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2008 UNC preview:
Carolina football almost surely will improve

Look for Heels to have a winning record in Davis' 2nd year

Season tickets sold out for a team that went just 4-8 last year and one that has won only 16 games in four years. But, with rock-star coach Butch Davis at the helm for the second year, Tar Heel fans are excited about the upcoming season.

Even the media seems enamored as North Carolina is picked to finish second in the coastal division of the ACC. And, when you analyze it, why not?

The youthful Tar Heels, with a first-year QB, lost six games by a combined 29 points - that's less than five points a game. With any experience at all, the Heels would have won two of those six games and gone to a bowl.

This season the Heels return 18 starters and have a returning quarterback in T.J. Yates, who - while his production dwindled late in the season due to a shoulder injury - still broke several UNC passing records.

Add the increased experience of the team and their confidence in their coaching staff to the fact that the Heels don't have to play nationally ranked Clemson and Wake Forest this season, it looks like the Tar Heels could be poised to go to a bowl game.

The offense appears to be in good shape with Yates throwing to receivers, including all-ACC wideout Hakeem Nicks, who are the best in the conference, and among the best in the country. Another receiver, Brandon Tate, is one of the best kick returners in Carolina history.

A lot is expected of runningback Greg Little, a big and speedy back who rang up nearly 250 yards as a starter in the season's final two games. Fifth-year guards Calvin Darity and Byron Bishop anchor the offensive line.

The Heels lose three key starters on defense but they have a lot of depth at linebacker and the secondary, which they'll need because several players have been banged up as the season begins. DB Deunta Williams was the ACC freshman defensive player of the year while big defensive end E.J. Wilson will be counted on to harass opposing quarterbacks.

If the defense can hold, look for the Heels to go 7-5 at the worst this season.

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