The UNC football team is preparing to open the season against South Carolina on Saturday at Duke’s Mayo Classic in Charlotte.
In their last matchup of 2021, the Tar Heels lost to South Carolina, 38-21. The upcoming game will set the tone for the team's 2023 season and is an opportunity for North Carolina to display its new offensive and defensive range off the bat.
Here are three big themes to watch for entering the first game of the season:
Adding a dominant defense
The Tar Heels held a 9-1 record before dropping the last four games of the season. Even as offensive production waned toward the end of the year, North Carolina continued to manage high scores against most opponents. Assistant head coach for defense Gene Chizik expressed the importance of consistency and increased physicality within the defensive line, which was criticized for weak performances last year.
“I sense a sense of urgency," Chizik said. "We don’t talk a lot about last year. Obviously, this is a new year, new day. Our job and our focus every day is to get better. Our guys have really set out to do that.”
With last year’s woes behind them, North Carolina is hoping to eliminate hesitation within the defense and improve overall communication to effectively counter South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler. Coming off a successful season that saw Rattler throw over 3,000 yards and record wins against Clemson and Tennessee, the Tar Heels will need to work to limit one of the best throwers in the country.