North Carolina’s football team is currently fueled by its up-tempo offense but the Tar Heels’ greatest run of gridiron success came in the mid-1990s, courtesy of a defense that featured a slew of future NFL standouts.
Carolina’s 1997 squad under Mack Brown was quite possibly its best ever. The defense featured the likes Greg Ellis, Ebenezer Ekuban and Vonnie Holliday up front…Brian Simmons and Kivuusama Mays at linebacker…and Dre Bly roaming the secondary. The Tar Heels went 10-1 during the regular season, their only loss to second-ranked Florida State in ESPN’s lone College Gameday appearance in Chapel Hill. UNC destroyed Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl 42-3 to finish 11-1 and ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll.
But Brown wasn’t around for the bowl game. He accepted the head coaching job at Texas in December and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush was promoted to replace him. Torbush would be gone after three seasons.