Mark Paschal: I cannot wait to see this big JuCo defensive tackle Sylvester Williams everyone has been raving about. Our defensive line should be one of the best in the ACC and even the entire country. The presence of a big, productive defensive tackle that can disrupt the offense on a consistent basis will allow our young secondary to grow each game. It will be tough for opposing QBs to get too comfortable with a front four rotation that can apply pressure each down.
Scott Lenahan: I'm going to have to drink the Kool-Aid here and say Sylvester Williams. The reason being is that you've heard how great he's done not only from the coaches, but the players are saying it as well. When the players recognize a newcomer and call him out for playing well, then he must be doing some disruptive, things on the field. Not only that, but I'd love to see the addition he would make to our already solid defensive line. With his size and strength, he could be great at eating up blocks and giving our linebackers room to roam and make tackles.
Buck Sanders: Maybe I am playing devil's advocate here, but I am going with Giovani Bernard. I've heard the same things about Sylvester Williams as Scott and Mark, and I am anxious to see him in action, but UNC's defensive line is going to be good, very good, whether Williams fulfills the hype he's getting or not. Plug in Lee Corso next to Quinton Coples, Donte Paige-Moss, and Tydreke Powell, and even Mr. "Not so fast my friend" might look like an All-American.
Meanwhile, UNC has Ryan Houston and zero other proven commodities at running back. I think very highly of Houston's abilities, but UNC would love to see a home run hitter at running back that makes opposing teams nervous every time he touches the ball. In Houston, UNC has someone who can grind opposing defenses into dust, but I think they need someone in addition to Houston who can make defenses quake in their boots, and they are hoping Bernard is that guy.
UNC has had some incredible defensive lines over the years – where does this one rank in terms of its potential?
Mark: This Carolina defensive line has the potential to be one of the best we have seen in Chapel Hill. This group will rival the Peppers, Sims and Chapman era (you're welcome, Will). Coples, Paige-Moss, Williams and Powell are all big athletes that can make plays in the backfield and disrupt the quarterback. I hope they live up to their potential because the sky is the limit for this group. If Carolina's front seven can stop the run on first and second down they will let these horses pin their ears back and get after the quarterback. This will only help the young secondary.
Scott: We've certainly had some incredible D-lines and this one would rank right up there as one of the top five. It's still hard to overlook the D-line of 2001 with both Peppers and Simms going as first round draft picks, but the talent on this defensive line is scary. Coples, Tydreke and Paige-Moss are poised for a breakout campaign should they all stay healthy. Add in a few wild cards and great depth with younger talent and you have the formula for a disruptive defensive line. I'm certain that our D-line will cause trouble for other teams and make for watching some exciting football.
Buck: Peppers and Sims were an incredible tandem. Some of the other defensive lines in UNC history were amazing – the Greg Ellis, Vonnie Holiday years for example. Meanwhile, this may be the biggest, nastiest defensive line the Tar Heels have ever fielded.
People misunderstand Donte Paige-Moss. He's as physical a defensive end as UNC has ever had, and that includes Peppers. Coples is a freak of nature, and even if he's playing strong side defensive end, he'll be a sack master and terrorize quarterbacks. Tydreke Powell still has the best first step I've ever seen for a UNC defensive tackle. If Williams lives up to half his hype – this has the potential to be the best UNC defensive line ever across the board.
What positions or players are you going to be following and watching the most as UNC goes through fall practices?
Scott: Per usual I'll be keeping an eye on the offensive line and who's taking the leadership role there and so on. But another position that I'll be watching with particular interest is going to be the running back. I feel that there is talent on the team but we don't necessarily have anyone that has proven themselves yet to take the reins. If we could find a truly great running back, coupled with our offensive line, it could mean everything. The one thing that can really help control the tempo and outcome of the games is ball control -- if we can run the ball at will, control the clock and keep our defensive off the field as much as possible, then you'll set yourself up to winning a whole lot of games.
Mark: Obviously I am going to keep a close watch on Renner, but like I mentioned earlier, you are only as good as you are when there are live bullets flying. I am more interested in hearing that he has taken command of the offense and knows his role.
Also looking to see who wants to step up and lead this football team. Talent alone very rarely wins football games. We are in desperate need of that kid of guy. A guy to rally the troops, make sure people are going to class, lead them in the weight room, showing guys that film study is incredibly important, nutrition, sleep, rehab and prehab and the list goes on. If a team does not have a great leader on each side of the ball - that team will never realize its full potential.
Buck: I have fewer concerns about leadership than Mark does. I think Jon Cooper is a heck of a leader on the offense, and on defense Tydreke Powell and Quinton Coples are both able to take on that role, and perhaps others like Kevin Reddick.
I agree with Mark about Renner, but Scott is right about the running back spot. Again, with all due respect to "Rhino," the Tar Heels need someone who is more than a bruiser – they need someone who can house it on the right play. That's going to make everyone's job easier on offense.