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Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

North Carolina Tar Heels Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the North Carolina season with what you need to know and keys to the season.

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North Carolina Tar Heels Preview
Mack Brown: 90-63-1, 14th year at North Carolina
34th year overall (265-139-1), 2021 Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 6-7, Conference: 3-5
Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
North Carolina Top 10 Players
North Carolina Schedule & Analysis

North Carolina Tar Heels Preview 2022

Oh sure, the recruiting has been great, and the games have been wild fun, but 21-17 in three seasons isn’t exactly how this was all supposed to go considering the hype going into last season, but …

It’s been lost in a big hurry that North Carolina was 5-20 in a 25 game run before the guy took over.

He’s Mack Brown.

He’s in the College Football Hall of Fame with 265 total wins and a national championship at Texas as part of a phenomenal stretch of nine straight seasons with ten or more wins in the 2000s. But there was always the knock that his teams had all the talent in the world and couldn’t quite come through outside of that one magical 2005 season.

Since taking over the North Carolina in 2019 after leaving Texas in 2013, he has put together teams as talented as any in the ACC outside of Clemson, and …

21-17. Again, the Tar Heels went 2-9 the season before Brown stepped in, but the bar was set a bit higher after what he was able to do to turn things around.

It’s been 13 years since Colt McCoy got knocked out of the BCS Championship game loss to Alabama.

Throw that 13-1 Texas team’s defeat into the mix, and Brown is now 51-39 in his last seven seasons as a head coach. That’s hardly awful, but for a guy who went 14 straight years in Austin with only one season with more than three losses, going seven campaigns in a row with four or more defeats doesn’t exactly scream trend up.

To make matters even more interesting, his defense is coming off an abysmal year and his offense is undergoing a personnel overhaul just when this is all supposed to be hitting its stride. But there’s one giant positive coming from the dud of a 2021 – there aren’t any major expectations in 2022.

Last year’s team was overhyped, and it fizzled with the tone set from the start in a sad trombone 17-10 clunker to Virginia Tech, and with double-digit losses to bad Florida State and Georgia Tech teams,

And then, with a chance to end on a high note to crank up a little momentum going into this year, out came another bad performance in a loss to South Carolina. All that did was hand Brown just his second losing season since 1989.

But his team still has a ton of talent, he changed some things up with his coaching staff – bringing aboard Gene Chizik as the Assistant Head Coach for Defense was an interesting move – the schedule couldn’t possibly be more favorable, and …

He’s still Mack Brown, and that means this team with no Clemson on the slate should set the bar at ACC Championship appearance or bust.

Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
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North Carolina Top 10 Players
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North Carolina Tar Heels Preview 2022: Offense, Defense NEXT

North Carolina Tar Heels Preview 2022: Offense

The offense finished tenth in the nation overall, scored 35 points per game, and it cranked up the balance and the pop, and yet it wasn’t enough.

It’s not the O’s fault the D was so horrible, but that was the deal. North Carolina went 0-7 against FBS teams when scoring 34 points or fewer. This year’s version might not be quite as prolific, but the defensive side should be stronger, and the offense isn’t going to spend so much effort relying on one guy.

It was all about Sam Howell. He was the star, he was the next-level caliber quarterback, he was the all-around playmaker who handled the ground attack as well as the passing game. Granted, it’s hard to argue with the results of the tenth-best offense in the country, but this year’s version should spread it out a bit more, rely in the backs a bit, and still keep most of the same pop.

The fight is at quarterback between Jacolby Criswell, Drake Maye, and freshman Conner Harrell. Criswell is a smaller baller, Maye is 6-5 and can run, too, and they’ll both get fall camp to figure it all out.

No matter who’s throwing, there’s a superstar on the other end in All-America caliber target Josh Downs. Three of the top four receivers are back, but it’s Downs who needs to get the ball in his hands 100 times again.

The offensive line did enough to help the team crank up all the big yards, but it was also among the worst in the nation in pass protection. As long as it can spring the holes for the big, gashing runs, it’ll do its job.

There’s an overhaul being done, though. Asim Richards is the veteran left tackle, and there’s enough experience among last year’s reserves to step up and possibly be better – it’s hard to be worse – keeping teams out of the backfield.

Leading rusher Ty Chandler is done, and Howell was the No. 2 rusher. WIth them, 24 of the team’s 30 touchdown runs are gone. Senior British Brooks averaged over nine yards per carry with four touchdown, and now he’ll be the lead back as part of a rotation with junior DJ Jones.

North Carolina Tar Heels Preview 2022: Defense

Let’s just say the defense could stand to be a wee bit better. It wasn’t the worst in the ACC, but it allowed 418 yards and 32 points per game. In comes former Auburn national championship head coach – and Texas defensive coordinator for a time under Mack Brown – Gene Chizik to try changing this all up.

The Tar Heels have talent on D. They have pro prospects and enough experience to be better, but after allowing over six yards per play for the first time since 2014, there’s a whole lot of room to improve.

The defensive backs had to make way too many plays, but on the plus side, they can tackle – and a slew of them are back. Tony Grimes and Storm Duck have next level talent at the corners, and the safety tandem of Cam’Ron Kelly and Giovanni Biggers combined for 117 tackles last season – they were third and fourth on the team in stops, respectively.

The depth needs to be worked on – safety Trey Morrison left for Oklahoma – but the secondary should be fine, and so will the linebacking corps. Cedric Gray left the team with 100 tackles, and Power Echols is coming off a good freshman season.

