Fourth and Long

Published 2:41 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In the final installment of my Carolina Football preview we are going to look at the offense and defense.

While there are questions marks on both sides of the ball, the strength of both should be along their front lines. It just so happens that a couple of local fellas have a little something to do with that.

The dominance of the Carolina defensive line has been a common theme for the last few years and this season is no exception. While Preseason All-America Candidate Quinton Coples provides more highlight reel material, the anchor of the defensive line is Senior defensive tackle Tydreke Powell.

The Hertford County standout comes into his final season at UNC as a team captain and undisputed leader of not just the defense, but the team as a whole.

Given the numerous questions amongst Carolinas secondary, Powell’s ability to not only stop the run, but provide some interior pressure on opposing quarterbacks will be key to the Tar Heels success defensively.

UNC returns a lot of talent and depth at linebacker. Both Kevin Reddick and Zach Brown are tremendous athletes that fly to the ball. Their ability to help in pass coverage should also aide a young secondary.

Stability within the offense will stem from its offensive line. A question mark over the last few seasons, the offensive line will finally be looked upon as a strength of the offense and not its liability.

A large part of that (pun intended) is Junior right guard Travis Bond. The Bertie County native has long had the physical tools necessary to contribute, but over the last few years Bond has continued to develop his technique and has honed the skills required to dominate up front.

Bond has plenty of help as the offensive line is plentiful in both talent and depth, a combination that should help to ease the transition to a new quarterback and running backs.

Sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner will make his much anticipated debut as the starting quarterback this season and while he has looked good in spring games and practice, how he will fare against live competition still remains to be seen.

Returning to the backfield after a redshirt season is Senior Ryan Houston. The Charlotte native is a bruiser at tailback and if healthy has shown the ability to be an every down back. The depth at running back behind Houston is a collection of heralded yet unproven commodities. Giovani Bernard returns from injury and carries the promise of a “home run” threat and A.J. Blue has made the transition from quarterback to tailback.

Assuming the offensive line remains as good as advertised, Renner comes close to meeting expectations and the running game can keep defenses honest than look for Carolina’s wideouts to have a huge year.

The wide receiver depth at UNC is filled with ultra athletic and tall receivers. Their ability to get downfield and go over corners and safeties will drive opposing defensive coordinators batty. That is contingent of course on the quarterback having enough time to throw them the ball.

While there a lot of unknowns on the Tar Heel depth chart this year there is certainly enough talent and potential to get and keep fans like me excited about the year to come.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publishing. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at