CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 23 North Carolina

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2013 record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 in ACC (5th in Coastal Division)
2013 postseason: Belk Bowl vs. Cincinnati (39-17 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked
Head coach: Larry Fedora (49-29 overall; 15-10 in 2 years at UNC)
Co-Offensive coordinators: Gunter Brewer (3rd season at UNC); Chris Kapilovic (3rd season at UNC)
2013 offensive rankings: 85th rushing offense (148.31 ypg); 28th passing offense (277.4ypg); 49th total offense (425.7 ypg); 43rd scoring offense (32.7 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 9
Defensive coordinator: Dan Disch (3rd season at UNC)
2013 defensive rankings: 83rd rushing defense (182.38 ypg); 50th passing defense (220.7 ypg); 64th total defense (403.1 ypg); 43rd scoring defense (24.5 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Stadium: Kenan Memorial Stadium (63,000; natural grass)
Last conference title: 1980

THE GOOD
If you believe in ending one year on a high note having any impact on the following season, then consider UNC the team to beat in the ACC Coastal Division. The Tar Heels ended the 2013 season by winning five of their final six regular season games to become eligible for postseason play and then ran away from Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. Few teams ended the year on a hotter streak than the Tar Heels, so the pressure will be on to not have to dig out of a hole in the early going this season. Fortunately, despite losing some key players on offense like tight end Eric Ebron, Fedora’s offense should be ready to get off to a quick start this season. Now in year three under Fedora, the offense and defense both seem to be progressing and are expected to continue that development this fall. The defense returns seven starters, which should help that cause early on.

THE BAD
North Carolina tends to play some undisciplined football, and that can come back to haunt a team at any given time. The Tar Heels were called for a penalty more than any other team in the ACC (96 penalties), besides Syracuse (99 penalties). No other school in the ACC had more than 81 penalties last season. Those penalties add up as well. The average penalty yardage per game against UNC was 63.9 ypg, the most in the ACC (831 yards in total). That is more yards than two teams rushed for all of last season (Purdue and Washington State). UNC has to kick this habit. The Tar Heels have been ranked 9th or lower in the ACC in penalty yardage each season since 2009.

THE UNKNOWN
North Carolina can be a pretty good team if everything is working in sync right from the start. That has been a problem for Fedora’s Tar Heels since he arrived in Chapel Hill. North Carolina can be a streaky team it seems, but in a division that could be wide open for the taking, a slow start or a lull somewhere in the middle of the year is not going to have a good result. When UNC is firing on all of Fedora’s Red Bull-fueled cylinders, they can be the class of the ACC Coastal. The schedule throws some challenges with road games at Clemson, Miami and Duke, but if UNC is at the top of its game then all three are games capable of being won. Does this team have the mentality to take charge as the top team in the Coastal? That remains to be seen.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Miami
There are a few games worth noting for North Carolina this season (at Clemson on September 27 and home against Virginia Tech on October 4 perhaps being equally as worthy), but the road game at Miami could be the game that swings the entire race in the ACC Coastal in favor of the Tar Heels. In what could easily be a wide-open division race with as many as four or five teams in the hunt into November, division games will be critical. Heading into a bye week with a win and some momentum could be huge for UNC as they finish up at home against Pittsburgh and NC State with a road game at Duke in-between.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: QB Marquise Williams
There has been much to say about a quarterback competition in Chapel Hill heading into the 2014 season, but Williams may be the best option to go with after the way he helped spark the second half success last fall. Last fall Williams completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,698 yards and 15 touchdowns, with six interceptions. He also ended the season as UNC’s leading rusher with 536 yards and a team-high six touchdowns. He gives opposing defenses something to think about when he is on the field, and he may give Fedora more wrinkles in the playbook.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

South Carolina’s Javon Charleston suspended after arrest on assault, burglary charges

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If you had the SEC in “next conference to reset the Days Without An Arrest ticker” pool, go ahead and collect your winnings.

According to the Columbia State, South Carolina’s Javon Charleston was arrested earlier this month on one count each of assault and burglary.  The charges stem from an incident that occurred during the early-morning hours of June 17.

