Priority #1: Running the Football

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.

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4 Responses to Priority #1: Running the Football

  1. Mike White says:

    Priority #2: T.J. Yates, learn to throw the ball away.

  2. Tar Heel Fan says:

    That too…though if they can fix #1, #2 might be an easier situation to deal with.

  3. Wayne says:

    The other day, I sent an e-mail to a couple of buddies, noting that Johnny White is just a little over 4,000 yards behind Amos Lawrence as UNC’s all time leading rusher. One of my buddies sent back an e-mail indicating he didn’t realize Johnny was that close.

    Although we didn’t mean anything personal about Johnny, it was pretty clear we are both very frustrated with the lack of a running game.

  4. triple t says:

    “Coach Davis; You have got several backs that run like grandma Moses-they do not have any speed though they have some brawn. Johnny has a little speed but it takes him too long to get his motor in gear, but he is promising. Hit the recruiting trail and look for a back that can literally fly with the ball, 4.2 to 4 .4 speed and no less. One that can find a hole quickly and his motor is at full throttle the first few steps out of the block. And by the way, tell TJ to quit throwing interceptions on the first pass of the game. JEEZ! Bobby Rome and Elzy know how to catch a pass and they know a little about how to get to the end zone and put points on the board. Get Bobby to show TJ how to throw a touchdown pass, TJ has forgootten how it is done. Tell H. Nicks he is going to make it to the next level, but he lacks the intestinal fortitude of a Steve Smith to catch the ball when he is in a vulnerable position. It is starting to show these last few games. I love those Tarheels whether in basketball ot football. C’mon boys-coach can only do so much. You guys learn to block on that line. The Tarheels have lost a load of heartbreakers this year. They ran out of time against South Carolina and frankly, I thought the officials took that game at State away from them. Dwight Jones will make them the best team on the receiving end in the ACC next year. Coach…..work the dog – – – – out of those boys on defense next preseason. Work on the offensive lines blocking schemes. The passing will be there especially if those two tall quarterbacks can outplay TJ at camp. Like I said earlier, if Carolina can get a quality back that can fly, the sky is the limit. I believe that is all that is lacking like you said coach -because your boys will be better on defense and the blocking will improve. Those are teachable things. But you cannot teach speed. Lets be the next school to go number one in basketball and football. We are so close. Boys, do not feel bad about this season, I am not partial when I say before these last two games that your record now in my eyes shows only 2 losses and 8 wins. Keep the spirit up and close out fighting and believe your coaches. This team is that close. Lets make coach Davis and North Carolina proud in 2008. Good luck and God bless.

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