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Heel Tough Blog: Offseason Series- Best to Wear The Number (91-99)

As we enter May, it's time for the annual offseason series. This year, we're going in-depth with a look at the best player to ever where each jersey number. This is a ten part series where we will go ten numbers at a time for ten weeks. This week, we look at the best to wear numbers 91-99 in Tar Heel football history.

Chris Covatta- Getty Images

#91: Mike Pringley

There isn’t a ton of overall success here at the No. 91, but guys like Troy Barnett, Will Chapman and Tydreke Powell all had decent success while occupying the number. However, there is one player who spent his career in this jersey that is just head and shoulders above everyone else. Mike Pringley was a four-year starter for the Tar Heels along the defensive line from 1995 to 1998 and he quietly put together one of the most successful defensive careers in a decade that was full of them. Pringley finished his career with 186 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for a loss and 14.5 sacks, never finishing a season with less than 30 total tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss or 3.0 sacks. Somehow, Pringley never received All-ACC honors, even in his amazing senior season where he finished with 70 total tackles, 7.0 tackles for a loss and 4.0 sacks.

Al Bello- Getty Images

#92: Freddie Jones

While there isn’t quite that much national recognition here, this was an extremely tough decision because there are some really good players that have worn this number over the years. George Stirnweiss had a nice career at quarterback in the number way back in the late 30’s and Aaron Crawford produced a very strong career over the last five years on campus while donning the No. 92. While both of those guys were successful, the decision ultimately came down to Freddie Jones and E.J. Wilson. After much debate, we’ll have to give Jones the slight edge over Wilson. Jones finished his career with 61 receptions for 580 yards and six touchdowns, with the bulk of his production coming in each of his final two seasons on campus. Jones earned first team All-ACC honors in each of those final two seasons, combining for 470 yards and six touchdowns on 48 catches in 1995 and 1996. His best season came in 1996 after the Tar Heels switched to a more pass-happy offense, a move that allowed Jones to couple his first team all-conference honors with third team All-American recognition.

Carolina Letterman

#93: Reuben Davis

Camaron Thomas is the most recent player to have reasonable success in the jersey and Jim Lalanne had some nice success in the number as the Tar Heels starting quarterback in 1940, but there is a player that is the clear choice here. With all of the success that Carolina has had historically along the defensive line, Reuben Davis is a name that seems to be forgotten about, but there is no way that he should be. He put together an amazing four-year career at Carolina from 1984 to 1987, beginning his career with a bang as a freshman, finishing with 131 total tackles. He would follow that with three more great seasons as an anchor of the Tar Heel defensive line, finishing his Tar Heel career with 373 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks. Despite never finishing a season with less than 69 total tackles, a remarkable feat for a defensive lineman, Davis would earn All-ACC honors just once, landing on the first team unit in the 1985 season. When you talk about the most underappreciated Tar Heel football players, Davis has a great case to be the most underappreciated player in program history.

Tar Heel Times

#94: Rick Terry

There is must to be excited about at this number to say the least. Michael McAdoo is the only other notable player to have success while occupying the number, but luckily our pick here had a noteworthy career while sporting the jersey. Rick Terry was only a two year starter in his time at Carolina, but he was really able to shine once he got his opportunity. In his final two seasons with the Tar Heels, Terry finished with a combined 91 total tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss and 11.0 sacks, leading the team in tackles for loss in each of those years. As a senior, Terry earned first team All-ACC recognition after a spectacular senior season for one of the best defenses in program history, one that allowed just 225.6 yards yards of offense a game on their way to a 10-2 season.

#95: William Fuller

This is another number that has a strong case to be the best overall number in Carolina history. Guys like Eric Gash and Joey Evans would have strong enough cases to be the pick at just about any other number, but here are nearly afterthoughts. Don Jackson was the first great Tar Heel defensive back, intercepting nine passes in his career back in the mid-50’s. Kareem Martin is one of the Tar Heels top pass rushers in program history and could have easily been our pick here, but the man standing in everyone’s is William Fuller, one of the best defensive players in ACC history. Fuller was a three-time first team All-ACC selection in his four years on campus and is one of the handful of Tar Heels to be a two-time consensus first team All-American, landing those honors in both 1982 and 1983. Fuller finished his career with 225 total tackles, 57.0 tackles for loss and 20.0 sacks. The 57.0 tackles for loss are still a program record to this day and his 20.0 sacks are still sixth in program history.

Jeff Knotts

#96: Carlton Bailey

There hasn’t been a ton of overall success here, but the number is home to two of the most underrated defensive tackles in program history. Russell Davis was a very successful four year player at defensive end while sporting the number, but Carlton Bailey is just a step above him in terms of success. Bailey was a four-year starter for the Tar Heels, teaming with Reuben Davis, who we talked about above, to form one of the best defensive lines in program history. Bailey finished each season of his career with at least 75 total tackles, totaling 382 tackles in his four seasons at Carolina. Bailey finished his career in 1998 with his best season, leading the team with 132 tackles and finishing with 10.0 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks on his way to first team All-ACC honors and second team All-American recognition.

Jeff Knotts

#97: Ron Burton

The No. 97 is a surprisingly productive number. Harry Dunkle is one of the greatest punters in program history and still holds the record for yards per punt in a season. Cecil Gray saw plenty of success himself, but our pick is the guy who passed that jersey number to him, Ron Burton. Burton was a three year starter for the Tar Heels from 1984 to 1986. In those three seasons, Burton racked up 237 total tackles, 29.0 tackles and 15.0 sacks, quietly becoming one of the best overall defenders in the ACC. Unbelievably, Burton never received any recognition from the ACC, despite all of his successes, giving him a strong case as one of the most underrated players in program history.

Tar Heel Illustrated

#98: Lawrence Taylor

While both Austin Robbins and Donte Paige-Moss had nice careers in the No. 98, there is only one answer for who the greatest to wear this number is. The argument can always be made for Lawrence Taylor as the best defensive player in program history and even ACC history and for good reason. Defensive stats were not fully kept until 1979, so it’s tough to say exactly where LT stacks up in some of the all-time defensive statistics. However, Taylor’s final two seasons show just how rare of a player he was. In 1979, he nearly reached the 100 total tackle mark falling just five short, while also racking up 11.0 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks. Prior to the 1980 season, though, head coach Dick Crum asked for more consistency from Taylor and boy did he get it. As part of the Heels stingy 1980 defense that helped lead the Tar Heels to an 11-1 record, he would rack up 69 total tackles, 22.0 tackles for loss and 16.0 sacks, the latter of which still stands as a record for sacks in a season. Taylor would be named a unanimous first-team All-American and the ACC Player of the Year in 1980 before going on to have one of the greatest pass rushing careers in NFL history.

Tar Heel Illustrated

#99: George Barclay

We round out this amazing offseason series with the number that has seen the fewest tenants in program history, three to be exact. He has the distinction of being a two-time All American, and he did so in just a three year career in Chapel Hill. Barclay became the Tar Heels first ever All-American following the 1933 season and was a consensus All-American in 1934. He was highly regarded on both sides of the football and that is the reason that his number is retired in the Tar Heels ring of honor.

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