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Heel Tough Blog: Duke Preview

Grant Halverson- Getty Images

Believe it or not, the Tar Heels are officially making a turn to the back half of their 2022 season on Saturday when they head down the road to Wallace Wade Stadium to face the rival Duke Blue Devils. The Tar Heels are looking to remain undefeated on the road this season and strengthen their position atop the ACC Coastal.

Team Breakdowns

Tar Heels

The Tar Heels have settled into a bit of a groove here in the middle of the season. Offensively, the team remains one of the best in the country thanks to Drake Maye, who has put together one of the best first half performances of any quarterback in the country. He will have to respond to his bit of adversity in this one after suffering his first bit of extended adversity as the team’s starter in the second half of the game against Miami. The good news is he did nothing to make us think that he won’t be able to do exactly that on Saturday. He has a productive group of pass catchers to throw to, led by the duo of Josh Downs and Antoine Green which has returned with a bang. The tight ends were a bit quiet against the Hurricanes, but they have been a major part of the success of the passing game so far this season and should continue to be in the second half of the season. The running backs stepped up last week after two slow weeks of production. Caleb Hood seems to have taken hold of the starting job with Omarion Hampton spelling him. The problem is, Hood has some trouble staying on the field due to injuries throughout his career so far, something that popped again for him on Saturday. The offensive line has had a very solid start to the season but could face a little bit of adversity this weekend. Right guard William Barnes, who has had a sensational start to his senior season, is questionable for this weekend’s game due to an upper-body injury. If he can’t go, that would force Jonathan Adorno back into the starting lineup, a guy who has shown some flashes but doesn’t have the consistency that Barnes has at the position.

Defensively, it’s tough to say a team that allowed 495 yards passing a week ago has turned the corner, but they have certainly earned a little bit of trust over the past couple of weeks with the way they have been playing. Power Echols and Cedric Gray continue to lead the way out of their linebacker spots and have taken their games to the next level in each of the past two weeks, especially in run defense. The defensive line will enter this weekend’s game off of their best performance of the season against Miami. Defensive tackle Raymond Vohasek will be out again, meaning a heavy dose of Kevin Hester Jr. and the combination of Keeshawn Silver and Travis Shaw rotating in behind him, while players like Kaimon Rucker and Des Evans look to build on their recent success. The most consistent force this defense has had all season, Noah Taylor, is coming off of another nice performance to close out the first half of the season and continues to be an important leader for a defense that as a whole is starting to gain some confidence. The secondary simply has to provide a little more resistance than they have for the majority of the season. Tony Grimes and Storm Duck have been better these past two weeks, but the middle of this defense has let up a let of yards while trying to keep everything in front of them. The safety duo of Cam’Ron Kelly and Giovanni Biggers has really struggled to tackle, something that has to change quickly with it looking like they have no choice but to play significant roles.

The Tar Heel special teams unit has had a very nice start to the season. Punter Ben Kiernan has been tremendous so far and Noah Burnette has really settled in to the place-kicking spot, enough so that kickoff specialist Jonathan Kim has entered the portal. The coverage groups, primarily the kick coverage one, have been very solid so far this season, something that is now more important with Burnette handling the kickoff duties. The return units are probably the weakest part of this unit right now and both have still had moments of promise so far this season.


The Blue Devils are off to a better start than just about anyone could have envisioned in the Mike Elko era, but they do enter the game having lost two of the past three. The Blue Devils offense has been a productive one so far this season, led by one of the best running games in all of the ACC. Jaylen Coleman, Jordan Waters and Jaquez Moore are three very capable backs who have all rushed 200 or more yards so far this season, Coleman missed last week’s game with an injury and Waters was banged up in the game, leaving both questionable for this weekend. If one of these guys can play, though, this will be one of, if not the toughest rushing attack that this team will face the rest of the way with the combination of the backs and quarterback Riley Leonard. Leonard has been a bit of a surprise for the team in his first season as the starter, waking up what was one of the worst scoring offenses in the league a year ago both through the air and on the ground. In each of his last two games, though, Leonard has not thrown for more than 136 yards and is coming off of his worst game of the season against Georgia Tech last weekend. He has a strong group of receivers that he can get the ball to, although leading receiver Jalon Calhoun’s status is in question for this game. That would mean a heavier dose of Eli Pancol and quarterback-turned-receiver Jordan Moore as well as more looks in the direction of tight end Nicky Dalmolin, who has had a pretty quiet start to the year. The offensive line unit has played really well for the Blue Devils in the first half of the season, but they will be without starting guard Maurice McIntyre for the rest of the season after he suffered an injury last week.

The Blue Devils defense has had a nice start to the season, as well, but is one, like the previous two opponents for the Tar Heels, that hasn’t really been tested so far this season. Linebacker Shaka Heyward is the most dangerous player on defense and is someone that the Tar Heels must be aware of throughout the day. The Blue Devil defensive front has been solid so far this season while employing a ton of rotation, but do have guys that the Tar Heels have to take away like DeWayne Carter and Jamion Franklin. The secondary is the weak point of this defense with only one of the group's significant contributors holding quarterbacks to a quarterback rating lower than 87.1.

The special teams unit is a productive one outside of placekicker, where Charlie Ham is struggling. Punter Porter Wilson is having a very solid season for himself, but the strength of the unit are the returners, especially the two guys who have returned punts. Sahmir Hagans was phenomenal a week ago against Georgia Tech in place of the extremely productive Calhoun, averaging 46.3 yards on his three returns and taking one back for a touchdown.

