This North Carolina team is much different than the one the Irish faced last year. Gone are some of quarterback Sam Howell’s weapons, and it’s shown this year. Yes, an underwhelming 4-3 record that they bring to South Bend wouldn’t scare many, but that doesn’t mean the Heel’s will get walked over Saturday night. Here are five North Carolina players who could give the Irish some problems.
Tight end Kamari Morales
A bit player in his first to years in Chapel Hill, Morales has exploded in year three. Although his touchdown streak ended last week, Morales had caught one in each game leading up to the Miami, FL win.
He’s a solid blocker along with a burgeoning pass catcher, Morales has the potential to be a problem for the Irish as they will most likely roll coverage to Josh Downs side the majority of the time. The safeties will have to be aware of Morales exploiting some homes.
Linebacker Cedric Gray
Third on the team in tackles and tied for first in interceptions, Gray does a bit of everything for the Tar Heel defense. He’s forced a fumble as well, so the Irish quarterbacks have to know that Gray is a playmaker.
After working his way into the starting lineup earlier this year, he’s proven to be exactly what the UNC defense needed, a playmaker.
Wide receiver Antoine Green
Yes, we all know about leading receiver Josh Downs but Howell is going to have to look other places against the Irish secondary and Green could be that guy. He’s averaging over 20 yard-per-catch this season but has found the endzone just once.
Green is a big play waiting to happen so the Irish defense must not let him get loose or they could pay with a big play.
Defensive lineman Myles Murphy
If Jack Coan is playing, Murphy could have a pretty big day. Even if Tyler Buchner is in there, it could be more of the same. The lineman is huge, six-foot-four-inches and weighing 305-pounds but nimble.
Murphy has four sacks on the year and really gets after it against offensive lineman. The Irish line has improved since early in the season and Murphy presents another test for them this week.
Defensive back Ja’qurious Conley
Although the Irish will be missing their star defender in Kyle Hamilton, that doesn’t mean a gigantic safety won’t be roaming the field Saturday night. Conley isn’t nearly as good as Hamilton, but he’s a very solid player in his own right. He’s massive, at six-foot-five-inches and 210-pounds.
He’s made a seamless transition from linebacker to safety and has been one of the stars of the North Carolina defense. Conley has a ton of upside and again, whoever is at quarterback needs to be aware that he can cover a ton of ground.