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Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

August 25, 2003 The Big Picture North Carolina, just five seasons removed from back-to-back top-10 finishes under Mack Brown, picked a really bad time to hit a lull. Third-year coach John Bunting, a UNC alum, has cleaned up much of Carl Torbush's mess but also took a while to adjust to the college game. Now Maryland, NCSU and UVa appear to be emerging forces, Wake has its coach of a lifetime, and Miami and Virginia Tech are a year away. It could be a difficult climb for the Heels. The PooP The UNC coaches know very well that the 2003 Heels will be walking a fine line, and their public assessments have been a carefully selected balance of big-picture optimism and scalpel-like criticism. They don't want any extra doubt in the minds of a young, developing group that was traumatized last fall and still is struggling to find its confidence. The possibility of another disaster exists, but the staff is holding out hope that it somehow can inspire another bowl surprise. Building Blocks Two years ago, the group mentioned in this space — end Julius Peppers, tackle Ryan Sims, kicker Jeff Reed, receiver Bosley Allen — ultimately proved to be the foundation for the Heels' surprising 8-5 season. The list was much shorter and less impressive last year, and it showed on the field. This fall UNC's best player is hard-hitting safety Dexter Reid, a legitimate All-America candidate who also has become a leader off the field. If this is going to be a successful season, QB Darian Durant and interior blockers Jason Brown, Kyle Ralph and Jeb Terry will have to play well enough to join this club. Coming On Strong Preseason dreams don't always come true, but there is no shortage of candidates for break-out campaigns, both among returning players and in the Heels' top-15 recruiting class. Defensive tackle Jonas Seawright looks like a new man. Linebacker Melik Brown, a January enrollee, may be the team's best pass rusher. Bulked-up Willie Parker and speedy Chad Scott provide hope at tailback. True freshmen Adarius Bowman, Jesse Holley and Mike Mason should inject playmaking ability into a so-so receiving corps. Rookie linebackers Larry Edwards, Joe Kedra and Fred Sparkman will get every opportunity to contribute early, beginning with special teams. Done For Me Lately  

Year

ACC

Overall

Postseason

1993

6-2 (2)

10-3

Gator Bowl (L)

1994

5-3 (3)

8-4

Sun Bowl (L)

1995

4-4 (5)

7-5

Carquest Bowl (W)

1996

6-2 (2)

10-2

Gator Bowl (W)

1997

7-1 (2)

11-1

Gator Bowl (W)

1998

5-3 (4)

7-5

Las Vegas (W)

1999

2-6 (8)

3-8

None

2000

3-5 (6)

6-5

None

2001

5-3 (3)

8-5

Peach Bowl (W)

2002

1-7 (8)

3-9

None

ACC: 44-36 (.550); No. 4 in ACC
Overall: 73-47 (.608); No. 3 in ACC Cause For Concern? Most college defensive schemes are designed to enable the linebackers to make the bulk of the tackles, and that's a problem at UNC. Even if the front four improves from last year, as expected, the Heels still lack athletic, hard-hitting, experienced, proven talents at linebacker. That's the one position where Carolina, which had eight linebackers playing in the NFL last season, continues to pale in comparison to projected league leaders FSU, NCSU, Maryland and Virginia. In Chapel Hill this fall, most of the linebackers who know what they're doing aren't very talented, and most of the prep All-Americans at the position don't know what they're doing yet. That's a bad combination. The Whole Truth “I would not be surprised to see anywhere between 10-15 freshmen play this season. All of them will have the opportunity to prove they can play right away. I'm not going to hold a player back that can help us because he is a freshman. We need to get the best players on the field who can help us win.”

— North Carolina coach John Bunting  

CHART BY: THE UNC INSIDER