On defense, the Tarheels return six starters for 2015. None of the returning Tarheels players were elected by ACC Coaches to any of the ACC Conference Defensive Teams. 2014 All-ACC ACC Coaches Football Team
This fact is unsurprising considering that in 2014 the Tar Heels finished last in the ACC in total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, rushing defense and red zone defense.
So far my post is favorable to the idea that the Gamecocks offense will produce during the 2015 opening game. However, the rest of it is not.
The Tarheels new Defensive Coordinator is Gene Chizik. Chizik is not focused on the Tarheels dismal 2014 defensive stats. He is revamping the Tarheels old 4-2-5 defense to install a physical, pressuring 4-3 scheme. He is changing the Tarheels practice philosophy. His predecessor, Vic Koenning, opted to practice defense with a minimal amount of hitting. Chizik promises his 2015 Tarheels defense will hit often and hard.
This last point is quite interesting. Some of the fan criticism of the Gamecocks 2014 defense attributed problems therein to a lack of physical play during practice. Physical practices run counter to the HBC philosophy of minimizing practice injuries. It would seem, however, that the Tarheels new defensive leader is old school. He implements physical practices as a means of preparing a physically intimidating defense. Which philosophy is smarter?
One other thing about Chizik. He is one of few who (while coaching at Auburn) has Spurrier’s number. Since 2000, Chizik is 3-0 against Spurrier. He has beaten the HBC at home, away, and on a neutral field.
If you consider the Tarheels 2014 defensive performance, you figure a shootout between the Tarheels and Gamecocks is forthcoming. You are confident of a Gamecock win.
If you consider the Chizik factor you become concerned. You think that the Gamecock defense better be ready to take on that experienced Tarheels offense and its all-star quarterback. You hope your inexperienced quarterback Connor Mitch looks as good in a real game. You cling to the promise of Pharoh, Shamier, Jerell, Deebo Samuel and Terry Googer. You believe in the offensive line, David Williams, Brandon Wilds, and Shon Carson. You calculate that nobody can beat the HBC four times in a row.