There is a potentially frightening question for North Carolina’s football program.
It has nothing to do with when the Tar Heels’ offense finally will gel.
Nor is it about any of North Carolina’s in-state rivals.
It even goes beyond the 190 uniform combinations North Carolina has.
What happens when the last of former coach Butch Davis’ recruits are gone?
Davis’ regime undoubtedly brought unwelcome NCAA trouble to the university, but no one can deny that Davis also brought a ton of talent to Chapel Hill.
Davis is a deft recruiter, and he made the Tar Heels into a significantly better team in a matter of months.
Now, the Tar Heels are seeing the end of those benefits.
Davis recruits such as quarterback Bryn Renner, tailback A.J. Blue and tackle James Hurst all will be gone after this season.
So will safety Tre Boston, defensive end Kareem Martin and defensive tackle Tim Jackson.
Former standouts Giovani Bernard, Kevin Reddick and Quinton Coples already are gone.
Davis’ defensive mind helped North Carolina snare many talented defensive players, and in the past three years, a former UNC defensive player was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Eight of North Carolina’s 11 defensive starters Saturday at Virginia Tech were Davis recruits.
Even with the former coach’s highly-rated classes leading the way, North Carolina is 1-4 and playing poorly.
The Tar Heels haven’t been very disciplined on either side of the ball, and after the loss to East Carolina, many North Carolina players pointed to a lack of cohesiveness.
The high-flying offense new coach Larry Fedora promised upon being hired in 2011 has shown sporadic periods of success but hasn’t been consistently good yet.
Fedora’s two recruiting classes (one-and-a-half, really) were ranked 42nd and 44th in the country by Rivals.
Davis never had a class ranked lower than 32nd, and he brought three top-25 classes to Chapel Hill.
To Fedora’s credit, though, he willingly met a challenging off-the-field mess head-on, and most of his top players aren’t his guys.
Some of his recruits – like a trio of sophomore receivers led by Quinshad Davis – already are key offensive players, and Fedora will earn a free pass while the framework of his program is put into place.
North Carolina’s roster is heavily backloaded with young players, but recruiting is an inexact science and it’s difficult to say what happens when those young players reach the field.
The carrot of taking control of Davis’ former roster is all the talent he left.
It’s the transition that will define Fedora’s tenure at North Carolina, good or bad.