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UNC's Ryan Switzer ties NCAA return record in Belk Bowl win

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Jeremy Brevard / USA Today Sports
North Carolina's Eric Ebron, who has announced he is going pro, had seven receptions for 78 yards in the Belk Bowl.

North Carolina had two returns for touchdowns, including a record-setting punt return by freshman wide receiver Ryan Switzer, in cruising past Cincinnati, 39-17, in the Belk Bowl.

Switzer returned a punt 86 yards for a TD early in the third quarter to give UNC a 29-3 lead. It was his fifth TD on a punt return this season, tying the NCAA single-season mark set by Hawaii's Chad Owens in 2005; the career record is eight. All five of Switzer's TDs came in the final five games of the season for the Tar Heels (7-6), who won six of their final seven games. Their only loss in that span was by two points to Duke.

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UNC also received a kickoff-return TD from freshmen tailback T.J. Logan that gave the Heels a 16-0 lead late in the first quarter. That return came on a free kick following a safety. Logan also was the Heels' leading rusher, with 77 yards on 15 carries.

While freshmen played big roles for the Tar Heels, their best pro prospects, for the most part, also stepped up. Junior tight end Eric Ebron, who already has announced he is going pro, led UNC with seven receptions for 78 yards; he probably will be the first tight end selected in the May draft. Senior defensive end Kareem Martin had four tackles and the sack that set up Logan's return touchdown. Senior safety Tre Boston, who lined up a lot at linebacker Saturday because of injuries, had an interception and nine tackles. Senior cornerback Jabari Price had six tackles and a fumble recovery. Senior defensive tackle Tim Jackson had a tackle and a pass breakup. But senior offensive tackle James Hurst suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and didn't return.

Martin is 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds and has been clocked at 4.73 seconds in the 40. He is a prospect to watch going forward. Martin always has been stout against the run but became a legitimate pass-rushing threat this season, finishing with 11.5 sacks after entering the season with eight in his career. He could go as early as the second round.

Boston has excellent physical tools and 13 career picks, but he takes far too many chances and lacks consistency. He should test well in pre-draft drills, but will those numbers overshadow the inconsistency that will show up on tape?

UNC looks as if it should be a contender in the ACC Coastal Division next season. Even without Ebron, the offense is filled with playmakers, and four starters -- all but Hurst -- will return along the line. Defensively, UNC must become more physical along the line and especially at linebacker. Injuries did hamper the linebackers this season, but there doesn't appear to be a true standout linebacker on the roster.

Cincinnati (9-4) had a nice record, but the Bearcats beat just one team with a winning record, Houston, and were dominated by a mediocre Illinois team. There is a nice group of tailbacks for run-oriented coach Tommy Tuberville, and in junior Eric Lefeld, Cincy should have one of the nation's top 10 or so offensive tackles next season. The defense should be fine, too, and the Bearcats should be a top contender for the AAC title assuming quarterback Gunner Kiel -- a former mega-recruit who sat out this season after transferring from Notre Dame -- can handle the starting job.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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