Butch Davis addressed the media on Sunday and basically pointed out what everyone knew and that is UNC has no clue what they are doing when a running back has the football.
“I told the team this afternoon that that’s one of the most important, critical phases for us over the next year [and] certainly for these next two ball games,” Davis said. “It will be a crusade in the spring and it will be a crusade in training camp that we have got to be able to run the football. I think if you’re a football team that can run the football, then vicariously, you’re usually a defense that can stop the run… We’ve got to become considerably more consistent from that standpoint.”
Davis was asked on Sunday if any of the tailbacks have proven that they could possibly be the running back of the future for this program.
“I don’t see that – there’s no evidence of that right now,” Davis said. “This offseason there are several changes that we’re going to make in all three phases of our football team, and certainly probably the one single biggest emphasis going into spring practice will be some kind of clarification and an emphasis on running the football and run defense, as well.”
I think UNC’s biggest problem right now is the passing game has been trumped by the lack of offensive balance. I still think T.J. Yates is a good QB and quite serviceable on a number of levels especially with the playmakers he has at wide receiver. But if defenses can key on the pass and not worry too much about the run any QB is going to find problems getting the ball to his receivers, assuming he can find one open. Butch Davis’ statements here are a clear signal to me that he is not worried about the QB or the passing game in general. Yates has been good with room to develop and Mike Paulus could be ready to go next fall and be even better. The receivers are some of the best in the conference with guys like Greg Little developing into real threats. However, if there is no running game the passing game will never realize its potential.
Establishing a running presence keeps the opposing defense honest(and guessing) but it also is an indicator that your offensive line is controlling the line of scrimmage to some extent which also helps in terms of pass protection. On the other side the running defense has been a bugaboo at UNC for awhile. Recruiting and development will resolve some of these issues but it is encouraging to see Davis has put it at the top of the list to deal with starting with spring football into training camp next year. The main discouragement is Davis does not see a legit threat in the backfield right now which means either someone needs to show themselves in the spring(a distinct possibility since that is how Yates got the QB job) or this could take much longer to work out if it means waiting for yet unknown recruit to sign with the Heels.
At any rate, it was the difference between winning and losing on Saturday and it severely handicapped the passing game in the process. It is also near impossible to beat anyone when they can grab positive yardage on the ground with every snap. Hopefully it can be fixed, sooner rather than later.