UNC preseason outlook

Aug. 30, 2014 @ 11:21 AM

North Carolina

Coach: Larry Fedora

2013 record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 in ACC (Fifth in Coastal Division)

Overview: North Carolina has optimism from a strong finish and motivation from watching a rival’s surprise trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. And that has the Tar Heels talking about making their own run in the wide-open Coastal Division. The Tar Heels say they have the players to keep coach Larry Fedora’s no-huddle offense humming, the experience to make an up-and-down defense show some consistency and a game-changing special teams performer in punt returner Ryan Switzer. The Tar Heels have finished at least .500 in league play each year under Fedora, with his first team finishing tied atop the division but missing a trip to the ACC title game due to NCAA sanctions. Last year’s group clawed back from a 1-5 start and beat Cincinnati in a Belk Bowl rout. Quarterback Marquise Williams returns as a run-pass threat, though he is fighting to keep the starting job against redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky. Receiver Quinshad Davis had 10 touchdown catches, while Switzer tied an NCAA single-season record with five punts returns for touchdowns as a freshman. Freshmen and sophomores scored 46 of UNC’s 55 touchdowns last year, a promising sign for the season that begins Aug. 30 against Liberty.

Player to watch: Ryan Switzer, WR/PR -- Can Switzer bring his game-changing plays to the offense? The sophomore had 32 catches for 341 yards and three scores as a receiver last year, but Fedora is expecting a leap forward.

Game to watch: North Carolina at Duke, Nov. 20. If the Tar Heels want to win the division, they could start by figuring out how to beat Georgia Tech and Duke. Fedora is 0-4 against those division opponents. A national TV audience will be watching as this rivalry game gets the ESPN Thursday Night treatment.