Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 9, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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34 OCT. 9, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY BRYAN DRISKELL I t wasn't that long ago that North Carolina head coach Larry Fe- dora seemed on the verge of cre- ating a program with the poten- tial to dominate the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division. After posting a 21-17 record in his first three seasons, Fedora led the Tar Heels to an 11-1 regular season and an 8-0 mark in conference play in year four. North Carolina battled Clemson tough, losing to the even- tual national runners-up 45-37 in the 2015 ACC title game. North Carolina finished 11-3 af- ter a 49-38 defeat to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl, but entered the 2016 season as the favorites to win the Coastal Division. The Tar Heels started 7-2 with road wins over Florida State and Miami (Fla.), climb- ing to No. 15 in the polls, but that is when the wheels came off. Dropping three of the final four games of the season — with its only win coming over The Citadel of the Football Championship Subdivision — sapped all the program's momen- tum. To make matters worse, the Tar Heels' offense was devastated by de- partures prior to the start of this fall. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky left a year early and took his 3,748 passing yards and 30 touchdowns to the NFL Draft, where he was chosen No. 2 overall by the Chicago Bears. Run- ning back Elijah Hood (2,580 career yards and 29 touchdowns) also left after his junior season, plus UNC's all-time leading receiver (244 recep- tions for 2,907 yards) and dynamic return man (seven career punt return touchdowns) Ryan Switzer gradu- ated and moved on to the NFL. All told, North Carolina lost 98.3 percent of its passing yards, 99.1 percent of its rushing yards and 70.5 percent of its receiving yards. The Tar Heels also lost 133 career starts from its offensive line. Fedora is back in rebuilding mode, and it has been tougher than expected. North Carolina dropped three of its first four games to start the season, all at home, and injuries have completely decimated the program. A total of 13 Tar Heels were lost for the season due to injury through four games. Offensively, 783 of the 1,123 return- ing receiving yards are gone due to season-ending injuries to seniors Austin Proehl and Thomas Jackson. The Tar Heels also lost a couple start- ers along the offensive line, with red- shirt sophomore William Sweet — the starting right tackle — among those getting hurt early in the campaign. "The offense lost nearly 90 percent of its production from last season, so it was going to be a work in progress from the outset," said Andrew Jones, publisher of "That it has lost five starters for the season now has made things even more difficult." The struggles along the line have been the biggest problem for the UNC offense. "The offensive line doesn't handle GAME PREVIEW: NORTH CAROLINA HURTING Injuries have hampered the Tar Heels during a slow start this season Facts & Figures NOTRE DAME AT NORTH CAROLINA Game Info Date: Oct. 7, 2017. Site: Kenan Memorial Stadium (63,000). Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET. Television: ABC. Radio: This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 129) and on Notre Dame's IMG affiliates. Series Facts: This is the 20th meeting between Notre Dame and North Carolina. The Irish lead the all-time series 17-2. Head Coaches: North Carolina — Larry Fedora (41-29, sixth season); Notre Dame — Brian Kelly (63-32, eighth season). Noting North Carolina: The Irish and Tar Heels have met just once during Kelly's tenure in South Bend, a 50-43 Irish victory at Notre Dame Stadium in 2014 … Sophomore right tackle Charlie Heck is the son of former Notre Dame offensive lineman Andy Heck (1985-88), who also spent 12 years in the NFL … Heck is currently the offensive line coach of the Kansas City Chiefs … North Carolina accepted four graduate transfers this year, but only one — center Cameron Dillard (originally a Florida Gator) — is in the starting lineup. The Tar Heels had 13 players suffer season-end- ing injuries during the first month of the sea- son, including leading receiver Austin Proehl (16 catches for 270 yards and one score). PHOTO BY JEFFREY A. CAMARATI/COURTESY UNC

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