It’s time to really find out just how much fight this 2019 Tar Heel team has. After an unexpected 2-0 start to the season, the Tar Heels have dropped two in a row, the latter of which was at home to Appalachian State. The Tar Heels will look to stop the bleeding on Saturday at home, but it won’t be an easy task to say the least. To do so, they will have to find a way to upset take down a Clemson team that hasn’t lost since January 1, 2018. Can they avenge the loss from the last time these two met in the 2015 ACC Championship Game? Let’s breakdown the two teams for you so you’ll be able to figure out the road to a program-changing win.
The Tar Heels offensive growth has been halted after a promising start due to the injuries, mainly along the offensive line. Senior starters Charlie Heck and Nick Polino have both missed games with a broken hand and lower body injury, respectively, leaving an extremely young group of starters along the offensive line, all of which are underclassmen. The unit has struggled to keep talented freshman quarterback Sam Howell (75-117, 1,024 yds, 9-2 TD-INT, 43 rush, 19 yds, TD) upright, although the upstart young gun has still found a way to give the Tar Heels a chance to win in every fourth quarter so far. Still, the unit has allowed 16 sacks in four games after allowing ten during all of 2018. They have to find a way to protect Howell so he can get the ball out to his talented receiving corps that has seen Dyami Brown (15 rec, 284 yds, 3 TD) and Dazz Newsome (19 rec, 270 yds, 2 TD) get off to hot starts and Beau Corrales (10 rec, 134 yds, TD) find his footing over the last couple of games. A consistent running game is still being searched for, but Javonte Williams (53 rush, 299 yds, TD, 5 rec, 36 yds) is making a strong case to be the leader of the backfield, as is Michael Carter (48 rush, 220 yds, 6 rec, 62 yds, 2 TD). The Tar Heels offense also took a big step this past weekend in third down situations, but they must continue to improve on first and second down to limit the number of 3rd & long situations.
The story of the defense is similar to that of the offense. The unit is limited by the injuries it has suffered, especially in the secondary. Myles Wolfolk (24 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 3 INT) was off to a great start, but will now miss time with a foot injury, while the corner position hasn’t been the same since Patrice Rene (6 ttkl) went down a torn ACL. The struggles on the back end have not allowed the scheme to be as aggressive as it was when it was at full strength, meaning quarterbacks have had plenty of time to throw and make the important throws. The defensive line is still in solid shape, led by Aaron Crawford (24 ttkl, 4.0 TFL, 2.0 scks), but the group must find a way to get in the face of opposing quarterbacks once again. The linebacking corps is the healthiest unit on the entire team, but is still missing way too many tackles and allowing too many rushing yards for comfort.
The special teams unit has been better than expected, thanks to solid starts from placekicker Noah Ruggles (8-8 XP, 7-10 FG, Long of 49) and punter Ben Kiernan (23 punts, 41.3 avg). The return continues to look strong, led by Michael Carter (6 KR, 26.3 avg) who had a great return to open the game this past Saturday against Appalachian State.
Where do you even begin with this Clemson offense. Preseason Heisman favorite Trevor Lawrence (66-106, 925 yds, 7-5 TD-INT, 11 rush, 55 yds, 3 TD) hasn’t been nearly as dominant as many thought he would be as a sophomore, but he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the country and can put together a Heisman-type performance on any given weekend. It also doesn’t hurt to have one of the countries best running backs in Travis Etienne (53 rush, 395 yds, 4 TD, 8 rec, 87 yds) alongside you and a receiving corps that features game breakers like Justyn Ross (15 rec, 171 yds, TD) and Tee Higgins (16 rec, 376 yds, 2 TD). The offensive line isn’t as strong as it has been in the past, but the unit features four senior starters, including preseason Outland Trophy hopeful John Simpson.
The Clemson defense lost a lot from last year’s stellar group, but is off to a great start to the 2019 season. The unit is allowing just 246.5 yards per game to opposing offenses, including just 94.5 rushing yards per game. The linebacking corps is headmaned by the uber-talented Isaiah Simmons (33 ttkl, 3.5 TFL, 2.0 scks, PD), who leads the Tigers in tackles and is tied for the team lead in sacks. It was an arduous task to replace the defensive line that was as talented as any in the history of college football, but defensive end Xavier Thomas (10 ttkl, 4.0 TFL, 1.5 scks) and defensive tackle Jordan Williams (16 ttkl, 3.5 TFL, 1.0 sck, 2 FR, PD) have grown up quickly and become stars. The secondary has been a pleasant surprise, led by senior safety Tanner Muse (16 ttkl, 1.5 TFL, 0.5 sck, 2 INT, PD), who has taken a huge step forward this season.