Team Stats

Tar Heels

Off. PPG: 42.3 (8th)

Off. PYPG: 317.8 (13th)

Off. RYPG: 183.2 (43rd)

Off. TYPG: 501.0 (9th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 50.0% (T-13th)

Tackles For A Loss Allowed: 38.0 (T-100th)

Sacks Allowed: 14.0 (T-87th)

Def. PPG: 32.0 (107th)

Def. PYPG: 297.5 (124th)

Def. RYPG: 167.8 (96th)

Def. TYPG: 465.3 (123rd)

Def. 3rd Down %: 41.4% (T-90th)

Tackles for A Loss: 26.0 (T-112th)

Sacks: 11.0 (T-75th)

Interceptions: 4 (T-76th)

Turnover Margin: 0 (T-64th)

Penalties Per Game: 7.0 (T-91st)

Penalty Yards Per Game: 62.5 (T-91st)


Off. PPG: 32.5 (T-48th)

Off. PYPG: 225.8 (87th)

Off. RYPG: 190.7 (35th)

Off. TYPG: 416.5 (59th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 37.8% (T-82nd)

Tackles For A Loss Allowed: 26.0 (T-34th)

Sacks Allowed: 8.0 (T-33rd)

Def. PPG: 19.7 (33rd)

Def. PYPG: 240.7 (85th)

Def. RYPG: 139.2 (T-64th)

Def. TYPG: 379.8 (71st)

Def. 3rd Down %: 44.1% (113th)

Tackles for A Loss: 36.0 (T-44th)

Sacks: 10.0 (T-86th)

Interceptions: 2 (T-108th)

Turnover Margin: +7 (T-10th)

Penalties Per Game: 5.7 (T-42nd)

Penalty Yards Per Game: 56.2 (64th)

Injury Report

Tar Heels

OUT- British Brooks (lower leg), Don Chapman (upper body), Sebastian Cheeks (upper body), Jahlil Taylor (lower body), Raymond Vohasek (upper body)

QUEST- William Barnes (upper body), Ja’Qurious Conley (knee), RaRa Dillworth (upper body)


OUT- Tre Freeman (undisclosed), Marcus McIntyre (lower body), Anthony Nelson (undisclosed)

QUEST- Jalon Calhoun (undisclosed),Jaylen Coleman (undisclosed), Jordan Waters (undisclosed)

Projected Starting Lineups

Tar Heels Offense

QB#10 Drake Maye, RFr.

RB# 4 Caleb Hood, So. OR #28 Omarion Hampton, Fr.

WR# 5 J.J. Jones, So.

WR# 3 Antoine Green, Sr.

WR#11 Josh Downs, Jr.

TE#88 Kamari Morales, Jr. OR #18 Bryson Nesbit, So. OR #81 John Copenhaver, So.

LT#72 Asim Richards, Sr.

LG#63 Ed Montilus, Sr.

C#65 Corey Gaynor, Sr.

RG#52 Jonathan Adorno, So.

RT#75 Spencer Rolland, Sr. Defense

NOSE#98 Kevin Hester Jr., Jr.

3-TECH# 8 Myles Murphy, Jr.

END#10 Des Evans, Sr. OR #25 Kaimon Rucker, Jr.

JACK# 7 Noah Taylor, Sr.

MIKE#23 Power Echols, So.

ILB#33 Cedric Gray, Jr.

CB# 1 Tony Girmes, Jr.

BS#27 Giovanni Biggers, Sr.

FS# 9 Cam’Ron Kelly, Sr.

CB# 3 Storm Duck, Jr.

STAR#16 DeAndre Boykins, So. Special Teams

K#98 Noah Burnette, So.

KOS#98 Noah Burnette, So.

P#91 Ben Kiernan, Sr.

LS#61 Drew Little, Sr.

H#91 Ben Kiernan, Sr.

KR#28 Omarion Hampton, Fr.

PR#11 Josh Downs, Jr.

Duke Offense

QB#13 Riley Leonard, So.

RB# 7 Jordan Waters, Jr. OR #22 Jaylen Coleman, Jr.

WR# 3 Darrell Harding Jr., Sr.

WR# 6 Eli Pancol, Sr. OR #85 Sahmir Hagans, RFr.

WR# 8 Jordan Moore, So. OR # 1 Jontavis Robertson, Jr.

TE#81 Nicky Dalmolin, Jr.

LT#62 Graham Barton, Jr.

LG#64 Brian Foley, Sr.

C#63 Jacob Monk, Sr.

RG#78 Chance Lytle, Sr.

RT#55 Andre Harris, Sr. Defense

DE#94 R.J. Oben, Jr.

DT#90 DeWayne Carter, Jr.

DT#55 Ja’Mion Franklin, Sr.

DE#19 Vincent Anthony Jr., Fr.

MLB#42 Shaka Heyward, Sr.

WLB# 8 Dorian Mausi, Jr.

CB# 5 Datrone Young, Sr.

N#30 Brandon Johnson, So.

S# 1 Darius Joiner, Sr.

S# 2 Jaylen Stinson, Jr.

CB#26 Joshua Pickett, So. OR # 0 Chandler Rivers, Fr. Special Teams

PK#44 Charlie Ham, Jr.

KO#44 Charlie Ham, Jr.

P#98 Porter Wilson, Jr.

LS#45 Evan Deckers, Sr.

H#37 Jackson Hubbard, Sr.

KR# 2 Jaylen Stinson, Jr.

PR#85 Sahmir Hagans, RFr.

Game Information

Location: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC

Time: 8:00 PM

TV: ACC Network

Radio: Tar Heels Sports Network (check local affiliates)


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