Consider me cautiously optimistic about the immediate future. As far as the offense goes, they have lived up and even surpassed expectations. Our offense staff, especially Warinner and Herman, have done a tremendous job in developing and using our talent effectively, especially considering most of the players weren't recruited under Urban's regime. If Braxton comes back I think our offense has even more room to grow than this past year, I fully expect Warinner to develop 3 O-linemen to play along side Decker and Efflien. Braxton will only get better at distributing the football (he has improved substantially in every offseason thus far), Hyde was great but we have tremendous depth behind him, we are returning all of our TE's (the best group Urban claims he's ever had), and only losing Philly Brown at WR. If Braxton can improve his touch and intermediate passing and Warinner develops 3 o-linemen to an above average level, I doubt our offense will lose us any games next year no matter who we play.
And now for the defense. From a personnel standpoint I see the natural talent only being better. Our defensive line is losing no one from an already young and talented group, this unit has the chance to be something special with another offseason to get better. Linebackers is our biggest worry after losing Shazier. I see a lot of Nickel being played next year with Perry and Grant/Kwon out there. The young depth is great for future, but it is hard for a true freshman to come in an play such a complicated position effectively, you don't see it happen very often. Hopefully Mitchell or Johnson is up for the task being the 3rd linebacker. As for the DB's, replacing Roby won't be easy but between Reeves, Burrows, Apple, Conley, Webb, and Lattimore, you have to think one of them steps up to be a great corner for us next year. As for the Safety position I see Bell and Powell being a significantly better starting tandem than Brown and Barnett.
Next year, a lot like this year, comes down to the coaching of the defensive staff. I personally think Withers will be an addition by subtraction, a lot of North Carolina fans were happy to see him go and its not hard to understand why. The Safety group, whom was Wither's responsibility, was never great with Barnett and Bryant, and was nothing short of bad when Brown replaced Bryant. When Wither's was here our defense was never good, hardly even average. Not all his fault, but it's not a coincidence our defense was never good when he had a big role in it. Fickell is somewhat in the same boat, our linebackers were not up to Ohio State standards these past two years which I don't understand why considering Fickell has coached some great ones in the past. His play calling has left a lot to be desired too, how many times can you run a soft zone and think it will work? Clemson themselves said they had so much success because they saw a lot of it. I fully trust in UFM handling the Fickell situation, if he views Fickell as a liability he will be gone. Urban said he needs a homerun hire to replace Withers, and homerun hire just might result in a homerun type of season.