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North Carolina at Clemson Preview: Question and Answer Session with Tar Heel Blog

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ECU may have claimed football dominance over the state of North Carolina and the ACC Coastal, but North Carolina is still 0-0 in ACC play and comes to Death Valley for their conference opener this Saturday night. Brian Barbour joins us from our SB Nation UNC sister site to share some insights into Carolina football.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

STS: Shakin the Southland
THB: Tar Heel Blog

STS: Clemson fans remember all too well what it's like to surrender 70 (33-70 vs. WVU), but I have to ask. 70 points to an American Athletic Conference team? Is Vic Koenning's defense that bad?

THB: First of all, ECU is AAC in name only. This is a team that is 2-0 against the ACC's Coastal Division and played a pretty tight game with South Carolina the week prior to that. Still, the point is taken as far as talent goes which probably illustrates how good a team with 19 juniors and seniors in the starting lineups can be.

As for Vic Koenning's defense, it has major flaws though much of that is probably a result of the personnel. UNC is coming out of NCAA sanctions and the depth simply isn't there. UNC players also miss tackles like they'll be flagged for wrapping an opposing player up. The tackling appears to be an issue with the players themselves. Koenning noted today that he was forced to teach details and fundamentals like he did when he was head coach at Wyoming. That shouldn't be the case with ACC-caliber talent.

As for the 70 points, that is a total team failure. Yes, the defense had issues but the offense did little to stem the tide. UNC's gave the ball back far too quickly. Giving ECU more possessions was a bad idea and something Larry Fedora perhaps should have adjusted the offense to address given the defensive struggles.

STS: Despite surrendering 97 points in three games, UNC is 2-1 and still has the full ACC slate plus a quasi-ACC game against Notre Dame ahead. In fact, it'd be fair to say UNC has a much better chance to win their division than Clemson (I'm still dwelling on what could have been if you couldn't tell). Are you still optimistic?

THB: Sure. The Coastal might be the most nonsensical group of teams in college football. No one team has done anything to stake a claim to the title of frontrunner and while UNC struggles on defense, it's not like the Coastal is full of powerhouse offensive teams. Duke is second in the ACC in total offense and the rest of the division is in the 6-13 range. Since UNC has yet to play an ACC game much less lose one there is still some hope the Tar Heels can make something of the season.

STS: I've seen some electric playmakers in the Carolina Blue this year and last year. Can you tell us about a few?

THB: The first name that pops up is Ryan Switzer who is still waiting for that first breakout game of the season. Switzer returned five punts for a touchdown last season but so far in 2014 hasn't done much. He is extremely fast and has great instincts but so far UNC hasn't been able to utilize him.

One player who has shown up big so far is walk-on WR Mack Hollins. The sophomore is the Heels' leading receiver with eight catches for 242 yards. Hollins had a 91-yard touchdown reception against San Diego State that involved him blowing by the corner and getting open over the middle. Hollins has plenty of speed and has been a nice surprise so far. One other player to watch is WR Quinshad Davis. Davis has been relatively quiet but since this is trip home to South Carolina, he undoubtedly would love to make a good showing.

STS: Can you tell us about some of the big holes for the Heels and give us a forecast of how this game will play out?

THB: Obviously, the defense is an issue. Clemson OC Chad Morris is likely drooling over the openings UNC has in coverage and if the Tar Heels fail to encroach the pocket, Deshaun Watson is going to have plenty of time to pick the secondary apart. UNC also hasn't stopped the run particularly well which means an opposing team can stay balanced and keep the Heels guessing. The offensive line for the Tar Heels is thin, beat up and had trouble protecting Marquise Williams against ECU. In that respect trying to stop Vic Beasley will be a certifiable nightmare.

The obvious choice for this game is Clemson dropping 50+ points on the Heels. UNC's last two trips to Death Valley have resulted in shellackings where the home team put up at least 50 points. That being said, it also wouldn't surprise me if UNC gives Clemson a tussle and shows some signs of life. A Tar Heel team that at least looks competitive would be a step in the right direction.

STS: We thank Brian Barbour of Tar Heel Blog for joining us and giving us the inside scoop on the Tar Heels.