The Tar Heel football defensive line was overshadowed by stories of Sylvester Williams. Rightly so, since he is a senior and a projected 1st round NFL draft pick. So that leaves the question of who is going to step up and make an impact in UNC’s front four next year. Kareem Martin is going to have to be that guy.
Most people would agree that the UNC defense needs a lot more work than Larry Fedora’s first year spread offense. Bryn Renner and company racked up 40.6 points per game which was 11th in the NCAA. There will be some holes to be filled with Giovani Bernard taking his talents to the NFL as well as 1st Team All-American, offensive lineman, Jonathan Cooper graduating. The offense will be able to adjust though. The defense is losing some key players and needs to get a lot better.
The defense allowed 142.7 rushing yards allowed per game this year which was a mere 40th in the nation. The Tar Heels total defense, allowing 389.6 yards per game, ranked 61st in the nation and 6th in the ACC. The defense stepping up this year will begin with the defensive line and Martin. Martin only had 19 solo tackles on the season and 40 total tackles. He’ll need to get better if he wants to take his game and the UNC defense to the next level. The leading tackler for the Heels this year was a defensive back, Jabari Price. He averaged 4.55 tackles a game.
Fedora and defensive coordinator, Vic Koenning, need to utilize Martin’s speed and strength. They can do this by using more crossing stunts and varying blitzes. Disguising blitzes confuses offensive lineman and in many cases will end up in someone missing a block. Martin is sure to get double teamed a lot in the coming season since he will be considered UNC’s best pass rusher now that Williams is gone. Therefore a big part of Martin’s game this year will also be not getting frustrated when he does get double teamed because this frees up another man on defense to be able to make plays. Too bad things like that do not go down in the stat book.
Martin will have to step it up quickly as well. UNC has decided not to schedule a much lesser opponent next year as they did this year in Elon University. Their opening game will be at the South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina is currently ranked 10th in the nation and currently holds the 16th ranked recruiting class for next year according to ESPN.com. This game should be a good measure of how Martin and the Tar Heel defense will hold up once they begin ACC play.