UNC Football: 2022 Positional Preview: Defensive Line

Sep 25, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels defensive lineman Myles Murphy (8) celebrates after a sack against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels defensive lineman Myles Murphy (8) celebrates after a sack against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Our 2022 UNC Football positional previews continue, as we take a closer look at the team’s defensive line unit heading into the new season.

QB | RB | WR | TE | OL
DL  | LB |  CB  |  S  | ST

Gene Chizik is back in town, as the UNC football program hopes to improve its entire defensive unit during the 2022 season.

The 2021 campaign left plenty of room to be desired, as the defense did not live up to the expectations (which was a trend for the entire program last season). With a ton of available talent at his disposal, Chizik should have more than enough to help turn this unit around.

One of the focal points of this turnaround will be centered around the defensive line. Last season, under the direction of Jay Bateman, the unit struggled to get to the quarterback, as they registered just 29 total sacks.

To put it into consideration, Tomon Fox, who is now in the NFL, registered 9 of those sacks.

Needless to say, this group needs to get more pressure in the backfield in order for this team to be successful moving forward.

Our 2022 positional previews (on the defensive side of the ball) begin with the defensive line, a group that certainly has the potential to turn things around this season.

What We Know

Other than losing Fox, this group looks very similar to what we saw a season ago. Fox’s presence will certainly be missed, as the Tar Heels will look for someone to step up to fill the void.

We also know that the defensive scheme should look different under the direction of Chizik. During his last stint, Chizik did wonders with the defensive unit, and the hope is that he’ll be able to duplicate it this time around.

Not only will some key returners be asked to take on a bigger role this season, but at least one newcomer should be challenged to make an impact right away for this group.

The Key Players

Desmond Evans

Now, you may be saying “isn’t Desmond Evans an outside linebacker?”

During his first two seasons with the UNC football program, Evans lined up as an outside linebacker. Heading into his junior season, Evans is slated to return to his natural position, one that had him ranked among the best in his recruiting class during his high school days.

This move is one that could pay dividends, as it appears that Chizik has some type of plan on how to use the Sanford, North Carolina native this season. Of course, it isn’t out of the question that Evans could see some time at linebacker as well, but his main usage most likely will come with the team’s defensive line unit.

2021 Stats:  18 tackles, five hurries, 2.5 tackles for loss, and one fumble recovery

Myles Murphy

Of the returning defensive lineman, Myles Murphy arguably had the biggest impact during the 2021 season.

Although his overall numbers won’t jump out at you (19 solo tackles, four sacks), his production probably would’ve been more if he had some help around him. With a new scheme in place and some added reinforcements to the mix, we could be on the verge of seeing a breakout season from the rising junior.

2021 Stats:   38 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, three breakups, and one hurry

Kaimon Rucker

With Evans rejoining the Tar Heels’ defensive line group, all signs point to Rucker backing him up on the depth chart. However, Rucker should see plenty of time on the field, especially considering that he was one of the team’s most productive players at his position during last season.

Rucker’s numbers weren’t far off from Murphy’s, and you could easily make the case that both players are in line for more production this upcoming season. With a new defensive philosophy in place, Rucker is one of the players who certainly should benefit from it.

2021 Stats: 31 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, three hurries, and one forced fumble

Ray Vohasek
As he elected to utilize his extra year of eligibility, Vohasek hopes that this year leads to more time hitting the quarterback.

During his junior season, the McHenry, Illinois native recorded 3.5 sacks, as it appeared he was in line for even more as a senior.

However, that was not the case, as Vohasek recorded just one sack during the 2021 season.

For Chizik and the Tar Heels defense, they hope this isn’t the case this year.

Vohasek is an interesting player to keep an eye on. His experience and leadership are valuable for the UNC football program, but his production will determine how much Chizik utilizes him in the defensive system throughout the season.

2021 Stats: 38 tackles, four tackles for loss, four hurries, three breakups, and one sack


Travis Shaw

Expectations are sky-high for incoming freshman Travis Shaw, who comes in as one of the highest-rated players to ever commit to the University of North Carolina.

The five-star standout, listed at a massive 6-foot-5, 355 pounds, has the potential to make an impact right from day one. Being an early enrollee should help him as well, as he’s had a little extra time to transition to the collegiate level.

Shaw could easily be the missing piece for this unit, as his presence may be enough to help turn this group’s production around.

2021 Stats (High School): 20 tackles, five tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles (four total games)


This group has plenty of potential, but can they live up to the expectations that surround them?

For the Tar Heels, they need to be successful in order for the rest of the defense to succeed. If this group can’t get pressure in the backfield (especially on the opposing team’s quarterback), we could see struggles that are very similar to the ones we saw a year ago.

With the addition of Shaw, plus the return of some other talented defensive lineman, this group has more than enough weapons to be a tough matchup for opposing offensive lineman, and their production will play a major role in how this unit pans out during the 2022 season.

Depth Chart

Defensive End

STARTER: Desmond Evans
BACKUP: Kaimon Rucker
RESERVES: Jacolbe Cowan

Defensive Tackle

STARTER: Myles Murphy
BACKUP: Jahvaree Ritzee

Nose Tackle

STARTER: Ray Vohasek
BACKUP: Travis Shaw
RESERVES: Kevin Hester

Next. British Brooks to take on new role. dark

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