Starters: Kendric Burney (#16), Charles Brown (#12)
Key Reserves: Jordan Hemby, Tavorris Jolly, LaCount Fantroy, Richie Rich
Overview: Deunta Williams may be the most hyped defensive back on the roster, but cornerback Kendric Burney may be even more pivotal to the success of Carolina’s pass defense. The fellow Freshman All-ACC player was 7th on the team with 50 total tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss. Despite only one interception and four pass deflections on the year, he succeeded in shutting down opposing receivers on a consistent basis, virtually shutting down the passing game in one half of the field. (Interesting sidenote: Burney played baseball in high school, and was good enough to be a part of UNC’s preseason baseball team at training camp. Ultimately, he decided to concentrate on football and left the roster.)
Burney is flanked by an equally impressive underclassman in Charles Brown. Unlike Burney, Brown had to enter the starting lineup after senior Jermaine Strong had a season-ending leg injury against Virginia Tech, and Tavorris Jolly’s outing against Miami did not work out so well. An oft-used nickelback prior to getting the call, Charles impressed in the final five games of the season, and finished among the top five in team tackles. If Brown doesn’t play to expectations this year, just be glad he isn’t a kicker.
Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
The two cornerbacks are both under 5’10”, but what they lack in size they make up for in speed and awareness. They may have only combined for three interceptions, but two of those picks were returned for touchdowns (granted, both against NC State).
As with the safeties, the Heels had better hope that Burney and Brown stay healthy; the rotation behind them is still a bit of an enigma.
Outlook: I am very confident that Burney and Brown can hold their own at the corners. Combined with the two starting safeties, Carolina’s starting secondary should be one of the better units in the conference. If one of the starters gets hurt, however, it’s anybody’s guess how it will turn out. As with most things Tar Heel Football, I’m cautiously optimistic.