An essay on expectations and the 2015 UNC Football team


Keeping It Heel takes a look at some of the challenges UNC Football will face heading into next season, when everyone outside the program is doubting the Heels after a poor 2014 campaign.

Today, the Tar Heels were ranked 10th in Matt Fortuna’s Way Too Early ACC Power Rankings. 10th. Behind ACC Coastal foes Pittsburgh, Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Behind in-state rivals N.C. State and Duke. And only ahead of Boston College, Virginia, Syracuse and Wake Forest, four programs that combined to go 18-31 in the 2014 college football season. 10th, behind all those bumbling programs, is not very good.

In the grand scheme of things, this one article from Matt Fortuna means nothing. But I think it does illustrate something very important about the expectations for the Tar Heel football team in the upcoming season.

The reason why I bring up this power ranking is to shed light on how different the preseason expectations will be heading into the 2015 season compared to before the 2014 season. Heading into 2014, the Tar Heels had tons of hype surrounding the team. Carolina got votes in the AP Poll before the season started, which seems ludicrous looking back now. Who knows if those early votes of confidence from the national and local media had any effect on the season, or if the Tar Heels even paid attention to any of that kind of stuff before the season started, but the preseason hype was there.

Carolina will not get any external hype from the national or local media in 2015. The Heels will probably rank 4th or 5th in preseason ACC Coastal standings and not get any first place votes in the division after getting so many a summer ago.

When all the preseason magazines come out, and after all the preseason ACC votes are counted, I think the Heels could be underrated coming into 2015. Maybe I think that because I see the returning and new talent coming into the program and envision only a mirage, when in reality the players in the Tar Heel football team are just not Top-25 material. But when I look at the roster, I see the makings of a good football team. Marquise Williams is a damn good quarterback. The offensive line returns a lot of pieces. The skill positions are stocked full of three and four star guys. The defense returns a lot of guys, even if they didn’t play very well in 2014. There is talent all up and down the two deep that on paper looks like the makings of a good team.

Unfortunately, the game isn’t played on paper. Chemistry and the pulse of the locker room effects the play on the field, and it is obvious something was going on in the locker room this past season. Freshman linebackers don’t tweet stuff like this unless something was going on with the team.


There were more quotes and tweets like that, from Tim Scott, from Marquise Williams and from Ryan Switzer. Read any postgame recap from the Quick Lane Bowl from any of the beat writers and you get a few quotes from players expressing that weird sentiment, calling out their teammates after a season full of high points and low points. 

It is really hard to put a finger on how much of a role the “chemistry issues” of the Tar Heels played in the Heels disappointing season. You can’t quantify chemistry with a stat, but I think it is fair to say something negative was there last season.

Whatever the chemistry issues were, I think the outsider expectations for the 2015 Tar Heels are being influenced too much by those chemistry issues. New leaders will emerge on this team, and the hiring of a new defensive coach, Gene Chizik, ensures that the defensive players will be working harder and listening to their new coach. Remember, the reaction on Twitter to Chizik’s hire was almost unanimously positive from fans and players alike.

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Shoving chemistry and intangibles like work ethic and player’s true motivation out the window for a second, Carolina has the talent to go 9-3 and win a bowl game next season. The hardest non-conference game of the season, against South Carolina, doesn’t look so hard anymore after the Gamecocks struggled like the Heels did in 2014. The rest of the non-conference schedule is not too bad, and conference cross-over games against N.C. State and Wake Forest are nothing to be afraid of. And I already went over the talent returning. The challenge becomes getting the players to practice hard and play good football every single Saturday of the season.

The North Carolina Tar Heels will not be overrated coming into 2015. It will be up to UNC in 2015 to prove all the doubters wrong, not prove all the voters right like in 2014. I’m not sure which one is easier. But I do know that either way, Carolina is going to have to win some football games to make anyone, including a depressed fan base, believe in them. And that believe is going to have to come from the inside the locker room that was fractured and split in mysterious, unquantifiable ways this past season.