Our series continues today with the Tar Heels, who will look to pick up the pace in Year 1 under coach Larry Fedora.
For a complete recap of the series, click here.
North Carolina: WR Erik Highsmith
2011 stats: Highsmith was second on the team last season with 51 catches for 726 yards and five touchdowns. UNC led the ACC in pass efficiency.
What he means to the Tar Heels: Fedora's offense is all about pace. The offensive linemen are the guys who will have to do the most adjusting, running back to the line after plays instead of huddling. This isn't exactly a cakewalk for skill position players, but they should have a slightly easier time. Quarterback Bryn Renner completed better than 68 percent of his passes and had a 2 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio in a strong first season as a starter in 2011. Having run a spread offense in high school, he will be tasked with getting his teammates up to speed this fall. The Tar Heels return a 1,000-yard rusher in Giovani Bernard, too. But Fedora's offense is all about balance, something all the more difficult to achieve with just five scholarship receivers returning. Here's where Highsmith can help, as the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder enters his senior year with 113 catches, 1,499 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns under his belt. He is the only returning wideout who caught more than 15 passes last season, and he had seven catches for 82 yards in the spring game. Having a proven senior pass-catcher like Highsmith is invaluable for an adjusting offense, and his playmaking ability should allow other receivers the opportunities to step up and help with transition in 2012. The offensive line may have to do the most adjusting, but no single player on the offense (outside of the signal-caller, of course) is more important than Highsmith.