Spring Outlook: North Carolina

North Carolina returns quality talent on defense but most replace several key offensive starters.

School: North Carolina
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Enrollment: 25,972
Stadium: Kenan Memorial
Capacity: 60,000
Scout.com Recruiting Ranking: 28 (4th ACC)
Spring Practice Begins: March 22
Spring Game: April 8

SIGNING DAY UPDATE: North Carolina went about keeping homegrown talent at home, and the result was the bulk of the 28 signees for the Tar Heels are from in-state.

"There are 17 North Carolina players, which is something we have been trying to do since I've been here," said coach John Bunting, who is approaching his sixth season at Chapel Hill. "I think our coaches did a marvelous job both identifying who those great players were and getting them on this campus and getting into our camps."

Three other signees also had attended one of the staff's summer camps.

"I feel extremely good about our evaluation process," Bunting said.

Receiver was one area of need, but the Tar Heels added only two wideouts -- Hakeem Nicks from Charlotte and Deunta Williams from Jacksonville, Fla. Both could play in 2006.

The Tar Heels added talent up front, signing five defensive and three offensive linemen, among them OL Zack Handerson (6-7, 265) from Jacksonville, OL Alan Pelc (6-6, 300) from Houston and DL Darrius Massenburg from Roanoke Rapids, N.C.

"Tight ends have been a problem for us with getting them here," Bunting said. "We got some in this class."

Four, in fact -- Ed Barham (6-4, 235) of Dendron, Va.; Vince Jacobs (6-7, 218) of Charlotte; Trevor Stuart (6-4, 250) of Sugar Land, Texas; and Ryan Talor (6-4, 210) of Winston-Salem, N.C.

TOP RECRUITS: --LB Jarrell Miller, Highland Springs, Va. -- A Parade and SuperPrep All-American, Miller goes right to the head of the class. He has ideal size at 6-2, 235, and made a lot of Top 10 lists at his position. Carolina's needs on defense could help him get an early opportunity.

DL Aleric Mullins, Wendell, N.C. -- The same thing for Mullins as for Miller: Carolina's defensive needs could give newcomers an early opportunity. It's usually more difficult for a lineman to step in right away, but Mullins, who played for East Wake High, has the size (6-3, 285) to do it.

WR Hakeem Nicks, Charlotte -- The Tar Heels will be looking for depth at wideout after dismissing Mike Mason from the team in December, and Nicks, who played at Independence High, could get the chance. Nicks is 6-1, 210.

GLANCE AT 2006: New offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti will be looking for a new quarterback and will have to rebuild the offensive line, which loses four starters. With seven starters returning, the defense will have to carry the Tar Heels until the offense gets a chance to develop. Of Carolina's 12 opponents for 2006, nine played in bowls last season.

* North Carolina brought in Frank Cignetti from Fresno State as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach to replace the retiring Gary Tranquill. Cignetti's offenses ranked No. 7 in scoring in 2005 and No. 5 in 2004. Before serving the last four seasons on the Fresno staff, he was the New Orleans Saints' quarterback coach. He has extensive experience at the NFL and collegiate levels.

* Defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders declined an undisclosed offer to take a similar position at a Big 12 school to remain with the Tar Heels. Sanders has been coordinator and secondary coach for two seasons. The Tar Heels allowed an average of 349 yards a game last fall, fewest since 2001.

SPRING QUESTIONS: Offensively, the Tar Heels managed just 18 points a game last season. That number must improve to get John Bunting's squad bowling again. A trio of quality backs lead the way (Ronnie McGill, Justin Warren and Barrington Edwards) but the Heels must find a quarterback to increase their point production. The biggest question during spring practice: who will step up at quarterback?

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You are going to have your heart ripped out. Sometimes it's early, when you find out there's no chance, or you may have a commitment go away. You look at what happened to other schools today. A lot of guys backed out. We have seen some strange things happen at the end. This time around we didn't have any strange things at the end." -- Coach John Bunting, on the perils of recruiting.

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