ACC 2012 Season Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

First-Year Head Coach Larry Fedora Has Lofty Goals for His High-Octane Attack at North Carolina This Year

Team: North Carolina Tar Heels

2011 W-L: 7-6 (3-5)

Head Coach: Larry Fedora (first season)

Returning Starters: 13 (8 Offense, 5 Defense)

While the narrative for UNC’s 2012 football season will ultimately be the postseason ban they must serve, new head coach Larry Fedora will probably play a close second. The former Southern Mississippi coach, known for a high-octane attack on both sides of the ball, has brought the same energy to Chapel Hill with the promise of a new era in Tar Heels football. Between the talent already on the team, and his dedicated work on the recruiting front, Fedora could be building one of the country’s most entertaining squads to watch.

Last year, Clemson‘s pace blew away much of the rest of the ACC, as they utilized superior speed on offense to simply run other opponents right off the field. With a similar group of athletes at his disposal at UNC, Fedora is attempting to recreate it for himself. The first step is getting QB Bryn Renner on board with the high-octane spread — something he’s already driven headlong into in order to master. If Renner is fully up to the transition from Butch Davis’s pro-style set to this spread, then that’s half the battle. Second, the team will also lean significantly on the agility of sophomore back Giovani Bernard. The speedy rusher was one of the big surprises of the conference last season, and it’s a necessity for him to be effective in order to properly set up the pass. Bernard, who also caught 45 balls for 362 yards last year, can also expect even more involvement in the passing game this year, putting 60 receptions well within reach. And he’ll desperately need to get there if the receiving corps remain as muddled as they’ve been. Senior Erik Highsmith is obviously the star of the group, but beyond him, there’s a lot of uncertainty. With T.J. Thorpe out of the year, Jheranie Boyd becomes the only other experienced option out there; not the best scenario for Renner at all.

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ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: North Carolina Tar Heels

Tailback Giovani Bernard Will Be the Motor That Runs the North Carolina Offense in 2012

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels’ spring practice preview couldn’t have had worse timing, really. While first-year head coach Larry Fedora will continue to implement his system, the NCAA’s ruling yesterday to ban his team from the postseason obviously looms large. Postseason aside though, Carolina’s offense alone should put them in line to contend for a Coastal Division championship they’re ineligible to win. As much as they’ll spend the spring trying to replace star receiver Dwight Jones, this team is built for a balanced, high-powered attack, even without the assumed first-round pick. In his first season as a starter last year, quarterback Bryn Renner racked up over 3,000 yards to go along with 26 touchdowns. In his own first season of college football, halfback Giovani Bernard recorded 1,615 total yards and 14 scores. So irregardless of who else participates, UNC should be okay as both players progress. That said, it’ll take some additional consistency from the running game outside of Bernard too, especially reserve A.J. Blue. Passing-wise, Brenner will spend the spring targeting seniors Jheranie Boyd and Erik Highsmith, who are both capable targets ready to pick up the slack for Jones’ departure. Continue reading