Entering the season, the coaching staff knew that retooling the defensive line would be a top priority following the loss of defensive standouts Jason Strowbridge and Aaron Crawford.
These departures allowed junior Raymond Vohasek and sophomore Tomari Fox to start on Saturday. The tandem impressed and combined for three of the team’s seven sacks.
After making an impact in his first career start, Vohasek drew praise from his teammates.
“Ray is just a dog,” sophomore defensive back Don Chapman said. “You see it every day in practice, him just going 100 percent all the time, so just being behind him and watching him work is a great thing to see.”
One of Vohasek’s strengths is his willingness to embrace physicality, something that is valued at his position.
After spending a large portion of his junior college career with a nagging shoulder injury, 2020 was Vohasek's first offseason to prepare at the D-I level. Saturday's game proved to be an opportunity for him to show his teammates that he was back at full strength.
“That’s what you’re looking for in a defensive lineman – a physical guy who’s going to get his hands dirty,” Wolfolk said.
As he makes the adjustment to his new starting role, Vohasek vowed to stay authentic to the only style of play he’s ever known.
“I just like to play with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I always took pride in playing with an edge, being physical and getting in the trenches. It’s something I’ve done since I was a little kid.”
Following an offseason where the bulk of the defense’s preparation was done virtually through Zoom, the unit was pleased with the seven-sack performance. The Tar Heels held the Orange to just 68 rushing yards and 134 yards in the air.
Still, despite the strong showing, Vohasek stressed the importance of consistently playing with high effort.
“I think it can be a confidence booster, but it’s time to move onto next week” he said. “Obviously, it’s good to do it, and we enjoyed it through Sunday night, but it’s really about producing week in and week out.”
On Sunday, the Tar Heels were ranked No. 12 in the AP poll, the team’s highest ranking since December 2015. As the rest of the nation takes note of the team, the group remains focused on what lies ahead.
“We tell ourselves, be ready to play and everything else will work out after that,” Wolfolk said. “We understand that we have a standard, and if we play up to that standard, we know we’re going to be a good team.”
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