In charge of the Tar Heels will be a familiar face for Canes fans –head coach Butch Davis. Davis, who was the critical part of Miami's resurgence following probation in the 90's, now looks to revive another program with big-time potential.
So far, he's off to a rocky start as his team enters Saturday with a 1-4 record, their sole win coming against James Madison. But they gave Virginia Tech all they could handle, losing a hard fought game by a final score 17-10 last week in Chapel Hill.
On offense, North Carolina has had trouble scoring. They rank 89th in the country in scoring at just over 21 points per game. Even worse is their total offense, which ranks 99th, while their rushing offense is a woeful 107th.
However, if there's one thing the Tar Heel offense does well, it's throw the ball. Racking up 235 yards per game through the air, the Tar Heel aerial attack will test a shaky Hurricane's secondary.
Under center for UNC will be redshirt freshman T.J. Yates. Yates, who will only played one year of high school ball, stormed up the depth chart in the spring to win the job, and he's impressed ever since. At 6'3, 205 pounds, Yates has a solid frame for a quarterback. He is extremely accurate and his arm strength isn't overly impressive, but it's strong enough to get the job done. Yates heads into the Miami game completing just over 60% of his passes on the season, for 1,168 yards, 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
Tailback Johnny White leads the Tar Heels in rushing yards this season, with 204 yards on the ground in 53 attempts. The redshirt freshman is quick and has good cutting ability. Fellow redshirt freshman Anthony Elzy has punched it in the endzone 4 times this season, while rushing for 128 yards on 32 carries. Also in the mix is true freshman Ryan Houston. At 6'2 245, the North Carolina native who was recruited by almost every big time program in the south is a force to bring down. He's carried the ball 29 times for 97 yards and 1 touchdown this season. Any of these three will see time against Miami, but Houston has really come on in the past two games.
The three headed monster of Hakeem Nicks, Brooks Foster and Brandon Tate headline the wide receivers who catch the majority of Yates passes. Nicks, the true sophomore and North Carolina native, has a good combination of size – 6'1 215 – and speed. He's hauled in 26 catches for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns in UNC's first 5 games. Junior Brooks Foster gives Carolina a bigger wide out. The junior stands at 6'3 205 pounds, and comes into Saturday's game with 281 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 receptions. The third target for the Tar Heels is another junior, Brandon Tate. 6'1, 195 with blazing speed, Tate handles both kick off and punt return duties for the Tar Heels as well as serving as their deep threat. He's caught for 245 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 11 catches.
Anchoring the offensive line is converted tight end Kyle Jolly. The 6'6 300 pound sophomore is in charge of protecting Yates' blindside, and has the size and athleticism to do so. Garrett Reynolds handles the other tackle position. The massive junior – 6'7 295- might be the most talented offensive lineman for the Tar Heels. A pair of Florida natives will handle the guard duties for UNC. Junior Calvin Darity and Aaron Stahl handle the guard duties. Darity is a big, strong blocker and Stahl is a converted defensive lineman. Center Scott Lenahan started 11 games last season, and is a ok up front for the Tar Heels.
On the defensive side of the ball, North Carolina ranks in the middle of the pack in the country in most categories - 46th overall in total defense, 57th in scoring with 25 points a game, but they are near the bottom of the rankings in both rushing defense, 65th, and pass efficiency defense, 75th.
Defensive end Hilee Taylor is the leader of the defensive line. A senior, Taylor has registered 5 sacks this season. At 6'3 245 pounds, he is a pass rushing terror thanks to his speed. His running mate is sophomore E.J Taylor, a 6'2 265 pound former tight end who has recorded 1 sack and 15 tackles on the season. Leading the way in the middle is former star recruit Marvin Austin. Austin shunned every big time program in the country to sign with Butch Davis' Tar Heels. A physical specimen at 6'3 295 pounds with unbelievable quickness, Austin has 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks so far this season. Holding down the middle with him is Kentwan Balmer. He's recorded 29 tackles in 2007 to go along with .5 sacks.
Behind them is weakside linebacker Durell Mapp. The senior, and team's leading tackler with 54 total stops, is great against the run but struggles in coverage. At the middle is Wesley Flagg. Flagg has impressive speed, but has trouble against the run due to his weight (210). He's recorded 18 tackles this season. Freshman Quan Strudivant and junior Mark Paschal also receive playing time in the linebacking crew. Strudivant, a quarterback in high school, has 9 tackles coming into Saturday. Meanwhile, Paschal has 21 stops.
In the secondary, Jermaine Strong and Kendric Burney handle the corner back positions. Burney is small at just 5'9, but he's a scrappy player who's third on the team with tackles, with 24. At strong safety is Trimane Goddard, who missed all of the 2006 season with a broken foot, has returned to reclaim a starting spot. He's grabbed 1 interception this season to go along with 22 tackles. Handling free is Deunta Williams, a redshirt freshman from Jacksonville. At 6'2 200 pounds, Williams is North Carolina's best defensive back. He is extremely fast and breaks well on the ball. He's second on the team in tackles with 29.
On special teams is a name Miami fans will never forget, kicker Conner Barth. The then freshman who defeated Miami with a clutch field goal as time expired, is now a senior. So far this season, he's connected on 100% of his field goals, at 4 of 4. At punter, the Tar Heels look to Terrance Brown, a junior who is averaging 42 yards a punt in '07.
Miami returns to Chapel Hill for the first time since the legendary upset of the Hurricanes. Coach Shannon knows how tough it will be to return home with a win, especially since he'll be facing the man responsible for returning the Miami program to its recent glory. With a high-flying passing attack, and a solid defense, the Hurricanes will be in a for a dog fight this Saturday.