and a meeting a few weeks later in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech.
UNC should manage to match last season's win total without a problem.  Prediction is a 9-3 finish, just missing the ACC title game.  If targets emerge for Yates to throw to, the Tar Heels could very well find themselves in Tampa
Coach Butch Davis has brought a sense of pride back into the Tar Heel football program and while UNC may always be a basketball institution, if Davis continues to recruit the way he has since arriving in Chapel Hill, there will be no problem making a name for the football team as well.

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