2014 ACC Wish Lists: North Carolina And Pittsburgh
By Matt Phifer
North Carolina and Pittsburgh both turned 6-6 records into bowl victories in 2013. With lots of returning talent, expect more from both of these squads.
North Carolina is a football program on the rise with many young playmakers. In fact, true freshmen and sophomores scored more than 40 touchdowns in 2013 for the Tar Heels. Marquise Williams was a major spark at quarterback. He played in every game and became the primary quarterback when Bryn Renner went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in the North Carolina State game. Still, Williams threw for 1,698 yards and ran for another 536 yards. One can only imagine what Williams will accomplish as the starter for an entire season.
There will be questions on the offensive line as left tackle James Hurst and center Russell Bodine head to the NFL. North Carolina's recruiting class already includes three offensive linemen. One of them may get asked to step up in their first season in Chapel Hill.
Pittsburgh must try to move on without one of the most decorated college players in recent history in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Still, Pitt returns three of its top four tacklers, including Ray Vinopal and Anthony Gonzalez, who should help Pitt's defense keep up the pressure on opposing offenses.
Pittsburgh will look for improvement from the offensive line. Pitt only averaged 3.6 yards per rush in 2013, an average which should improve with lots of experience returning. Pittsburgh has a great dual rushing threat in James Conner and Isaac Bennett, who combined for almost 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2013. Expect more from them as Chad Voytik most likely settles in to his roll as the starting quarterback for the Panthers.
The Panthers new quarterback loses number two wide receiver Devin Street, but still has leading receiver Tyler Boyd as the number one target through the air. If other receivers like Manasseh Garner can step up into a larger role, Pitt's offense could experience a good 2014 campaign.
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