Can the Tar Heel front 3/4 hold up better and be more disruptive? It wasn’t great against the run, but it’s got two terrific tackles in Myles Murphy and Ray Vohasek to work around. They’re two 300-pounders who can get into the backfield.

Tomari Fox is currently ineligible for the season – there’s still an outside shot an NCAA ruling against him gets reversed –  but UNC should be excellent at defensive end with Virginia transfer edge rusher Noah Taylor and veterans Kaimon Rucker and Chris Collins in the rotation.

2022 North Carolina Preview | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
North Carolina Top 10 Players
North Carolina Schedule & Analysis

North Carolina Tar Heels: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT

North Carolina Tar Heels: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats

North Carolina Tar Heels: Key To The 2022 Offense

Stop letting defensive fronts dance on the quarterback’s head.

To be fair to the North Carolina offensive front, as great as Sam Howell was, he played a whole lot of hero ball and held on to the thing for way, way too long at times trying to make something big happen – for good and for bad.

So there’s that, and the offensive line gave up a whopping 49 sacks.

Last year’s front five allowed 3.77 sacks per game. By comparison, as recently as 2018 it gave up fewer than one per outing.

The pass protection was bad, and the plays allowed behind the line were worse. The Tar Heels allowed the most in the ACC – giving up well over seven per game – and now they have a new starting backfield and almost all new starting parts on the O line.

North Carolina Tar Heels: Key To The 2022 Defense

Come up with a freaking third down stop already.

It starts by not being steamrolled over by the better running teams, and it continues by generating more of a pass rush against the decent air attacks. And then, after all that, get off the field when there’s a chance to do it.

North Carolina was abysmal on third downs, allowing teams to convert on 42% of their chances. The worst part about that is how the D actually wasn’t all that awful on third downs over the first part of the season and overall held four teams to well under 30%.

Florida State kept rolling at will on the Tar Heel D. Pitt seemed to stay on the field as long as it wanted, and South Carolina held a third down conversion party in the bowl win. In all, North Carolina allowed five teams to convert 50% or more of their tries.

North Carolina Tar Heels: Key Player To The 2022 Season

OT Asim Richards, Sr.
The quarterback situation needs to be settled, and it would be nice if British Brooks or one of the running backs turned into a killer, but none of this is working if the offensive line doesn’t start keeping teams from living rent-free in the backfield.

The 6-5, 320-pound Richards is going into his third year as a starter, and he’s by far the most experienced one of the bunch. The line has to be better and it has to go through an overhaul. Richards has to become special.

North Carolina Tar Heels: Key Transfer

EDGE Noah Taylor, Sr.
The Tar Heels were okay at getting to the quarterback. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t outstanding, and now leading sacker Tomon Fox is gone.

Virginia’s Noah Taylor is an all-around playmaker on the outside with the versatility to be an outside linebacker or a quick end, making 169 tackles over the last three years with 12.5 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss. He might not be Fox, but he’ll be turned loose on the outside of the veteran Tar Heel line.

North Carolina Key Game To The 2022 Season

Virginia Tech, Oct. 1
There might be other big games on the slate, but North Carolina has a massive Virginia Tech problem.

First, the game comes after the showdown with Notre Dame and before the trip to Miami. Second …

Really, North Carolina has a Virginia Tech problem.

The Tar Heels were able to survive a wild 56-45 battle in 2020. After opening last season with the total opposite type of game in an uggo of a 17-10 loss to the Hokies, they’ve lost five of their last six and seven of the last nine in the series.

North Carolina Tar Heels: 2021 Fun Stats

– Sacks: Opponents 49 for 277 yards – UNC 29 for 192 yards
– Fumbles: UNC 14 (lost 5) – Opponents 12 (lost 4)
– Average Score Per Game: UNC 35.2 – Opponents 32.1

2022 North Carolina Preview
Offense, Defense Breakdown
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
North Carolina Top 10 Players
North Carolina Schedule & Analysis

North Carolina Tar Heels Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT

North Carolina Tar Heels Season Prediction, What Will Happen

Can North Carolina win the games it’s supposed to?

Last season’s team might have been a disappointment, but it was strong enough to roll by Virginia, beat Wake Forest, and at least get to a bowl game. It was also flaky enough to lose to Georgia Tech, Florida State, and get lit up by South Carolina.

There might be a whole lot of reworking to do, and the hype is certainly gone compared to before the 2021 season, but if the team can just take care of the games it should win, this could be an interesting season with real, live hope to end up in the ACC Championship if everything goes perfectly.

No, this probably isn’t the second-best team in the ACC – or even in the top five to start the season – but the schedule …

Set The North Carolina Tar Heels Regular Season Win Total At … 7

There’s no Clemson. Start with that, and continue with the big games against Notre Dame and NC State in Chapel Hill.

Yeah, they have to play both combatants in last year’s ACC Championship, but the date with Pitt is coming after a week off, and Wake Forest isn’t that bad a road trip.

Going to Miami and Virginia are dangerous, and there’s a run of four ACC games in five dates, but overall there isn’t a game on the slate North Carolina shouldn’t be able to win.

There will be a misfire or two somewhere – seriously, watch out for the trip to Appalachian State early on – but the schedule isn’t going to get too much more favorable than this.

Now the team has to be up to the challenge.

2022 North Carolina Preview
Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
North Carolina Top 10 Players
North Carolina Schedule & Analysis

– 2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams

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