The #23 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels are set to kickoff the much-anticipated 2014 football season when they welcome the Liberty Flames to Kenan Memorial Stadium Saturday evening. In my opinion the Tar Heels should be able to handle the Flames relatively easy, with that being said here’s a few things to watch for in the season opener.
How does the offensive line look?
The one thing that we know about the Carolina O-line right now? They sure are young. The starting unit only has one upper classman (Junior right guard Landon Turner) and he will likely have four sophomores as his running mates. That means this group has to grow up and do it fast. Liberty doesn’t have the biggest D-line in the world, so the Tar Heels offensive line should be able to have its way in the trenches. If UNC dominates up front it’s no big deal however, if they struggle that could mean trouble down the road.
Who steps up at running back?
I know the success of these guys depends on the play of the O-line but I think it would be huge if one or two of these players can separate themselves from the pack. Sophomore T.J. Logan is the starter and he has all the tools to be a really good player in Coach Fedora’s system. Junior Romar Morris is more of a short yardage back, who will also make plays in the passing game and sophomore Khris Francis seems ready to make a major impact. The guy most people want to see is freshman Elijah Hood. The highly touted running back has a rare combination of speed & power and could be the best of the bunch. Hood should get a chance to showcase his talents and it could be the beginning of something special.
Has the defense gotten better?
As we all know the defense is the weakest link on the team. If the Tar Heels are going to have a big season the defense will have to be a whole lot better and this is the first test. And a test it will be, because Liberty can put up some points. The Flames averaged 37.2 points per game last season and most of the players who put up all those points will be on the field come Saturday including Junior quarterback Josh Woodrum. UNC will be thin in the secondary following the suspension of four cornerbacks, but I suspect they’ll have enough talent on the field to get the job done. I’m well aware it just the first game but the Carolina D needs to play well so this unit can gain some confidence early.
Who will be the starting quarterback?
All off-season we’ve heard the battle for the starting quarterback spot was a dead heat. Well, it still must be that way because as of this moment Head Coach Larry Fedora hasn’t named a starter. Junior Marquise Williams and redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky are in the running to be the starting signal caller but will all the indecision hurt who ever wins the job? It’s hard to say, but if the offense gets off to a slow start it will likely be due the lack of cohesion and less to do with the opponent in my opinion.
All eyes will be on the offense and more importantly the quarterback. If the offense sputters and the QB struggles, the loser of the competition all of a sudden will become the most popular guy in Chapel Hill.