The special teams unit looks to be in good hands with B.T. Potter (20-20, 5-7 FG, Long of 51) at placekicker and Will Spiers (14 punts, 42.6 avg) at punter, while the return spots continue to rotate players in an attempt to find the right combination.
Off. PPG: 25.3 (96th)
Off. PYPG: 262.3 (52nd)
Off. RYPG: 156.3 (74th)
Off. TYPG: 418.6 (69th)
Off. 3rd Down %: 27.6 (123rd)
Def. PPG: 25.8 (T-69th)
Def. PYPG: 222.3 (59th)
Def. RYPG: 172.5 (T-85th)
Def. TYPG: 394.8 (76th)
Sacks: 10.0 (T-36th)
Interceptions: 4 (T-29th)
Turnover Margin: -1
Offensive Efficiency: 46.7 (72nd)
Defensive Efficiency: 59.8 (53rd)
Special Teams Efficiency: 39.9 (91st)
Overall Team Efficiency: 51.6 (61st)
Off. PPG: 42.3 (18th)
Off. PYPG: 277.8 (40th)
Off. RYPG: 247.0 (21st)
Off. TYPG: 524.8 (14th)
Off. 3rd Down %: 43.2% (46th)
Def. PPG: 10.0 (T-3rd)
Def. PYPG: 152.0 (13th)
Def. RYPG: 94.5 (24th)
Def. TYPG: 246.5 (5th)
Sacks: 16.0 (6th)
Interceptions: 5 (T-12th)
Turnover Margin: Even
Offensive Efficiency: 80.4 (11th)
Defensive Efficiency: 97.2 (2nd)
Special Teams Efficiency: 32.7 (104th)
Overall Team Efficiency: 94.4 (4th)
Keys to the Game
Create Havoc Plays
The Tar Heels have had trouble creating havoc plays since the season opener against South Carolina, but they are a must on Saturday. The Tar Heels must find a way to get pressure on Trevor Lawrence and create multiple turnovers, something the Tigers have been prone to early in the year.
Protect the Football
This wasn’t really an issue for the 2019 Tar Heels until last weekend against Appalachian State. If the Tar Heels are wanting to pull this massive upset, they have to take advantage of every possession they have. The best way to do that is by taking care of the football.
Quick Start Offensively
Fast starts on offense have been a problem for the Tar Heels in every game this season except the Miami game, but that has to change on Saturday for the Tar Heels to pull the upset. The Tar Heels need to put together a couple of methodical drives to begin the game and the best way to do that is with the quick passing game that will open up the running game and deep passing game. The mindset of the offense still seems to be in that “keep us in the game” mindset from the season opener and it’s time for them to snap out of it.
OUT- Matthew Flint (leg), Brandon Fritts (knee), Nick Polino (lower body), Patrice Rene (knee), Bryson Richardson (knee)
DOUBT- Jace Ruder (leg), Myles Wolfolk (lower body)
QUEST- Antoine Green (lower body), Charlie Heck (hand)
PROB- Dazz Newsome (undisclosed), Jason Strowbridge (ankle)
OUT- Bryton Constantin (knee), Braden Galloway (suspension), Blake Vinson (knee)
PROB- Justyn Ross (hip flexor)
Projected Starting Lineups
# 7 Sam Howell, Fr.
#25 Javonte Williams, So. OR
# 8 Michael Carter, Jr.
# 2 Dyami Brown, So.
#15 Beau Corrales, Jr.
# 5 Dazz Newsome, Jr.
#86 Carl Tucker, Sr.
#75 Joshua Ezeudu, RFr.
#63 Ed Montilus, RFr. OR
#56 Billy Ross, So.
#68 Brian Anderson, So.
#73 Marcus McKethan, So.
#74 Jordan Tucker, So.
#51 Raymond Vohasek, So. OR
#56 Tomari Fox, Fr.
#92 Aaron Crawford, Sr.
#55 Jason Strowbridge, Sr.
#12 Tomon Fox, Sr.
#44 Jeremiah Gemmel, So.
#21 Chazz Surratt, Jr.
#33 Allen Cater, Sr. OR
#56 Tomari Fox, RFr.
#10 Greg Ross, Jr.
# 1 Myles Dorn, Sr.
# 9 Cam’Ron Kelly, Fr.
#4 Trey Morrison, So.
#16 D.J. Ford, Jr.
#97 Noah Ruggles, So.
#90 Michael Rubino, Sr.
#91 Ben Kiernan, Fr.
#61 Drew Little, Fr. (K)
#60 Trevor Collins, Jr. (P)
#96 Cooper Graham, So.
