Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina

UNC's Defensive Breakout Candidates for 2017

Three young players the Tar Heel staff expects to emerge this season.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Normally when you’re discussing new faces on the defense, you’re talking about true or red-shirt freshmen. Instead, defensive coordinator John Papuchis focused on three players that saw the field last year, but in limited roles.

He singled out one player from each level of the defense to discuss the potential for increased roles in 2017. Two are sophomores, and one redshirted due to injury.

Tomon Fox, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound defensive end, came to UNC as a member of the ESPN 300 in 2016. Fox played extensive snaps against Georgia and Illinois before suffering a knee injury in practice. His recovery went well enough that Papuchis singled him out.

“Fox played for us early, then got injured and we redshirted him” Papuchis said. “He’s added some size and strength and he’s going to help us in 2017.”

Fox, in limited playing time, showed the type of quickness needed to blow past the edge and get to the quarterback. That quickness and athleticism was on full display this month during drills at “Blue Dawn,” UNC’s preseason conditioning program.

At the second level of the defense, even though North Carolina has everyone back at linebacker, Papuchis expects more playing time for Dominique Ross. Ross, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound linebacker, appeared in all 13 games in a reserve role, with 12 tackles and a sack to his credit.

“Dominique Ross played a little last year, but has shown us enough that we think he’s ready for a bigger role,” Papuchis said.

North Carolina loses Dominquie Green at free safety, but Papuchis is high on a potential replacement. “In the secondary, Myles Dorn, a North Carolina product, is someone we think has great potential,” Papuchis said.

Dorn, 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, is a legacy player for North Carolina. His father, Torin, came to UNC as a running back then switched to secondary his senior season and played six years in the NFL as a defensive back.

Dorn had probably his biggest moment of 2016 against Miami when he chased down and tackled tailback Joseph Yearby at the six-yard line. The UNC defense then held and forced a Miami field goal. Of the three players mentioned by Papuchis, Dorn played significantly more snaps, garnering 32 tackles on the season and playing in all 13 games.

Stay tuned for more of Inside Carolina’s pre-spring interview series with the Tar Heel coordinators.

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