Handling injuries on defense
Starting cornerback Storm Duck will remain out of the lineup for the second week in a row, and starting defensive lineman Raymond Vohasek and defensive back Ja’Qurious Conley are listed as day-to-day for the Tar Heels’ game against Florida State.
UNC won’t have to worry about containing FSU wide receiver Tamorrion Terry— who validated his selection to the All-ACC preseason team with nine receptions, 146 yards, and one touchdown against Notre Dame — after he underwent a season-ending knee surgery Thursday.
But, Duck’s loss is still significant. Three UNC defensive backs opted out of the season, and with Duck out and Conley’s status in question, the Tar Heels will likely have to deploy a very young, inexperienced group in the secondary. Anticipate Florida State to increase tight end Camren McDonald and wide receiver Ontaria Wilson's involvement in the passing game to accommodate Terry’s injury.
The Seminoles run-first offense led by quarterback Jordan Travis and running back La’Damian Webb could present a problem to the UNC rush defense that gave up 260 yards to Virginia Tech on the ground and allowed Hokies running back Khalil Herbert 7.7 yards per carry.
If Vohasek can play Saturday, it’d help the Tar Heels’ rush defense that struggled without him.
Florida State’s secondary is the fourteenth ranked passing defense in the ACC, despite junior cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., who has the second-most interceptions in the conference.
The Seminoles’ secondary allows an average of 271.2 passing yards per game to opposing offenses.
With defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, a projected first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, leading the Florida State run defense, anticipate the Tar Heels to depend less on running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams and more on quarterback Sam Howell and an Air Raid attack.
Howell is off to a strong start in his sophomore season, averaging 259 passing yards and two touchdowns per game.
The Tar Heels’ wide receiver trio of Dyami Brown, Dazz Newsome and Beau Corrales average a combined 145 receiving yards per game. Those players will need to step up against a secondary that has struggled to contain receivers.
UNC has wrestled with penalties throughout the season. Penalties against Virginia Tech helped the Hokies almost complete a 25-point comeback, and they put Boston College in a position to topple the Tar Heels with a last-minute drive.
UNC gives up 91.3 yards per game in penalties, the most in the ACC. Defensive penalties against a run-first Florida State offense could be especially costly as they would help the Seminoles win the time-of-possession battle — something they already do well.
Expect Brown to have UNC playing much more disciplined football against Florida State. If they don’t, the underdog Seminoles could make things interesting.
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