Google Carolina Football, and you will find that South Carolina reigns supreme as the official Carolina. This is not only unacceptable, but clearly kept under the radar in the Carolina community. While Carolina football certainly isn’t what alumni bet their money on, we still retain ongoing hope that our football team will make it into the top 25. The years of John Bunting and Butch Davis really tested Carolina fans’ loyalty and resilience as year after year, the program ended on a losing note.
2015 was the year Carolina fans restored their faith in UNC football. After a close loss to South Carolina, UNC took off with 11 straight wins, setting a new standard for the football program. It was the longest winning streak in recent program history, and the Tarheels came close to clinching the ACC championship, losing to #1 Clemson 37-45.
2016 was unfortunately not as successful, with the team ending the season with an 8-5 record and losing to Stanford in the Sun Bowl 25-23. While our record wasn’t what fans would have hoped for, one redeeming moment was when Mitch Trubisky came in as the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft going to none other than the Chicago Bears. While the Carolina legacy was not made on the field with our record, at least our star player was carrying it on in the pros.
The 2017 season is upon us, and Mitch Trubisky is not the only talented player the team will not have back on the field. We have lost our top three running backs and three starting wide receivers. We have also lost several crucial defensive players. While 2016 wasn’t a stunning success, 2017 is certainly said to be a rebuilding year for the team whose previous season frankly wasn’t necessarily successful enough to ‘rebuild’ from.
One of the biggest questions UNC faces is who the quarterback will be given the departure of Trubisky. There are four people vying for the position currently with the rumored leader for the job being LSU transfer Brandon Harris. Other quarterback contenders are Logan Byrd, Nathan Elliot, and Chazz Surrat. Brandon Harris has starting experience at LSU, and his main competition for the starting spot will be Nathan Elliot. Elliot is the only player who has been on the field for Carolina, serving as Trubisky’s backup.
With the loss of Ryan Switzer, Mack Hollins, and Bug Howard, there are large holes in Carolina’s talent pool, so 2017 teammates have big shoes to fill. Some incoming players to note are grad transfers Cam Dillard from Florida and Khaliel Rodgers from USC who will contribute significantly to a lacking offensive line. Carolina’s defense will have to compensate for the lack of offensive firepower.
Fortunately on top of the new additions, our defensive line will return 11 of the top 13 contributors. In other positive news, the 2017 team returns its top 5 linebackers from 2016. The last hole in the Carolina lineup is for the kicker’s position, but Freeman Jones is a potential solution to the loss of Nick Weiler. Jones’ in-game experience is limited, so 2017 will be a true test for the kicker.
Ultimately, UNC fans are best served to keep their expectations limited for the 2017 season. UNC will have to hold tight if fans hope to reclaim the title of the real “Carolina” football, but 2017 will hopefully be a building (versus rebuilding) year that takes the team onto future success.
This post is supported by North Raleigh Dentists Wainright and Wassel.