Quinshad Davis could take big leap in loaded UNC offense

Everyone in the ACC is talking about Clemson's offense, which isn't a surprise considering the Tigers feature QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins.

The Tigers led the ACC in offense last season, when they won 11 games, and that unit is the main reason the Tigers rank No. 7 in the preseason coaches' poll.

But would it really be that big a surprise if North Carolina leads the league in offense this fall? No, it wouldn't.

This will be the second season for coach Larry Fedora, and both he and QB Bryn Renner say it took about a half-season last fall for the offense to truly get comfortable. The Tar Heels averaged 41 points and 484.2 yards per game in their final five games en route to an 8-4 finish. As productive as the offense was, UNC was just 3-2 in those games because the defense too often resembled a sieve.

Renner, the No. 3 senior quarterback on NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah's list of the top 50 college players, threw for 3,356 yards and 28 TDs last season. It's not a stretch to expect at least 3,700 yards, and flirting with 4,000 yards is a possibility.

His comfort in the offense is one reason. The lack of an established featured back is another reason, meaning the ball could be in the air more often this season. The biggest reason he could reach 4,000, though, is that he has a deep receiving corps with which to work.

Especially impressive is sophomore WR Quinshad Davis, who could be a candidate for national breakout player of the year. He got by on sheer talent alone last season as a true freshman, leading the Heels with 61 catches and 776 yards and tying for the team lead with five TDs. Davis (6-feet-4, 205) doesn't have elite speed, but he covers a lot of ground with his long strides and already is savvy enough to use his big body to his advantage. This season, Davis truly knows the offense and coach Larry Fedora has spoken of a 100-catch season.

Junior TE Eric Ebron should be one of the most productive players in the nation at his position. Ebron (6-4, 245) had 40 catches last season, and possesses the speed to get deep and the hands and athleticism to be effective across the middle. He also is a physical blocker and could end up as one of the top three all-around tight ends nationally this season.

Big things are expected, too, from speedy sophomore T.J. Thorpe, who missed last season with a broken foot. He made his mark as a kickoff returner in 2011, setting a school record with 960 return yards. Junior Sean Tapley is another player who could emerge; he had 26 receptions and five TDs last season, and like Thorpe, he can be an effective deep threat.

Coaches also like true freshman Ryan Switzer, who played running back in high school in West Virginia but lined up as a starting slot receiver Monday during the first day of fall camp. On National Signing Day, UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson raved about Switzer and said he could be used all over the field by the Heels.

Sophomores Kendrick Singleton and Damien Washington and true freshman Johnathan "Bug" Howard also will be in the mix.

In addition, Fedora's offense calls for a lot of passes to the running backs. Last fall, Gio Bernard -- who left school early and was a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in April -- was third on the team with 47 receptions. Senior A.J. Blue is this season's likely starter at tailback, but he must prove he can be an effective receiver after catching just nine passes last season.

Follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin

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