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Heel Tough Blog: Boston College Preview

Saturday, the Tar Heels will finally play their second game of the 2020 season when they head to Chestnut Hill to take on the Boston College Eagles. The team will be basically restarting their season after two weeks off following the season opening victory over Syracuse, and will be doing while having to fill a major void in their secondary. Can the Tar Heels get back in a groove after an unorthodox start to the season?

Team Breakdowns

Tar Heels

After three weeks between games, there are a lot of question marks around exactly what this team will look like on Saturday. The team’s offense entered this season with some major expectations thanks to their strong finish to the 2019 season and while they had some stumbles out of the gate against Syracuse, the group recovered late. Quarterback Sam Howell may not have played the best game of his career against the Orange, but he still made the throws he needed to and looked to settle into a groove late in the game. His wide receiving corps came into the season as stacked as any in the ACC and the emergence of Khafre Brown only adds to the excitement about this group. The backfield got off to a slow start against Syracuse, but both Michael Carter and Javonte Williams were still able to make some big plays in the second half, something we expect them to be able to do week in and week out as they were able to do down the stretch last year. The concern, as we expected, is on the offensive line, especially after how much they struggled in the first half against a rebuilding Syracuse front seven. Losing Joshua Ezeudu due to injury was a big loss for this unit which saw the left side of the line get dominated for the majority of the first half before finally settling down and allowing this team to move the ball. The Tar Heels will need to get Ezeudu back as soon as they possibly can and also need new left tackle Asim Richards to improve on what we saw from him in the first game.

Defensively, there are so many things to be encouraged about after one of the unit’s best performances in the past decade. Outside of a few missed tackles, the unit was dominant in the season opener, allowing just six points and 202 yards of total offense. The biggest concern for the team entering the season was the defensive line unit that was having to replace two of its stars from a year ago. Led by Tomari Fox and Raymond Vohasek, the unit helped tally 3.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks, as part of a defensive unit that registered 11.0 tackles for a loss and 7.0 sacks against Syracuse’s offense. The linebacking corps was simply outstanding, with both Chazz Surratt and Jeremiah Gemmel having massive games for the Tar Heels, while Tomon Fox also got his season off to a productive start. The secondary had some uneasy moments early in the game, but recovered nicely, led by Storm Duck, who had a shutdown performance in every sense of the word. The group is having to replace senior safety Myles Wolfolk, who was declared academically ineligible just a couple of weeks ago, but versatile junior Trey Morrison’s move to take over his vacant spot should ease concerns a little. The big question is whether or not the version of the Tar Heels defense that we saw in the first game of the season is here to stay or not.

The Tar Heels special teams unit was the most concerning overall unit in the first game of the season. Grayson Atkins got the start at kicker and made a 31-yard field goal and made all four of his extra point attempts, but his miss from 50, an area that the Tar Heels were hoping he would be able to help them in. The coverage units, in particular the punt coverage unit, still appears to be a work in progress for this team after Syracuse had two long returns (one that got called back). The good news here is that the punting game and punt return game had really strong days and should continue to succeed throughout the season.

Boston College

The Eagles are off to a 2-0 start under new head coach Jeff Hafley and while the defense still looks like the unit we’re used to, the offense has a much different look. The Eagles have leaned heavily on quarterback Phil Jurkovec and the passing game out of the gate, which has led to mixed results. Both Zay Flowers and Hunter Long are both off to strong starts at wide receiver and will test the Tar Heel secondary on Saturday. The Eagles running game has been nearly non-existent in the first two games of the season with no player having reached the hundred yard mark in the first two games of the season. That’s in part to an offensive line that has struggled early on after entering the season with a lot of expectations, struggling to open up running lanes and allowing eight sacks already.

The Eagles defense, on the other hand, has not seen a drastic change from previous years. The Eagles linebacking corps is one of the best in the ACC yet again. Both Isaiah McDuffie and Max Richardson are off to fantastic starts to the season, especially McDuffie who is leading the team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and is tied for the lead in interceptions. The defensive line has gotten off to a strong start led by defensive ends Marcus Valdez and Shitta Sillah and the Eagles secondary also looks to be in good shape with Deon Jones and Josh DeBerry playing well. The group has been very optimistic in the early part of this season, as well, forcing six turnovers in the first two games of the young season.

The Eagles special teams unit has some question marks, but hasn’t been bad out of the gate. Punter Grant Carlson has been a weapon at punter, but there is still a question mark at kicker, where both Aaron Bouhmeri and Danny Longman have started a game to begin the season. The Eagles return game has really struggled out of the gate, especially the punt return game which is averaging -1.5 yards to this point in the season.

