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Friday December 9th

Analysis: Three transfers aim to make immediate impact for UNC football

Transfer UVA graduate edge-rush Noah Taylor (7) speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.
Buy Photos Transfer UVA graduate edge-rush Noah Taylor (7) speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

In North Carolina football's season opener against Florida A&M on Aug. 27, spectators will see a handful of new faces on the field and the sideline.

Assistant head coach for defense Gene Chizik will be making his second debut with the program, after previously serving in a similar role with the Tar Heels from 2015-16. He'll look to turn around a defense that allowed the third-most points in the ACC last season, while new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. will aim to redirect a unit that allowed the most sacks in the conference last year.

Five transfers — three defensive players and two offensive linemen — joined the program and will look to make an impact under Chizik and Bicknell Jr. 's tutelage.  Here’s a look at some key transfers and where they fit in the rotation.

Noah Taylor, edge rusher

The 6 foot, 5 inch graduate out of Virginia has played 44 career games and started in 31. Taylor is listed on the roster as a jack — a hybrid of defensive end and linebacker — which is a testament to his versatility. 

Taylor’s adaptability has contributed to his knack for making big plays. In 35 games over his last three seasons, he made 170 tackles, 13.5 sacks and three interceptions. One of his best performances came in a loss to North Carolina last season, where he made 12 tackles. 

The Tar Heels allowed the fifth-most rushing yards per game in the ACC last season. The addition of Taylor should assist star junior defensive linemen Myles Murphy and Desmond Evans in making some noise in the trenches against opposing offensive lines.

Corey Gaynor, offensive line

The Miami graduate was one of the best offensive linemen for the Hurricanes in his junior season, starting all 11 regular-season games at center and serving as one of four team captains. However, Gaynor suffered a season-ending injury in 2021, which resulted in him making only three starts.

Last season, Quiron Johnson shouldered most of the center duties for UNC. Johnson elected not to return for his sixth year, putting graduate center Brian Anderson and Gaynor in the position to take the majority of the snaps. Gaynor will most likely start over Anderson, but both linemen are expected to see significant field time.

The Tar Heels are known for their explosive offense but have struggled in years past with quarterback protection.

Last season, then-junior quarterback Sam Howell saw a significant decrease in passing yards and touchdowns while boosting his rushing numbers, as he was often forced to scramble out of pocket pressure due to the offensive line collapsing. With the addition of Gaynor, a clean pocket could lead to more passing opportunities for the incoming starting quarterback.

Spencer Rolland, offensive line

The 310-pound Harvard graduate stands at 6 feet, 6 inches and earned first team All-Ivy League honors in his senior season with the Crimson. Rolland is projected to start at right tackle but has seen limited playing time, especially against major conference opponents. Since the Ivy League canceled athletics in 2020 due to COVID-19, Rolland didn’t even have a junior season.

Two veteran UNC linemen from last season — Joshua Ezeudu and Marcus McKethan — were selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, opening up opportunities for Rolland and linemen William Barnes, Ed Montilus and Asim Richards. It will be up to the Tar Heels to put these pieces together to ignite a new-look offense.

@danielhwei

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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