CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 01: Giovani Bernard #26 and Bryn Renner #3 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after Bernard's touchdown against the Elon Phoenix during play at Kenan Stadium on September 1, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Offensively, North Carolina starts and ends with QB Bryn Renner and RB Giovani Bernard. Although Bernard left the Elon game in the 2nd quarter (left knee discomfort, will play Saturday from what I can discern), he put up absolutely huge numbers before he left. With the stats listed by Bernard above, it is clear that Bernard is ready to throw his hat into the ACC POY conversation.
QB Bryn Renner continued his steady play that has been expected of him by throwing for 236 yards, 3 TD's and an INT on Saturday. He also spread the ball around in an absurd manner (along with FR QB Marquise Williams), by completing passes to 14 different receivers throughout the day. Renner picked up right where he left off last season and is continuing to grow into his role as a game manager with Gio Bernard taking a lot of the pressure off of him.
In the receiving corps nearly everybody got involved. SR Erik Highsmith will likely be the guy to watch out for this weekend, as he was second on the team last year with 51 catches for 726 yards and 5 TDs. Other than Highsmith, Jheranie Boyd will need to be guarded closely too. Also, it cannot be forgotten that true FR Quinshad Davis spurned Wake Forest at the last minute to go to UNC after the Heels came in just two weeks before NSD in February. Hopefully Bud Noel and our secondary can give him some reminders about where he could have been.
The Heels run a very up-tempo offense that the Deacs have been replicating during their practice time recently. Gio Bernard is a serious threat to run or catch on every single play and the front seven for the Deacs have to get more pressure on Renner than they have been last year and against Liberty.
Defensively, Larry Fedora and DC Dan Disch are in the process of installing a 4-2-5 defense that obviously impressed on Saturday in shutting out the Elon Phoenix. Despite the presence of superstar WR Aaron Mellette of the Phoenix, the Heels were able to shut him down all afternoon. Most of the time that job fell to Jabari Brown, who got an interception on the day and kept him from beating him deep all day. They also neutralized him by putting a safety over the top (Boston most of the day), which made the cornerbacks job a little easier.
This 4-2-5 defense maximizes the speed and athleticism on the roster that the Heels have stockpiled. UNC might have one of the best front 7's in all of college football, and that starts with Sylvester Williams on the D-Line. After the loss of Quinton Coples and Zach Brown one might expect a step down in the front seven but that is not the case.
Kevin Reddick is most likely the best player period on defense and he did a great job of managing the defense all day long.
This is a pretty crucial matchup in the game on Saturday because as most readers here know, the offensive line of Wake Forest is a pretty big question mark at this point. This could be an even bigger problem, as reports of Devin Bolling potentially missing the game on Saturday arise. This would force Whit Barnes into action and move Antonio Ford out of his natural position as well.
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