Early Preview: North Carolina

The start of the college football season is less than a month away so lets take an early look at Miami's 2012 opponents. Today, we look at North Carolina.

2011 Season: 7-6 (lost to Miami, 30-24)

The Quarterback: Bryn Renner. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, the junior is one of the top quarterbacks coming back in the ACC. In his first season as the starter in 2011, Renner threw for 3,086 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He was at his best at the end of the season, too, showing improvement throughout the year. He threw for 815 yards over his final three games, with seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. Renner had one of his better performances against the Canes, throwing for 288 yards and a pair of scores. He's not a running threat but will be one of the best pure passers in the league and one of the top signal-callers Miami will face all season.

Best Offensive Player: Gio Bernard. At 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, the talented sophomore grew up in South Florida and played his prep football at St. Thomas Aquinas High. He was a three-star player, who wasn't offered a scholarship by Randy Shannon and his staff. After redshirting in 2010 because of an injury, Bernard exploded in 2011. He finished the season with 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. As good as he was between the tackles, he was just as dangerous as a pass-catcher. He brought in 45 passes for 365 yards while becoming one of the most productive all-around players in the entire conference. Bernard has the size and toughness to get yards between the tackles and the speed and athleticism to make things happen on the outside. He'll be one of the best running backs Miami faces in 2012.

Top Defensive Player: Kevin Reddick. At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, Reddick will be entering his fourth season as a starter for the Tar Heels. In addition to having the necessary instincts to be around the ball a lot and make a lot of tackles, he flashes playmaking ability too. He has a couple interceptions during his career, a few sacks, and has made lots of plays behind the line of scrimmage. UNC lost some key defensive linemen from last year, which may impact Reddick's play, but this kid is still one of the best linebackers in the entire league.

2012 Outlook: After a 5-1 start last season, the Tar Heels collapsed, finishing just 2-5 over their final seven games. The offense really struggled at times (they were shutout against arch-rival NC State) and their defensive really struggled at times (Missouri hung 41 on them in the bowl game). Renner leads what should be a very productive offense, with Bernard running behind a very good offensive line. Their defense will be the key. They lost some key players from last year's unit and will be much younger in 2012. They'll likely suffer through some early-season growing pains under new coach Larry Fedora but he was left with a lot of young talent on the roster -- many of whom were recruited by former coach Butch Davis.

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