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Miami Hurricanes Matchup Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

It’s the return of Mack! Can the Hurricanes ruin his debut to ACC play?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Belk College Kickoff - South Carolina v North Carolina Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Two weeks after making their 2019 debut, the Miami Hurricanes return to the field. It’s the ACC opener for Miami, as they travel to the Bermuda triangle of the ACC — North Carolina. The Tar Heels will look to avenge a 47-10 beatdown last season at Hard Rock Stadium where the Canes drove a stake through the heart of UNC head coach Larry Fedora.

The ‘hat’ is out. In steps Mack Brown, who returns to Chapel Hill for his second stint with the Heels. Brown inherits a Carolina team that shows promise on offense and is a work in progress on defense. To smooth the transition from past to present, the new HC hired some promising coordinators to provide a much needed refresh for the football program.

Phill Longo is the new offensive coordinator in Chapel Hill. His arrival to UNC’s campus will see the Tar Heels adopt a version of the Air Raid offense in 2019. Jay Bateman was named co-defensive coordinator soon after Brown was re-hired by the program. Bateman will share DC responsibilities with Tommy Thigpen, who is a holdover from Larry Fedora’s staff and also serves as the inside linebacker coach. Formerly the defensive coordinator at Army, Bateman is considered a hot commodity among the assistant coaching ranks after twice being nominated for the Broyles Award — the best assistant coach trophy.

Those are the names that will be focal points on the sideline. How about the players who are set up to make an impact at Keenan Memorial Stadium on Saturday? With no further ado, here’s some of the matchups that will define Miami’s ACC opener.

Iron Sharpens Iron (One vs One Matchup of the Game)

North Carolina LT Charlie Heck (#67) vs Miami DE Scott Patchan (#71)

NCAA Football: Florida at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Heck was named North Carolina’s starting left tackle. He has 23 (22 before the USC game) starts as a senior. A massive presence on the line of scrimmage, he stands at a whopping 6’8” and 315 pounds. Some think he has first round NFL Draft potential. Heck also made the Outland Trophy Watch list in the preseason. To put a cap on his accolades, he was named the ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week. It’s clear that the Tar Heels trust the ‘Heck’ out of this lineman, considering that he played right tackle last season to protect the blindside of then-QB Nathan Elliott and will look to do the same for freshman QB Sam Howell.

The wider splits that come with their new offense will work in UNC’s favor. That means that Miami’s defensive line is going to have a few more steps if they want to lay some mitts on UNC’s young QB. But Scott Patchan has no issue when it comes to pressuring opposing offense. His performance in week zero earned him the highest grade amogn all Hurricanes, according to Pro Football Focus. He recorded a fumble recovery, three QB pressures and did not miss a tackle. Miami is going to need similar production if it’s to log its first win of the season. Not known for beating blockers with his speed, Patchan’s hand work gets him by most obstacles. That proficiency will be tested on Saturday night in what should be an intriguing matchup

Positional Matchup of the Game

North Carolina’s Running Game vs Miami’s Front Seven

Based on the attrition from the roster after the debacle that was last season, it seems important for the Heels to emphasize the running game Saturday afternoon. Relying on a freshman quarterback, losing their leading receiver option Anthony Ratliff-Williams to the NFL and scarcity of depth at quarterback as well as along the offensive line is concerning.

Despite their 2018 struggles, UNC’s running game generated the most success on offense. The Tar Heels ran for 215 yards against the Hurricanes in their last meeting. 2018 leading rusher RB Michael Carter (#8) racked up 597 rushing yards, 7.1 yards-per-carry and two TDs last season. Senior RB Antonio Williams (#24) returns after turning in 504 rushing yards, five touchdowns and a 5.5 yards-per-carry average.

Western Carolina v North Carolina
Tar Heels’ RB Javonte Williams enters Saturday after a sizzling 100+ rushing yard performance against South Carolina in week one.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

After an impressive spring, sophomore RB Javonte Williams (#25) is the name that has generated the most buzz. Williams rushed for 224 yards and five touchdowns, with most of that production coming towards the tail end of the season. Fans are excited about his potential this fall, now that he’s added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame in the offseason.

The last time Miami’s defense was on the field, it was a Jekyll and Hyde situation. A group projected to be the strength of the Hurricanes turned in an uncharacteristic first half that was headlined by missed tackles, busts in coverage and fingering-pointing. The unit settled down to force three turnovers, but the group was a far cry from the dominating force that we expected. Miami’s front seven must limit a potent Tar Heels’ running game if the Canes are to emerge victorious. To accomplish the task, defensive coordinator Blake Baker will need to employ frequent rotations on D.

Caneseye Players of the Game

WR Dazz Newsome (#5) — Sam Howell is going to have his work cut out for him in the second game of his young career. The young pivot does have an array of options in the passing game to get him through. A group of freshmen and sophomores might headline UNC’s receiver group, but we’re highlighting their elder statesman. Dazz Newsome is the leading returning receiver, with 44 receptions, 506 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He’s also a dynamic punt returner with a 26.2 yards-per-return average, taking a punt to the house for a score in 2018.

I mentioned the younger wideouts making up the Heels’ receiving corp. Well, a name to know among that group is WR Antoine Green (#3). He was named a starter after turning in an impressive training camp. WR Dyami Brown (#2) enters his sophomore year after recording one reception in nine of the ten games he suited up in last season.

