While the UNC offense continues to be a bright spot for the Heels, the defense continues to be much maligned having trouble shaking the reputation of last season. The statistical truth about the UNC defense is that it is immensely better in a variety of ways over last season. Of course when you are ranked near the bottom of all Division I-A you have nowhere to go but up. However, when you consider this is still a very young team and a little thin in spots the fact the numbers have turned around so dramatically is encouraging:
|Scoring Defense||30.5 ppg||104th||24.8 ppg||57th|
|Rushing Defense||172.75 ypg||100th||154.00 ypg||65th|
|Passing Defense||195.8 ypg||48th||193.8 ypg||37th|
|Total Defense||368.3 ypg||92nd||347.8||46th|
|3rd Down Conversions||43.1%||97th||42.1%||88th|
|Red Zone Success||93.4%||118th||82.6%||74th|
|Tackles for Loss
||3.67 TFL/G||117th||7.00 TFL/G||29th|
The most noticeable improvements are in terms of points and yards given up per game. The nearly six point drop in scoring defense is a key change from last season where opponents scored at will. The total defense has also improved being 20 yards better the 2006 version of the Heels. Also on the positive side is the increase in number of sacks and tackles for a loss. In fact the TFL is a incredible jump from being the third worst in the nation at 3.76 tackles for loss per game to 7.0 this season.
In some areas the improvements on defense have been marginal but still heading in the right direction. The lack of much progress in the opponents third down conversion rate and red zone scoring is telling in that UNC has been really unable to step up and make a big play when needed. And the only stat that did not improve is the turnover margin which has actualy gotten a tad worse. UNC has done very little in the way of forcing turnovers which has hurt the Heels ability to set themselves up while also instantly killing an opponent’s drive.
As I said previously, the defense is still not a good one but given where it was during 2006 the current state of the unit, in terms of stats, is so much better off. I also am loving the fact this team has shown some significant gains on defense despite the youth. The more experience this team gains the better the defense will get if they can stay away from the injury bug.