To say the University of North Carolina's football program had a whirlwind offseason might be an understatement. Just weeks before the start of training camp head coach Butch Davis was fired. Meaning, the Tar Heels would be forced to start their 2011-12 campaign with an interim head coach, Everett Withers, and an NCAA investigation hovering over their program.
But, UNC, which was predicted to finish third out of six teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division, is trying to defy the odds and earn a BCS-bowl bid. On paper, it seems possible because the Tar Heels' roster is filled with talent.
On Saturday at 12:30 p.m., the Rutgers University football program travels to Chapel Hill, N.C. to take on UNC for the second straight season. Last year, the Scarlet Knights (1-0) defeated the visiting Tar Heels, 17-13. From all accounts, the task of repeating that feat seems slim. Need proof? Well, here's a brief scouting report on UNC.
Head Coach: Everett Withers.
Last season under Davis, Withers served as defensive coordinator and secondary coach. This season, Withers, who has been at UNC for the past three years, was quickly thrust into his first head coaching job after the dismissal of Davis. Currently, it's too early in the season to tell if this pairing is going to work.
Offense: Sophomore Bryn Renner is UNC's starting quarterback. Last week, Renner put together a stellar performance -- 277-passing yards on 22-of-23 throwing with two touchdowns -- against FCS opponent James Madison, which was smoked, 42-10. Renner's performance probably put a lot of Tar Heel fans' concerns at ease.
Luckily for Renner, who's playing in the shadow of three-year starter T.J. Yates, the sophomore is playing behind a offensive line that is thought to be the biggest strength of the UNC attack. This season, the Tar Heels offensive line features three returning starters -- senior center Cam Holland (6-foot-2, 320 pounds), junior guard Jonathan Cooper (6-3, 305) and sophomore tackle James Hurst (6-7, 320) -- and a hand full of players who have already seen playing time. The line is not only big, but talented as last season Cooper was an All-ACC selection.
Running behind the offensive line will be UNC's leading rusher from '09, Ryan Houston, who in last week's victory had 16 carries for 59 yards. Also, in the back field is true freshman Giovani Bernard, who last week carried the ball nine times for 64 yards and two TDs.
However, all Scarlet Knight eyes will be on senior wide receiver Dwight Jones (6-4, 225) who last week caught nine balls for 116 yards. Last season, Jones finished with a team best 62 receptions and 946 yards. If Rutgers defense can contain Jones' play-making ability then the rest of the game plan should fall into place.
Defense: Despite UNC's weapons on offense, it's the defense that has a lot of ACC fans talking.
The Tar Heels begin the year with a stacked interior line that features, All-American candidate senior defensive end Quinton Coples and senior defensive tackle Tydreke Powel. Last season, Coples (6-6, 290) made 59 tackles and 10 sacks to help him earn All-ACC First-Team honors, while Powel (6-3, 305) compiled 47 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 13 games.
Another player the Scarlet Knight fans need to look out for is junior linebacker and captain Kevin Reddick, who returns this season after missing all of last season with an injury.
Overall, the Tar Heels defense features seven seniors, two juniors and two sophomores. Last season, UNC's defense finished just fourth overall in the ACC, but 30th overall in the NCAA.
In conclusion: In the words of Might Ducks 2 character Lester Averman, "They're bigger! They're stronger! They're faster! They've got more facial hair!"
Well, besides probably the facial hair, UNC, which enters the contest as a 10-point favorite, is by far the more talented of the two programs. This should be a very nice, Week 2 test for the Scarlet Knights and head coach Greg Schiano. A win in Chapel Hill would be great for this rebuilding squad.