UNC Football 2021 position preview: Defensive line

Oct 3, 2020; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels defensive lineman Tomari Fox (56) celebrates a sack during the first quarter against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Richins-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2020; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels defensive lineman Tomari Fox (56) celebrates a sack during the first quarter against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Richins-USA TODAY Sports /

Our UNC Football position previews continue as we are just a few weeks away from the start of the 2021 college football season

QB | RB | WR | TE | OL 

One of the strengths for the UNC Football team on the defensive side of the football could be on the defensive line. The Tar Heels line had some ups and downs last season but played well for Jay Bateman’s defense and going into 2021, they are hoping to improve even more.

UNC will return Raymond Vohasek, Tomari Fox, Jahlil Taylor, Myles Murphy,  Kevin Hester, Jr., Clyde Pinder, Jr., and Kristian Varner, all players that contributed significantly last season. They also welcome in big recruits Keeshawn Silver and Jahvaree Ritzie, two players that could contribute right away.

It’s safe to say that UNC’s defensive line will be deep going into 2021. And for linebacker Eugene Asante, he’s excited to play behind that deep defensive line as he told Gregory Hall of Inside Carolina.

"“When I was in the locker room the other day having a conversation with a couple of the guys, I was just talking about how excited I am to play behind a defensive line like this defensive line,” linebacker Eugene Asante said. “Being behind guys like that – Clyde Pinder, who’s explosive; Myles Murphy, who exemplifies a big guy, but he has great quickness; young bulls and Keeshawn Silver, who’s out there busting his tail, explosive; and guys like (Jahvaree) Ritzie out there just tearing stuff up, and we’re not even in pads yet."

In what will be a very deep defensive line, let’s take a look at our preview for the unit.


I kind of mentioned it earlier in this article but the depth is going to be the strong point of this unit and potentially the defense. The impact that this defensive line could have on the defense in general could be huge.

Last season, we saw the Tar Heels generate a good amount of pressure on opponents quarterbacks forcing them out of the pocket and into tough decisions.

How well the defensive line plays determines a lot for the rest of the defense in terms of the secondary not having to cover for an extended length or the linebackers being able to play with a more “downhill” and aggressive style. When you have a unit like this that is not only deep, but can contribute and get pressure, good things will happen.

The biggest question for DC Jason Bateman will be how these guys fit in and who will be the starters come Week 1. It’s a good problem to have and Bateman addressed that situation already via Ross Martin of Inside Carolina:

"“I really think in the bowl game you saw where we were able to play with bigger bodies. It is a 3-4 defense, so ideally, the three-down guys are three defensive linemen, and ideally it’s three of the biggest humans we can find. I think when you look at guys like Kevin Hester and Myles Murphy and how they came along, we’d like those guys to play more, and what that means is playing with one outside linebacker instead of two. I think you’re kind of seeing the depth chart morphing in that direction.”"

Now, we can say all of this now but they have to show up on Saturday and get it done. With this group I think there’s a lot of confidence that it will happen.


Raymond Vohasek

The former JUCO transfer has gotten better in each of the past two seasons with the Tar Heels and in 2020 he earned All-ACC Honorable Mention.  Vohasek started in 11 of the 12 games last season for UNC, recording seven tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, four hurries and two pass breakups while being an anchor on the line.

Tomari Fox

One of two Fox brothers on the team, Tomari is ready to emerge as a breakout player following in the footsteps of his brother Tomon. Entering his junior year, Tomari started in all 12 games last season recording 46 total tackles, six tackles for loss, four sacks and three hurries. Him and Vohasek give UNC a legit duo on the defensive line that can cause some havoc for opponents.

Myles Murphy

The Georgia native appeared in all 12 games as a freshman and should see his role increase moving forward. Playing end for UNC as a freshman, Murphy got better as the year went on and hopes to take some improvement into his sophomore season. He could be a guy to watch out for in terms of a big breakout year and becoming a dominant force inside.

Keeshawn Silver

UNC’s 2021 class was loaded with talent and right near the top of the recruiting rankings as a five-star recruit. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound North Carolina native is a very intriguing player with his length and can be a legit pass rusher. Let’s see how much he plays early on and his role as the year goes on.

Jahvaree Ritzie

Another freshman to keep an eye on is former four-star recruit Jahvaree Ritzie who is also a North Carolina product. In high school, he showed the ability to shed blocks and find the football, getting to the quarterback and recording 74 tackles, six sacks, 18.5 TFL, 16 hurries in his final year of high school ball. Like Silver, watching how Ritzie fits into the depth chart will be interesting to see.

Kedrick Bingley-Jones

The talented defensive tackle enters his redshirt freshmen season after suffering a season-ending injury early last year. He doesn’t have any experience yet but his high school tape flashed with his 6-foot-4, 305-pound frame. After watching last season, Bingley-Jones is hoping to slowly get back into the groove and learn from a talented group in front of him.


PROJECTED STARTERS: Raymond Vohasek, Tomari Fox, Myles Murphy
PROJECTED BACKUPS: Kevin Hester, Kristian Varner, Clyde Pindler Jr., Jahlil Taylor, Keeshawn Silver, Jahvaree Ritzie

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