Greg Barnes, the beat writer for InsideCarolina.com, provided an in-depth look at the Tar Heels.
Offensive coordinator John Shoop's offense, plagued by youth and injuries last season, has been forced to carry the load for the Tar Heels this season as the ongoing NCAA investigation has decimated UNC's once mighty defense.
Fifth-year senior quarterback T.J. Yates has completed 46 of his 70 passes for 621 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, and currently ranks 13th nationally in total offense (296.5 yards per game).
Third-string tailback Johnny White took advantage of starter Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston being forced to sit out the season opener against LSU while UNC determined their eligibility, churning out 142 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, good for a 5.7-yards-per-carry average. Draughn returned against Georgia Tech, but White remains the starter heading to Piscataway .
The offensive line has rotated eight players consistently through the first two contests, led by senior right guard Alan Pelc and senior right tackle Mike Ingersoll, but that unit has allowed 2.5 sacks per contest (87th nationally).
Senior tight end Zack Pianalto (15 catches, 135 yards) remains Yates's go-to receiver in UNC's pro-style offense, but sophomores Erik Highsmith (seven catches, 107 yards, 2 TD) and Jhay Boyd (six catches, 221 yards, TD) have proven to be worthy options in place of the ineligible Greg Little.
North Carolina 's passing offense ranks 11th nationally (310.5 ypg), but the ground game has struggled thus far to keep up (83.5 ypg, 110th).
Joining that duo is 2009 first-team All-ACC defensive backs Kendric Burney (cornerback) and Deunta Williams (free safety), as well as starters Da'Norris Searcy (strong safety) and Charles Brown (cornerback).
The result has been an unexpected youth movement that, while showing flashes of potential, has struggled to consistently defend for 60 minutes. The Tar Heels currently rank 81st nationally in total defense (380.5 ypg) and are lacking any significant pass rush (0.5 sacks per game, 118th nationally).
End-turned-tackle Quinton Coples and tackle Tydreke Powell anchor the defensive line, while linebackers Quan Sturdivant, Bruce Carter and Kevin Reddick are the focal point of a defense with four new starters in the secondary and two underclassmen at defensive end.