Buck Sanders has covered UNC football on the web since the 1997 season. In December 2001, he and his partners purchased Inside Carolina and now cover UNC Sports both on the web and in Inside Carolina magazine.
After surrendering well over 200 yards per game on the ground last season, will the defensive line be able to contain a running game like Wisconsin's?
Sanders: UNC will certainly have their hands full, that is for sure! During the offseason Coach John Bunting shook up the position coaches on the defensive line, hiring Brad Lawing from Michigan State to coach the entire defensive line – so at least they will know what they are up against. There have been several position moves on the defensive line, and there are a lot more available bodies and therefore more competition for the spots on the two-deep. As much as anything, the Heels need a dominant pass-rusher at the defensive end spot. The interior spots should be much improved, and the linebackers will have more speed.
Particularly with the return of Dexter Reid, do you anticipate most opponents keeping the ball on the ground against UNC?
Sanders: Most, if not all, UNC opponents will force the Tar Heels to prove they can stop the run. The secondary is clearly the strength of the defense, and it should be even better than last year's.
How are UNC's special teams this season? With the return of Dan Orner and John Lafferty, would you consider this a major strength on this team?
Sanders: The field goal team is certainly a strength, but I suspect UNC is not where they want to be yet in the punting game. There is also a different coach in charge of special teams this year. Special teams are really emphasized at UNC, but on-the-field results have been spotty at best the past two years.
With the phenomenal recruiting class UNC signed last year, will there be any true freshmen starting this fall?
Sanders: As already alluded to, there are opportunities at linebacker, defensive line, and running back (at minimum) where a true frosh could step in and start from day one.
If UNC has another season like last year, is Coach Bunting's job in jeopardy? Or is he safe for a while?
Sanders: Bunting has at least two more years to show he can get the job done. If he can continue to recruit as well as he did this past year, I suspect he will be at UNC for some time.
What is your overall record and ACC finish prediction for the Tar Heels this season?
Sanders: I think it is too soon for predictions, especially this year with so many true frosh contending for positions. I would want to wait until at least the middle of fall practice before I would take a guess how the Heels will finish.
On a final note, it would be a mistake for the Badgers to take the Tar Heels lightly. They seem to play better on the road than they do at home. This UNC team could be more dangerous than the Virginia team that lost to Wisconsin 26-19 in 2001.
Overall, the offense will make some big plays in the passing game and if the running game gets untracked, then this offense should be hard to stop. Defensively the Tar Heels will likely struggle, but it will be interesting to see how much difference a few talented freshmen might make, along with the progress a defense that loses just a couple of starters should make naturally from one year to the next.
Good luck this year (except for the Tar Heel game, of course), and look forward to seeing you all on our very active message boards at Inside Carolina!
Make sure to check out all of the UNC talk from now through the UW-UNC game at InsideCarolina.com
UNC Q&A: Part 2
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