North Carolina safety Tim Scott is well aware of the surging expectations surrounding his offensive teammates this spring -- further motivation for the Tar Heels’ defense to catch up this fall.
“We feel as if we’re not talked about or we’re not even respected,” Scott said. “Everyone talks about our offense and how explosive they are, but we also have an explosive, physical, fast defense, and that’s really what our main point is to prove this year.”
They’ve got some work to do.
While North Carolina is considered by many to be a team on the rise in the ACC’s Coastal Division, much of that confidence is rooted in the Tar Heels’ offensive potential. North Carolina gave up 55 points in an embarrassing loss to East Carolina last year -- at home -- before improving in the second half of the season. UNC ranked 64th in the country last year in total defense and Scott said the biggest problem was miscommunication, a result of transitioning to a 4-2-5 defense.
“When coach Vic [Koenning] and coach [Larry] Fedora came in with the new 4-2-5, everyone knew their part, but in the 4-2-5 defense, you have to know what everyone is doing,” said Scott, now a leader in UNC’s secondary. “Everyone has to speak to everybody. That’s really what we didn’t get down and that’s what we’re taking the time to do this spring.
“It’s improved a lot,” he said. “Everyone can play at this level, but once you get the mental part down -- which we didn’t have down, of course, for the first six games of the season, when we went 1-5 -- we took the time after that Miami game, and we really wanted to improve in that and make sure we can show the world that the defense we’re playing is the defense that can be successful. That’s what we proved the last couple games of the season going into the bowl game and now the defense is really transitioning to keeping that up during the spring.”
UNC’s defense made significant strides in the second half of the season. Through the first six games, UNC allowed 456 yards per game, including 203.3 on the ground, and allowed 30.7 points per game. Through the final seven games (a 5-2 record), UNC allowed 357.9 yards per game, including 164.6 on the ground, and 19.1 points per game. Five of the final seven opponents were held to 20 points or fewer.
Scott said the best is yet to come -- for the defense and the offense.
“I think honestly we can be better than what we’ve been since I’ve been here,” he said. “… I know last year wasn’t the year we wanted. We had a chance to have a three-way go for the Coastal. This year our objective is to win it outright and prove to everyone that we don’t just have draft picks. We have people who can come together as a team and win games.”