The Hurricanes are faced with the challenge of replacing Anthony Chickillo at the strongside defensive end position. While Chick's production numbers weren't off the charts or anything, he was extremely tough, very good against the run, was a leader, and started four years here. Those things aren't easy to replace.
Jelani Hamilton was given the first shot at doing so back in the spring. While he turned in a solid spring and is now over 300 pounds and physically able to hold up inside, most people figured it was only a matter of time before sophomore Chad Thomas became the starter there. That's what happened throughout fall camp. A former five-star recruit, Thomas has been very impressive this month and is expected to be a very effective replacement for Chick.
While Hamilton is expected to be Thomas' backup, keep an eye on true freshman R.J. McIntosh. He came in here at over 260 pounds and physically ready to compete. He's turned in a solid fall camp, and coaches have often said that he will be in the rotation. It's unclear how good he has a chance to become but he's been solid so far, and should work his way into some decent playing time this season.
Freshman Scott Patchan has a bright future here but he's still behind because of his rehabbing of an ACL injury he suffered last October. Because of that he seems like a good redshirt candidate.
There is an intense competition on the other side, at the rush end position. Trent Harris started there a good part of last season and provides a pass rushing spark there. He's bulked up and has game experience. He has a bright future here and is very much in the mix. However, Quan Muhammad has been playing at a very high level. He turned in a solid freshman season in 2013 before missing the 2014 season due to suspension. He's bigger, quicker, and stronger than ever and most people expect him to win the job. Either way, it'll likely be close between the two and both are expected to play key roles as edge rushers for the Hurricanes this season. Both players seem to have NFL type futures.
Redshirt freshman Demetrius Jackson is also in the mix. He came here as a length 6-foot-5 pass rusher who wasn't physically ready to play last season. He's added a lot of weight and strength and has turned in a solid camp. While he's not yet at the level as the two guys in front of him he can provide some pass rushing spark off the bench so he's expected to factor into the mix.