The alleged victim claims that Charleston, after she stopped responding to his text messages, broke into her house and, after finding her in bed with another male, engaged in a verbal altercation with the man and ultimately chased him out of the residence.  It was after that when the woman claims she was physically assaulted by Charleston, who allegedly referred to her as a “dirty slut” in the process of the alleged assault.

Charleston, the newspaper wrote, “told the police he knew the woman and the code to get into the residence and that he went to check on her when she stopped texting him, believing that she was drunk.”

As a result of the arrest, Charleston has been indefinitely suspended by the football program.

Charleston was initially a walk-on to the Gamecocks who was placed on scholarship during summer camp last year. The wide receiver/defensive back appeared in 13 games last season, with most of those appearances coming on special teams.  He has been competing for a starting safety job throughout the offseason.

Chad Morris finally finalizes $3.5 million contract with Arkansas

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Chad Morris was hired in early December and has already gone through his spring practice at Arkansas but just signed that big new contract with the school this week.

The practice of working for a new program but not formally signing a contract isn’t new (just ask Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher) but all the parties in Fayetteville finally got pen to paper in recent days to finalize the deal, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The deal runs through the end of the 2023 season and will pay Morris roughly $3.5 million in base salary with plenty more available for the head coach to collect in bonuses:

Morris will be eligible for up to $1 million in competition-based bonuses and $200,000 in academic-based bonuses each year, and is eligible for three retention payments of $500,000 apiece, contingent that no “significant” NCAA violations have occurred and the program is not on NCAA probation at the time the payments are due in February of 2019, 2021 and 2023.

(AD Hunter) Yurachek said he signed the contract last Friday and it was executed with the signatures of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville chancellor Joseph Steinmetz and UA system president Donald Bobbitt this week.

Thankfully, there’s no complicated buyout structure like there was with former head coach Bret Bielema. If Morris wants to leave for another job, he’d owe $3 million prior to Dec. 31, 2019 and decreasing amounts each year afterward. If he’s fired by the school before the final day of 2022, he will receive 70 percent of his $3.5 million annual salary until the end of 2023. If he is fired on or after Jan. 1, 2023, he will take the full $3.5 million he’s owed.

Funny enough though, according to the Democrat Gazette, his boss still hasn’t signed his own deal with the school despite being formally hired the day before Morris was last December. One down, one to go we guess.

Clemson AD Dan Radakovich rules out alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium

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Death Valley is staying dry.

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich spoke to the Post and Courier this week and pretty flatly rejected joining the burgeoning bandwagon in college athletics and allowing beer and/or alcohol sales at the Tigers’ football stadium.

“It hasn’t been a huge topic here because we really don’t look at that as something moving forward inside Memorial Stadium that is on our list of things to get done,” Radakovich said. “There’s a different atmosphere at our games.”

Alcohol is not sold anywhere at the stadium for Clemson home games though there are some unique cases where fan can bring some to specific areas prior to game day for consumption after kickoff.

The policy stands in stark contrast to some of their fellow ACC schools, as everybody from Pitt to Louisville to Wake Forest have begun sales. There’s been significant debate in the SEC on opening things up on the same front and major programs like Penn State to smaller ones like Fresno State are cashing in on the new revenue stream.

It doesn’t sound like the Tigers will be joining them anytime soon.

“Our people in the parking lot have a good time. There’s no question about that,” Radakovich added. “But inside the stadium, I think it’s a little different.”

Mike Gundy and AD Mike Holder will be together at Oklahoma State at least through 2021

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Mike Gundy and Mike Holder better patch up their relationship because both are set to be in Stillwater a lot longer.

Days after the Cowboys head coach and athletic director got into an interesting back-and-forth over the former’s recruiting prowess following the latter’s comments, Holder received a new contract extension that will keep him at the school through 2021.

Gundy himself is signed a year beyond that as part of the new five-year deal he inked after the 2017 season.

The new deal with Holder includes a hefty six-figure raise from the $644,371 he made from the school last year. There was a point early in his tenure where he was one of the Big 12’s lowest paid AD’s but that story has shifted significantly over the years as OSU’s budget has climbed, with the school taking in some $93 million in revenue according to the latest figures.

Given all of the new contracts, hopefully both Holder and Gundy will both have a conversation in the coming months to get back on the same page and patch up their relationship — because both are set to be attached at the hip in Stillwater for several more years.