"Our weaknesses seem to be the same as last year," said UNC senior Clint Maxwell. "The secondary's getting beat and we're struggling to stop the run."
Most students interviewed would agree with Maxwell: this year's team, like last years', is having major difficulty when opponents run the ball. But unlike the '02 defense, many students pointed out that most teams aren't running straight up the middle of the field anymore. "I've seen improvement up the gut of our defense," noted senior Brad Bennett. "Jonas Seawright looks pretty good on the defensive line – he's getting some good pressure up the middle, but (safety) Dexter Reid is still making all the tackles on those sweeps and slants. He's leading our team in tackles again and that's terrible."
Others agreed, including freshman Hugh Brinn. "This year, the D-line can hold their own instead of being pushed around on every play. Unfortunately, the cornerbacks look about the same as last year, when tackling was a major weakness."
But for every student interviewed who was lamenting the lack of a suffocating defense, there was another student expressing approval of the Tar Heels' updated attack on offense. "I think we look better overall on offense than last year," said junior Scott Clark. "The running game looks a lot stronger than it has the past few years and I really like the way Jacques Lewis catches passes out of the backfield, plus he's a very strong blocker. Our offensive line is doing a great job of pass blocking."
"I think the offense has gotten better," said senior Hung Nguyen, "but I think that we should stick to just one tailback. We need to give all the carries to one guy and just try to let them develop."
Senior Phillip West has also been pleased with Carolina's ability on offense. "The offense looks good. They were good last year. Durant does well considering the lack of a consistent running game."
Ah, yes. Darian Durant. For all of the varying opinions on campus, appraisal of Durant's play has been the one consistently positive remark made by UNC undergrads. When asked about Durant's development over the last two years, Nguyen said, "It's been more of a steady improvement rather than a big jump from one season to the next. Durant is not making as many mistakes, plus he's been very accurate. He's a really good quarterback and I think he deserves to be mentioned for first team All-ACC."
Freshman Brinn felt that "Durant's throwing every ball right on the money," while Maxwell said that "Durant has matured and shows better decisions on when to throw and when to run."
In general, students at UNC are confident in the Tar Heel offensive attack but somewhat less optimistic about Carolina's ability to keep other teams out of the end zone. As West put it, "We shouldn't be scoring 40-plus points in a game and still losing."
Johnny Buck is a senior in UNC's School of Journalism. The Martinsville, Va. native worked for two years as an anchor/reporter on "SportsXtra," the student-run sports show on Carolina athletics. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org