Larry Fedora will have to make do without 13 suspended players to begin the season. Nine of the 13 players including sophomore quarterback Chazz Surratt will miss four games. Since multiple players share the same positions, Fedora will have the option of staggering the suspensions. However, even with a fully equipped roster, it will be an uphill climb for the Tar Heels, who finished 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the ACC. The Tar Heels will be able to hang their hat offensively on their skilled positions. The trio of sophomore running back Michael Carter (5'9, 195), junior tight end Carl Tucker (6'2, 255) and junior wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams (6’1, 205) will be the core of the offense. Defensively, the position most hurt by the suspensions will be defensive end. Sophomore Tomon Fox (6'3, 250) and senior Malik Carney (6'3, 245) will both miss four games apiece. Junior defensive back Myles Dorn (6'2, 210) is one player Fedora will be able to count on. Dorn finished last season with two interceptions and 71 tackles. Dorn has the skill to join fellow former defensive back M.J. Stewart in the NFL one day.
Troy's player to watch
17 Anthony Ratliff-Williams 6’1 205 WR-Junior
"Do it all" is the best way to describe junior wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams. Ratliff-Williams, a former quarterback, has made the transition to wide receiver and kick returner over the past two seasons. In 2017, Ratliff-Williams averaged 26 yards per kick return and returned two kicks for scores. He added 35 receptions for 630 yards and six touchdowns. Look for Ratliff-Williams to once again be featured early and often on special teams and as a receiver in 2018.
Game of the season
October 20th at Syracuse
The Tar Heels won just one game last season in the ACC. Games against Virginia Tech and Miami could be tough, but North Carolina has to be able to win games against teams that finished with similar records as them last year. Syracuse finished with two wins in the conference a year ago. Both teams will need every victory to become bowl-eligible. Their midseason matchup could decide the postseason fate of both teams.
DraftNasty's Prospect Watch
36 Cole Holcomb 6’1 215 LB-Senior
Holcomb has always impressed in the weight room and he can notably squat nearly 600 pounds. He has decent foot speed and has even been used off the edge to rush the quarterback. In 2017, he turned in his second-best season and that produced 93 tackles and 2.5 tackles for losses. Equally adept in coverage, he has gotten his hands on a number of balls. While only adequate taking on lead blockers, he still needs to add slightly more mass. He injured his right shoulder in 2017.
DraftNasty's Troy Jefferson is predicting a slim improvement over last season. Fedora's team will win five games and narrowly miss out on bowl eligibility. The Tar Heels will fall to Miami, California, UCF, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Duke.