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Key Hire Upcoming for UNC

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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After a chaotic couple of years, the Tar Heels are at a crossroads.

With Larry Fedora out at North Carolina, the Tar Heels join the list of teams looking for a new head coach. This hire, for UNC, is a critically-important one. The Tar Heels have had numerous off the field issues, lost a combined 18 games the past two years and all of the momentum from the 2015 run that took them to the ACC Championship Game has faded. While recent struggles have been significant, there is room for upward mobility for this sleeping giant; every team in the ACC Coastal Division lost at least five games this fall and there is no established hierarchy on that side of the conference. There is promise with this position. 

Three years ago, North Carolina won eleven consecutive games in a single season. Since that point, however, there have been many losses and distractions alike. From Fedora's off-the-mark comments at the ACC Kickoff to the Tar Heels' shoe-selling scandal, recent storylines were commonly negative. Down the stretch of this season, the result of a coaching change seemed largely inevitable. The finish to the North Carolina State game on Saturday, with a late on-field scuffle, surely didn't help.    

North Carolina is in need of direction, stability and, post-Fedora, a new identity. This opportunity is one the Tar Heels need to get right.

In what has been a wild stretch in the ACC Coastal, the correct hire could soon come with a springboard in the standings. There is and has been a consistency vacuum amongst the Tar Heels and their divisional peers, one that the right coach will have a chance to capitalize on. Given that John Bunting and Butch Davis stepped into an era where Virginia Tech was dominant and Fedora, who did some good work in Chapel Hill, took over a program facing sanctions, this new coach will have a starting point in the ACC Coastal that his predecessors did not have.  

The head coaching hire, and also the assistant assignments, will introduce the Tar Heels' new brand and philosophies. Correspondingly, the moves will also set the tone ahead of the important and rapidly-approaching early signing period. Recruiting, understandably, could use a major boost. When it comes to evaluating and offering prep talent, the new staff will have to hit the ground running.  

Whoever takes over the roster will inherit some proven players, especially on offense; the Tar Heels are set to return the vast majority of their production, including multiple quarterbacks with first-team experience, every running back, their top six pass-catchers and four starting offensive linemen. Even in a terribly disappointing season, North Carolina still beat Pittsburgh, the division champion, and played Cal, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Duke and Virginia Tech within seven points. 

Rumors are now in full swing. Featured names for the opening include: former ESPN analyst Mack Brown, head coach of the Tar Heels from 1988-1997, Clemson co-Offensive Coordinator Tony Elliott, North Texas head coach and former UNC offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield and Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. For a variety of reasons, program potential included, North Carolina should be considered an attractive job.

The UNC name is big and so, too, are the possibilities.  For a prominent program in one of the more fertile recruiting states in the country, consistent success should be the expectation.

After a chaotic couple of years, the Tar Heels are at a crossroads. While every coaching change is significant, this timing of and circumstances around this hire make it extra important.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports