Plenty to play for at UNC

One question facing the Tar Heels is where they will find their motivation this summer and fall without a postseason to look forward to.

Well, right here, of course.

They’ll find it in the fans who encourage them, those who doubt them, and they’ll find it in the coaching staff that urges them to make every snap count. NCAA sanctions have prohibited North Carolina from postseason competition, but the folks in Indianapolis can’t take away UNC’s desire to win. If first-year coach Larry Fedora and his assistants can get the players to learn, execute and buy into their system quickly, North Carolina can be a serious spoiler in the ACC race this year. (Can you imagine the frustration of being knocked out of the title game by a team that can’t even play for it?)

Bryn Renner is an underrated quarterback who threw for over 3,000 yards and had 26 touchdowns and played with a bone spur in his ankle last season. He’s got an outstanding offensive line to work with and one of the country’s top rushers in Giovani Bernard. Fedora has inherited enough talent to win quickly.

Aside from learning the new Xs and Os, though, this is yet another group of players at UNC that must overcome adversity and change. If they’re not playing for a trip to Charlotte or a bowl game, what ARE they playing for? Plenty.

1. The future. Fedora will lay the foundation this season for what he wants to build in Chapel Hill. This season will reveal to Fedora which players never quit. It will show him what his players can handle and what adjustments need to be made for next season. Any success this year will only help in recruiting, and the program has shown more than capable of luring in NFL talent. Speaking of NFL talent …

2. The NFL. Every Saturday is an audition for Sunday (and we all know the NFL and its agents are familiar with Chapel Hill). If any of these guys want to get to the next level (and do it the right way), they’ve got to use every opportunity they have to showcase their abilities.

3. Pride. Hey, there’s always the NC State game, right? You think these guys are gonna roll over for anybody just because their season ends in November? Behind all of the hoopla in college football is an inherent love for the sport, the reason these guys began to play in the first place. If the Tar Heels have forgotten that aspect of the game, they shouldn’t be in it.

The Tar Heels can’t be a factor in the postseason, but they can still be a factor in this year’s ACC race.