Photo by Alex Kormann
Maybe you grew up with a sibling (or siblings). You get along, for the most part, but you tease each other. You poke fun, but you love one another. You can tear each other down, even brutally, but at the end of the day, family is family.
And then somebody else picks on your sibling, talks about your family. Oh, no. No. No. No. No. No. This will not stand.
North Carolina is, um, not good. Tar Heels well on their way to 1-4, trailing Georgia Tech 24-0. Knew it would be a rebuilding year, but ...— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) September 30, 2017
You can fight at the dinner table with your family, but if the nosy neighbor drops by to point out your flaws, well, it's on. No, thank you. You can turn right around and go home.
If one had just been checking scores or flipping channels and happened upon Carolina's game with Georgia Tech on Saturday, one might have the reaction that Pat Forde did. Yes, you knew it would be a rebuilding year. Of course it would. Carolina lost Mitch Trubisky, Nazair Jones, Elijah Hood, T.J. Logan, Mack Hollins, Ryan Switzer, Caleb Peterson, Bug Howard, Des Lawrence, Mikey Bart, Jon Heck, Dominquie Green, Nick Weiler and Lucas Crowley from last year's team, among others. In 2017, they returned players responsible for 82 of the 5,707 yards of total offense the team put up last year. That is 1.4 percent.
With Switzer, Howard and Hollins gone, the Tar Heels returned 1,123 of last year's 3,811 receiving yards. And that was before the season began. Now, Thomas Jackson and Austin Proehl are out for the season due to injury. So too is tight end Carl Tucker. The only Tar Heels suiting up Saturday who caught a pass last season were Brandon Fritts, Anthony Ratliff-Williams, Jake Bargas, Jordon Brown, Devin Perry and Josh Cabrera. Those six combined for 14 catches last year; Carolina completed 313 passes a year ago.
It's a perfect storm, this mix of inexperience and injuries. The inexperience we knew about; the injuries have been inordinate and unfair.
And so, when Carolina's young offense couldn't move the ball, and Carolina's defense, God bless them, did what they could against Paul Johnson's flex-bone, possession offense but often couldn't get off the field without Andre Smith and Tyler Powell (out for the season), the result is a 33-7 loss.
The offensive line is patchwork. The playmakers are dropping like flies. The quarterback is a sometimes too quick, sometimes too hesitant redshirt freshman. These are the growing pains (quite literally) of 2017.
You don't want to write off this season. You want to show up in Kenan Stadium and see a contender, see a team that will play hard on every down, fight for every yard, make every tackle. And they're going to try to do that. But it's time to embrace this: Carolina has been dealt almost an unfair hand in 2017, and the best thing to do is to look forward to looking back on this season as one in which the team grew up. Under extraordinary circumstances, they showed up and played hard, victorious or not, and gained invaluable experience for the years to come.
Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels have seven games remaining in the 2017 regular season. They will play 11 players on offense and defense, 11 on special teams, and those players will be expected to execute. They're going to do a lot of growing up this season.
If you're a Tar Heel fan and you just want to see wins, you're frustrated, angry, mystified. But hang in there. It's a rebuilding year. It just is.
And if you're a national college football writer and you knew it was going to be a rebuilding year, congratulations to you.