The Tar Heel defense came under fire all season long and at times for good reason, but the Jekyl and Hide Tar Heels gave North Carolina moments to rejoice as well as moments you thought it could not get any worse. The Tar Heels gave up close to 200 yards per game on the ground, but if you take away the Georgia Tech fiasco that number trickles down to 155 yards per game. With the losses of Sylvester Williams and Kevin Reddick to the NFL where can the Tar Heels turn to improve the defense heading into 2013.
The run game begins up front with your defensive line and this is a major need in the recruiting class, but several Tar Heels must take their game to another level or games like we saw versus Georgia Tech will repeat it next fall.
Kareem Martin improved this year, but the senior from Roanoke Rapids will have to be the leader up front for the defensive line. Martin had 40 tackles two shy of Sylvester Williams totals and he had 15.5 tackles for loss. Martin has NFL talent and will have to anchor a defensive line that will be again short on depth.
Shawn Underwood was a big time recruit for UNC and playing time will be available for the rising junior. Production will be the issue because with more playing time Underwood will need to be involved in more plays. His 20 tackles must double for his impact to felt up front and the middle of the line is going to have to occupy multiple offensive linemen to free up the linebackers to roam free.
Tim Jackson has all the talent you can ask for in a defensive lineman. However Jackson just has not produced as expected especially after the promise he showed as a freshman. Jackson like Martin has NFL talent, but in order to make it to the league Jackson is going to have some dominating days next year as a senior.
Jessie Rogers showed promise as a freshman and a year in the weight room should help his growth. If Travis Hughes does not progress into the linebacker they envision a serious look needs to be made as to whether or not a move to defensive end is his best option. The Tar Heels could use the pass rush.
Most fans I speak to want to discuss the secondary, but defensive football starts up front dominating the line of scrimmage and decreasing the quarterback’s time to throw. Tim Scott showed a ball hawking ability late in the season and more pressure from the defensive line will help the opponents quarterbacks make more bad decisions which can lead to the pick sixes we all enjoy. Recruiting period and spring ball will be interesting to follow with regard to the UNC defensive line.
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