Amari Carter (#5)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 21 Syracuse at Miami Photo by Richard C. Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’ve been waiting for Amari Carter to be a fixture on the Canes’ defense for some time. Since he first burst onto the scene with a big hit against Florida A&M, you wanted to see what Carter could do as a fixture on UM’s defense. Now is Carter’s time. Working alongside Gurvan Hall Jr., the pair look to become the next tandem in the back half of the Canes’ defense. Carter’s ability to stonewall ball carriers will need to be on display as the Tar Heels attempt to impose their will at home. Carter’s penchant for the big hit will be the equalizer for the Canes’ defense.

DE Raymond Vohasek (#51) — A JUCO transfer that has impressed coaches in training camp, Ray Vohasek (6’3”, 280 lbs.) is projected as a high motor player with a low pad level that gives him an edge. The Illinois native will man the strongside of the offensive formation. After Miami’s struggles on the edge in week zero, Vohasek is the next man up against UM’s young offensive tackles. UM’s O-line has a chance to redeem themselves by stifling Vohasek and Tar Heels pass rush this week.

Dominique Ross (#3) — The former Trinity Christian Academy linebacker was unavailable to make an impact a weekend ago. Ross was suspended alongside Patrice Rene for their roles in UNC’s season finale loss out NC State. While Rene returned from suspension after halftime, Ross was ruled out for the entire game. The LB will attempt to make up for his week one punishment by taking out his frustration on the Hurricanes. Ross finished last season as the Heel’s fourth-leading tackler with 47 tackles. A rangy defender at 6’4”, 240 pounds, Ross is expected to be solve the missed tackles that plague UNC a week ago.

DeeJay Dallas (#13)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 24 Camping World Kickoff - Florida v Miami Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dallas showed that he doesn’t need much blocking to gash defenses for big yardage. The face of the Hurricanes won’t be denied when it comes to breaking out the big play. Dallas did a lot of his damage from the wildcat formation. I am interested in seeing Dallas do damage from various alignments, whether that’s lined up as a traditional RB, a wildcat QB or lining up wide. DeeJay Dallas is certainly high on that pecking order of players who need to get an allotted amount of touches per game.

‘Myles’ of Safety — The Tar Heels can go for Myles when it comes to play at the safety position — sorry, I couldn’t help myself. The secondary is led by a pair of safeties in Myles Dorn (#1) and Myles Wolfolk (#11). The pair combined for 78 tackles (Dorn 55, Wolfolk 23), two interceptions (Dorn), and three pass breakups. With so much youth in the front seven for Carolina, these vets will be hard-pressed to erase any mistakes that leak into the backhalf of the defense. The Tar Heels hope to improve on their 228 passing yards-per-game average, which was ninth in the ACC in 2018. Wolfolk turned in an impressive performance in UNC’s season opener, snagging two interceptions and six tackles. Pro Football Focus even credited him with no missed tackles, though he gave up one reception for four yards.

Brevin Jordan (#9) — Jordan’s touchdown reception against the Gators was a masterpiece worthy of being framed, and It’s just the beginning of what should be a breakout year for the tight end. However, to achieve glory you have to practice balance. As much as fans praise and chide the tight end for each target he receives, Jordan’s effort as a run-blocker can truly separate him from every other TE in the country. He’ll have a chance to showcase that talent against UNC.

John Campbell (#74) — It can only get better. That’s been the Hurricanes’ mantra since their week zero loss. John Campbell certainly had a game to forget in his first career start. Week two of the college football season marks the first day of his march towards redemption. UNC does not possess the edge rushers that Miami saw in their season opener. The Tar Heels will present a challenge of their own with various formations and blitzers. If we don’t hear John Campbell’s name during the broadcast, it’ll be a good thing for UM on game day.

CB Patrice Rene (#5)

Virginia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The senior missed the first half of North Carolina’s win last weekend because he was serving a suspension. Upon his return in the second half, Rene proceeded to blanket South Carolina’s star receiver Bryan Edwards. A 6’2” defensive back, the Canadian has a large wingspan that allows him to shadow matchups in coverage. Rene had two interceptions, five pass breakups and 25 tackles in 2018. He’s expected to exceed those totals in his final year at Chapel Hill. Rene will be tasked with slowing down Miami receiver Jeff Thomas this week in what will be a thrilling match up.

One Last Thing

Chaz Surratt — From Quarterback to Linebacker

What a difference a year makes. The last time Chazz Surratt played the Hurricanes, he threw three interceptions as a quarterback. This time around, Surratt will line up across from UM QB Jarren Williams. Surratt is making the transition to inside linebacker during the 2019 season. He led all UNC defenders with 12 tackles and a sack against South Carolina last weekend. Due to the suspension of LB Dominique Ross in week one, Surratt was the opening day starter at LB for the Tar Heels. Dominique Ross will be available this week, meaning Surratt will have less pressure on his shoulders. This is perhaps the most drastic position change I can remember, unlike Tate Martell’s switch from QB to WR.

305 Connection

A new feature in the Matchup Preview series will be ‘305 connection’ section that highlights players from the tri-county area. Hurricanes fans are well aware of the dearth of talent available in South Florida. This section will highlight some of the individuals, even if they didn’t sign an LOI at UM.

Virginia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Jason Strowbridge (#55) —This week’s connection comes in the form of former Deerfield Beach, Florida, native DT Jason Strowbridge. A three-star prospect according to 247 Sports out of Deerfield Beach HS, the lineman had offers from Kentucky, NC State and UCF, among others. Choosing to continue his education and career in Chapel Hill, “Strow” would become a reliable contributor after redshirting his freshman year. The 6’4”, 285 pound lineman earned All-ACC honorable mentions after the 2018 season. Miami’s offensive line will have its work cut out trying to negate the push from big No. 55.