Missing Person’s Report: UNC’s Defense


This will not be a hate article. I’m genuinely interested in finding what the issues seem to be on the defensive side of the ball this season that’s allowed Chapel Hill to give up 157 points in 5 games. That means UNC defense gives up 31.7 points per game. When the Tar Heels’ offense only scores 23.6 points per game, this clearly becomes a huge problem. UNC scores 8.1 points less than their opponents—only one of whom, by the way, is currently ranked. This is bad, everybody. Let’s admit this and try to figure out what the core issues are and how we go about reviving UNC’s season.


Issue #1: The secondary and pass defense

Let’s just take a closer look at what we’re giving up in the air. UNC gave up 178 passing yards to USC, 243 passing yards to Middle Tennessee University, 104 passing yards to Georgia Tech, 376 passing yards to ECU, and 293 passing yards to Virginia Tech. UNC gave up 243 passing yards to MTU? They gave up 376 passing yards to ECU? And gave up just under 300 yards to Virginia Tech? Chapel Hill’s secondary has been the focus of recruiting going forward but it is not nearly enough right now.

UNC has been smoked through the air this year, and in games where they’ve done well on pass defense, they’ve gotten killed in stopping the run. Case in point: giving up only 104 passing yards to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets…only to give up 324 rushing yards.
Issue # 2: The front seven and run defense

There’s a pretty simple equation in the game of football. Whoever controls the clock, normally wins. Whichever team rushes for more yards, usually controls the clock. So, whoever runs for more yards usually wins the game (if A=B and B=C, then A=C). UNC has given up a lot of yards on the ground to teams this season. They’ve given up 228 rushing yards to USC, 159 rushing yards to MTU, 324 rushing yards to GT, 227 rushing yards to ECU, and 28 rushing yards to Virginia Tech.

These aren’t terrible numbers game in and game out. However, much like the Georgia Tech example above, there are situations like this on run defense. Only giving up 28 yards rushing to Virginia Tech is phenomenal. The front seven did their jobs. However, giving up just under 300 yards passing to that same Hokies team? Yeah, that’s not so good.

The question comes down to this: how do we fix the leakage?

UNC has not done a good job executing defensive game plans. The Tar Heels wanted to stop GT’s running game. They stopped their passing game, yes. Georgia Tech still ran all over Chapel Hill. UNC wanted to stop ECU’s passing attach. They gave up 227 rushing yards (still not great, but decent defense). But Chapel Hill let ECU still throw 376 yards.

Larry Fedora and staff have done a good job of crafting a defensive focus in each game—four out of five of which, are unranked—but not such a good job of executing said focus. It’s the equivalent of knowing where you want to end up on a road trip, but the map is scribbled on a napkin. We just might not have the horses on the defensive side of the ball to get the job done the way it needs to this year. Individually, of course UNC is talented. However, there seems to not be enough collaboration or cohesion on the defensive side of Chapel Hill’s game plan. It’s a tough thing to watch and an even tougher thing to figure out how to fix.