Sep 8, 2012; Winston Salem, NC, USA North Carolina Tar Heels defensive end Kareem Martin (95) plays in the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB

UNC Football: Key Defensive Players

In 2012, the North Carolina Tar Heels had one of the most explosive offenses in the ACC. More of the same is expected from the offense this season as they are expected to be one of the conference’s best. However, for all the offense’s success the defense struggled throughout much of Coach Fedora’s first season. For the Heels to take the next step as a team and compete for a ACC title this season these players will have to step up for the defense this season:

Tre Boston: The preseason All-ACC selection is one of the most experience players on the roster and will be one of the leaders of this year’s defense. He led the team in tackles last year with 86 and tied for the lead interceptions with 4. The senior will anchor a secondary that returns all four starters but must improve after giving up a number of big plays last year. The safety is on the preseason Thorpe and Nagurski watch list.

Kareem Martin: The senior pass rusher was the other Tar Heel defender who was selected to the preseason all-conference team and will enter the season with great expectations. The defensive end will be the defense’s premiere pass rusher this season after totaling 40 tackles and 4 sacks the last two seasons. Martin also had 15.5 tackles for loss which earned him a spot on the preseason Bednarik and Nagurski watch list. It is important that Martin sees an increase in his numbers has the Heels try to replace the production of first round pick Sylvester Williams.

Tommy Heffernan: The former walk-on from Miami,FL enjoyed a breakout season last season playing along side Kevin Reddick in the Tar Heels 4-2-5 alignment. Now the junior will look to replace Reddick as he is the most experience linebacker on the team. Heffernan had 73 tackles last season to go with 8.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks and will inexperience group of linebackers this season

Sean Underwood: It is never easy replacing a first round pick but that is the job Sean Underwood has this season. The 6’1, 300 pound defensive tackle will take over Sly Williams spot on the defensive line and should see a increase in his numbers with the extra playing time. The Fuquay-Varina native had 19 tackles last season while starting 5 games. There is no reason to believe that those numbers will not double now that he is expected to be full-time starter.

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Tags: Kareem Martin North Carolina Tar Heels Sean Underwood Tommy Heffernan Tre Boston

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