# 8 Michael Carter, Jr.
# 5 Dazz Newsome, Jr.
#16 Trevor Lawrence, So.
# 9 Travis Etienne, Jr.
# 5 Tee Higgins, Jr.
# 8 Justyn Ross, So.
#14 Diondre Overton, Sr. OR
# 3 Amari Rodgers, Jr.
#25 J.C. Chalk, Jr.
#79 Jackson Carman, So.
#74 John Simpson, Sr.
#76 Sean Pollard, Sr.
#59 Gage Cervenka, Sr.
#73 Tremayne Anchrum, Sr.
#54 Logan Rudolph, So.
#13 Tyler Davis, Fr. OR
#59 Jordan Williams, So.
#44 Nyles Pinckney, Sr.
# 3 Xavier Thomas, So.
#11 Isaiah Simmons, Jr.
#47 James Skalski, Jr.
#43 Chad Smith, Sr.
# 8 A.J. Terrell, Jr.
#19 Tanner Muse, Sr.
#12 K’Von Wallace, Sr.
# 1 Derion Kendrick, So.
#29 B.T. Potter, So.
#48 Will Spiers, Jr.
#29 B.T. Potter, So.
#58 Patrick Phibbs, Sr.
#22 Will Swinney, Jr.
#10 Joseph Ngata, Fr.
# 1 Derion Kendrick, So.
Recruits Expected to Be in Attendance
4✮ SDE Myles Murphy- Dudley (Greensboro, NC)
4✮ DT Kedrick Bingley-Jones- Providence Day (Charlotte, NC)
4✮ WR Josh Downs- North Gwinnett (Suwanee, GA)
4✮ S Cameron Roseman-Sinclair- Myers Park (Charlotte, NC)
4✮ S Ja'Qurious Conley- Northside-Jacksonville (Jacksonville, NC)
4✮ ILB Ethan West- Cosby (Midlothian, VA)
3✮ WR Rayonta Rose- South Point (Belmont, NC)
3✮ TE John Copenhaver- Roswell (Roswell, GA)
3✮ TE Kendall Karr- Stuart Cramer (Cramerton, NC)
3✮ RB Elijah Green- Blessed Trinity Catholic (Roswell, GA)
3✮ WR Tylee Craft- Sumter (Sumter, SC)
3✮ ATH Jefferson Boaz- East Surry (Pilot Mountain, NC)
3✮ ATH Cedric Gray- Ardrey Kell (Charlotte, NC)
3✮ RB Elijah Burris- Mountain Island Charter (Mount Holly, NC)
3✮ SDE Kaimon Rucker- Hart County (Hartwell, GA)
3✮ CB Jayden Chalmers- Lee County (Sanford, NC)
4✮ RB Evan Pryor- Hough (Cornelius, NC)
4✮ WR Gavin Blackwell- Sun Valley (Monroe, NC)
4✮ ATH Kaeman Marley- Eastern Randolph (Ramseur, NC)
4✮ WR Micah Crowell- East Forsyth (Kernersville, NC)
4✮ ATH DeAndre Boykins- Central Cabarrus (Concord, NC)
4✮ SDE Jahvaree Ritzie- Glenn (Kernersville, NC)
4✮ ILB Power Echols- Vance (Charlotte, NC)
4✮ WR Kobe Paysour- Kings Mountain (Kings Mountain, NC)
4✮ S Dontavius Nash- Hunter Huss (Gastonia, NC)
4✮ CB Kamarro Edmonds- Havelock (Havelock, NC)
3✮ SDE Keeshawn Silver- Rocky Mount (Rocky Mount, NC)
3✮ ILB Dameon Wilson- Kings Mountain (Kings Mountain, NC)
3✮ OG Michael Gonzalez- Sun Valley (Monroe, NC)
3✮ CB Mario Love Jr.- Hough (Cornelius. NC)
3✮ OT Andrew Canelas- Leesville Road (Raleigh, NC)
3✮ OT Colby Smith- Rockingham County (West End, NC)
3✮ ATH Caleb Hood- Richmond (Rockingham, NC)
3✮ WR Coleman Jeffcoat- Mallard Creek (Charlotte, NC)
UR WR Chrison Shepard- Lake Norman (Mooresville, NC)
UR WR J.J. Jones- Myrtle Beach (Myrtle Beach, SC)
4✮ DT Travis Shaw- Grimsley (Greensboro, NC)
4✮ DT Curtis Neal- Hough (Cornelius, NC)
UR CB Gavin Gibson- Lake Norman (Mooresville, NC)
UR ATH Omari Philyaw- Mountain Island Charter (Mount Holly, NC)
UR WR Dakota Twitty- Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy (Mooresboro, NC)