Tommy Ashley, radio show co-host
Greg Barnes, beat writer
Mark Paschal, analyst (former Tar Heel LB)
Buck Sanders, columnist
Let's look at the bottom line question. Granted that we're not likely to know the results of the NCAA review until near the start of the season, so that aside, what are the three questions facing the Tar Heels that have to be answered positively for them to have a 10-win season?
Tommy Ashley: OL? RB? QB? In that order. It starts with the line and goes from there. I'm on record saying if the offense can average 21 points a game, the Heels will win 10 no doubt. Alabama is the latest to prove that a great defense and big running game can make even an average quarterback a national champion. Carolina's defense can be great, no question. This season rests solely on the shoulders of the eleven guys on the field on offense on any given play and the coaches that put them out there.
Greg Barnes: For me, it comes down to the quarterback position and the trenches. Can T.J. Yates and/or Bryn Renner be efficient enough under center to take what's given to them while not committing silly turnovers? Can a North Carolina offensive line finally be a team strength for the first time in years? And are John Blake's interior defensive linemen good enough to overcome the losses of Cam Thomas, Al Mullins and possibly Marvin Austin?
Buck Sanders: More than just the results of the NCAA "review," how the team deals with those results is going to be critical. Does the team deal with the diversity by rallying around each other, or does it take the wind out of their sails? It could go either way, and we will know which one at the first sign of adversity.
It is easy to focus on individual units that have deficiencies, but I think the offensive line will improve significantly and the wide receivers will mature; the only real question mark is the quality of play the Tar Heels will get out of the quarterback position. It would be great for Yates if he can have a great year and prove his critics wrong, but whether it is him or Renner, or whomever, the Tar Heels must get better production out of that critical position.
Last but not least, the Tar Heels need to have a focus that lasts for 12 regular season games and whatever the postseason brings. To get to double-digit wins takes more than just talent, it takes commitment. With the number of seniors on this team in leadership roles, you would expect to see that type of commitment from the 2010 UNC football team.
Mark Paschal: Look how far we have come. High expectations and 10-win season talk. Not long ago we were 3-9 and 4-8, hanging on to faint bowl hopes. For this team to get to 10, they have to remain football focused and team-oriented throughout the year, collectively they have to have unmatched preparation on the practice field and in the film room, and they will have to get a little lucky as far as injuries, the way the ball bounces and other things out of their control. Here's to a great 2010.