Team Stats (rankings are amongst 72 FBS to play a game in 2020)

Tar Heels

Off. PPG: 31.0 (T-36th)

Off. PYPG: 303.0 (T-15th)

Off. RYPG: 160.0 (39th)

Off. TYPG: 463.0 (20th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 38.5% (T-50th)

Def. PPG: 6.0 (3rd)

Def. PYPG: 134.0 (4th)

Def. RYPG: 68.0 (7th)

Def. TYPG: 202.0 (3rd)

Def. 3rd Down %: 21.1% (7th)

Sacks: 7.0 (T-12th)

Interceptions: 1 (T-38th)

Turnover Margin: -2 (T-54th)

Boston College

Off. PPG: 25.0 (T-50th)

Off. PYPG: 255.0 (31st)

Off. RYPG: 85.5 (66th)

Off. TYPG: 340.5 (56th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 39.1% (47th)

Def. PPG: 13.5 (12th)

Def. PYPG: 223.0 (29th)

Def. RYPG: 131.0 (28th)

Def. TYPG: 354.0 (23rd)

Def. 3rd Down %: 51.6% (58th)

Sacks: 7.0 (T-12th)

Interceptions: 3 (T-11th)

Turnover Margin: +4 (T-5th)

Keys To The Game

Take Care of the Football

As we mentioned above, Boston College has been very aggressive early on in the year on the defensive side of football and the Tar Heels were a bit careless with the football in their season opener. With the Tar Heels virtually restarting their season, there could once again be some of those types of mistakes. Limiting those mistakes will be the important part here.

Offensive Line Play Must Improve

The offensive line was a big concern from the season opener and will have to improve on Saturday. Boston College’s defensive line is off to a strong start to the season and doesn't have nearly the amount of holes that the Syracuse defensive line did, so the Tar Heels offensive line must be able to control the line of scrimmage better than they did a few weeks ago.

Pass Rush Needs to Remain Aggressive

The Tar Heels pass rush was able to make Tommy DeVito’s life a living hell in the season opener and the group will have to bring the pressure once again on Saturday. Boston College finally seems to have a quarterback capable of moving them up and down the field, but the team’s offensive line has been vulnerable early on this season. The Tar Heels need to attack that weakness in this one and take the pressure off of a back end that will see Trey Morrison making his first start at safety for the departed Myles Wolfolk.

Injury Report

Tar Heels

OUT- DT Kedrick Bingley-Jones (leg)

DOUBT- Ty Murray (upper body)

QUEST- DeAndre Hollins (upper body)

PROB- Des Evans (upper body), Joshua Ezeudu (lower body)

Boston College

OUT- WR Kobay White (knee)

Projected Starting Lineups

Tar Heels Offense

QB# 7 Sam Howell, So.

RB# 8 Michael Carter, Sr.

WR# 2 Dyami Brown, Jr.

WR#15 Beau Corrales, Sr.

WR# 5 Dazz Newsome, Sr.

TE#84 Garrett Walston, Sr.

LT#72 Asim Richards, So.

LG#75 Joshua Ezeudu, So.

C#68 Brian Anderson, Jr.

RG#73 Marcus McKethan, Jr.

RT#74 Jordan Tucker, Jr. Defense

END#56 Tomari Fox, So.

NOSE#51 Raymond Vohasek, Jr.

DT#52 Jahlil Taylor, So.

OLB#12 Tomon Fox, Sr.

ILB#44 Jeremiah Gemmel, Jr.

ILB#21 Chazz Surratt, Sr.

OLB#42 Tyrone Hopper, Sr.

CB#29 Storm Duck, So.

FS# 2 Don Chapman, So.

SS# 4 Trey Morrison, Jr.

CB# 1 Kyler McMichael, So. OR # 5 Patrice Rene, Sr.

NB# 0 Ja’Quirous Conley, Fr. Special Teams

K#17 Grayson Atkins, Sr. OR #97 Noah Ruggles, So.

KOS#95 Jonathan Kim, So.

P#91 Ben Kiernan, So.

LS#60 Trevor Collins, Sr. (K) #61 Drew Little, So. (P)

H#96 Cooper Graham, Jr.

KR# 8 Michael Carter, Sr.

PR# 5 Dazz Newsome, Sr.

Boston College Offense

QB# 5 Phil Jurkovec, So.

RB#26 David Bailey, Jr.

WR#11 C.J. Lewis, Jr.

WR# 4 Zay Flowers, So.

WR# 1 Jaelen Gill, So.

TE#80 Hunter Long, Jr.

LT#77 Zion Johnson, Sr.

LG#73 Christian Mahogany, RFr.

C#72 Alec Lindstrom, Jr.

RG#64 Ben Petrula, Sr.

RT#78 Tyler Vrabel, So. Defense

LDE#11 Shitta Sillah, So.

NT# 9 Chibueze Onwuka, Sr.

DT#93 Luc Bequette, Sr.

RDE#97 Marcus Valdez, Jr.

SLB#28 John Lamot, Sr.

MLB#14 Max Richardson, Sr.

WLB#55 Isaiah McDuffie, Jr.

LCB#20 Elijah Jones, So. OR # 3 Jason Maitre, So.

SS# 8 Jahmin Muse, Jr. OR # 5 Deon Jones, Sr.

FS# 5 Deon Jones, Sr. OR #18 Mike Palmer, Sr.

CB#10 Brandon Sebastian, Jr. OR #21 Josh DeBerry, So. Special Teams

K#41 Aaron Boumerhi, Sr.

P#95 Grant Carlson, Sr.

KOS#37 Danny Longman, Jr.

LS#46 Aidan Livingston, So.

H#98 John Tessitore, So.

KR#23 Travis Levy, Sr.

PR#23 Travis Levy, Sr.

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