Spring Football

What is this “football” you speak of?

At the risk of looking like a UNC fan who does not care about football, I have largely ignored the fall sport mainly because blogging a deep NCAA Tournament run is time consuming enough.  UNC wrapped up it’s spring practice with a scrimmage this past Monday which replaced the annual spring game that had been cancelled due to weather two days before.

Last season’s starting QB T.J. Yates did not participate in drills since he was going through rehab on a surgically repaired shoulder.  Yates was cleared to begin throwing again and Butch Davis indicated Yates was still the starter for next season.  The absence of Yates meant redshirt freshman Mike Paulus would have a chance to prove himself and the reviews are mixed. Paulus was used in a shotgun formation in high school and now must learn how to run the offense from under center.  This has apparently taken longer to adjust that was originally anticipated.

Of course what the QB does will not matter if the Heels cannot generate a decent running game.  Without some kind of balanced offense, you could put Chris Keldorf back there and it will not matter without a legitimate ground game to keep the defense in check.  Greg Little, who showed flashes late in the season of being able to handle the RB slot, took the bulls by the horn in the spring.  Little will be the featured back next season and the hope is he can be effective working in tandem with Ryan Houston who is more of a physical RB.

On defense, the Heels are breaking in a new defensive coordinator in the person of Everett Whithers.  There will be some changes to the defense which is said to include more man-to-man in the secondary as opposed to zone.  Davis said there are only so many ways the Xs and Os can line up and downplayed any notion the defense was being overhauled in any way.  Given this is a new DC with slightly different personnel than last season added to the fact they did not show much of their scheme in the scrimmage, defense will be a wait and see sort of thing.

Then again the whole thing is wait and see which is another reason I was less inclined to pay attention to spring drills this season.  Last season, many were anxious to see what Davis would bring as the new head coach and there was a lot in the way of personnel shifting.  That has not been the case this season but there is still no getting around the fact this is one team scrimmaging against itself and any reports you get will be largely positive.  Once fall practice begins we will know a little more but based on the current information the outlook is as positive as it could be for April, especially since the roles were better defined allowing the coaches to work on aspects of the offense and defense at a more detailed level.

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17 Responses to Spring Football

  1. Kat says:

    Having been in NC for 10 years, hubby and I both agree it’s a lovely state where one can find almost everything very pleasing…..but being a Texas A&M Grad and a Texan at heart….we miss good FOOTBALL!

  2. Looking at UNC’s schedule, I can honestly say I see eight “winnable” games; McNeese State, Virginia Tech, Uconn, Notre Dame, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Maryland, and Duke.
    The big thing that worries me is the defense. It seemed like it was improving so much in just one season last year than the big setbacks suffered under the Torbush/Bunting regimes. I remember the days of the UNC defense being one of the toughest and most physical in the nation, and when it crumbled it crumbled quickly.
    TJ Yates showed a ton of promise last year, but he made a lot of really dumb mistakes last year. He’s got a pretty big arm and some mobility, and I think he’s got a lot of potential. I don’t know if Cam Sexton is out of the picture completely, and who knows about Paulus? I can only hope he’s better at leading a team than his brother is.
    It seems like every time I get excited about UNC football they seem to do nothing but lay eggs the entire season. So, just put me down as someone who is being cautiously optimistic for now.

  3. Kat says:

    You are optimistic…I mean it would be nice to have some nice “meaty” football to watch, but that’s a lot of optimism….

  4. Silent Sam says:

    I have no idea how many games the Heels will win this fall, but I’m sure curious as to why the eight games cited are “winnable” but Rutgers, Miami, Boston College and N.C. State are not “winnable”?

  5. Wilson says:

    I had the most fun watching football that I think I ever have had, spare the Panthers 2003 Super Bowl run, last fall. Sure we lost a lot of tough, close, and hard fought games. But this was the first time in forever that I can remember a UNC football team that was having fun on the football field, and it was a blast to watch. I had an amazing time at Kenan last year, and I’m sure we can transform some of those close losses to wins this year and get to a bowl.

    Needless to say, I love the direction our program is going.

  6. Larry P says:

    Hey Cat,

    Sounds like you left Texas just as Mack Brown was arriving. He’s proof that NC has had great football in the past. And not just under Mack’s watch, either. I recall beating Texas in a bowl back in the ’80s, not to mention a number of other bowl games under Bill Dooley (’70s) and Dick Crum (80s). Crum, who left under a cloud, actually came within two points of winning the ACC in 1981, losing to Clemson (eventual national champions) 10-8.
    So there is a tradition of winning in Chapel Hill. We just need to get it back.

  7. Kat says:

    Larry,

    That’s a bit before my time….I graduated A&M in ’91. I didn’t get interested in college ball until ’87. But some of my best memories are bonfire and Thanksgiving day at Kyle Field watching the Aggies beat UT! I’d love it if UNC would give us some good ball to watch this fall, don’t get me wrong…I’m just a little pesimistic.

  8. Santiago says:

    If only “Big Jim” Tatum hadn’t been bitten by that tick. Then perhaps UNC’s multisport prowess would include football, and Kat wouldn’t have to look elsewhere for good, “meaty” football. How’s that for before your time, Kat?

    Andy,
    I’m with Sam. Why isn’t the NCSU game, which is also a home game, winnable???

  9. Santiago and Sam,
    Looking back, I think I may have understated how many games UNC should actually win this year.
    I’m not optimistic about the road game at Rutgers. Granted they’ve lost a lot in losing Rice, but they bring back Mike Teel at QB. Since their emergence, Piscataway has been a pretty tough place to play.
    NC State was an omission on my part. This should be a winnable game as well, with them only returning four starters on both offense and defense, plus they have some huge inconsistencies at quarterback. Add a one to that column.
    Miami will be a huge game for this team. If I’m as optimistic as Cat says I am, UNC can possible enter this game 3-0, provided they can finish off Rutgers and Tech. Let’s say that UNC goes in to that game 1-2. Either way, it can build momentum or potentially damage their chances on making a bowl game. My thoughts are that with Butch Davis coming back to Miami the ‘Canes will be ready to throw down.
    As far as only picking eight games initially, I guess another reason for that is this is UNC football. It seems this team has had some tough times beating teams they should be beating, but being able to compete against teams that should beat them easily. I’m hoping that the inconsistency of the program is a thing of the past.
    I will still say that in Bunting’s last year, UNC was one Joe Dailey mistake in the Rutgers game from having a good season that could have ended with a bowl bid. Although it was the first game of the year, it seemed to take the wind out of the sails the rest of the year.
    All in all, I think Butch has the thing going in the right direction, but Kansas, Ohio State, Florida, and other schools have shown you can have great teams in more than one major sport. UNC has had some pretty darn good football teams in the past as Larry P pointed out, and I would at least expect seven or eight wins and a bowl game, then we can start thinking competing for an ACC title, then who knows? I’m just tired of three, four, or five win seasons when we can obviously do a heck of a lot better.
    Speaking of John Bunting, does anyone know where he is at right now? Did he land another coaching gig somewhere?

  10. Wilson says:

    Last I heard of JB, he was on the radio.

  11. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Bunting is living on the coast I think. He did some radio work with 850 during the NFL playoffs and was very good at it.

  12. Josh Bowling says:

    None of these football games are winnable Silent Sam, none of them. Andy, you are very optimistic thinking that those could be included as winnable games. May I add they are not winnable under our current state of things. They can become winnable given the right recipe for success, and our players buy into it.

  13. Kat says:

    John Bunting is not on staff with 850 The Buzz, he drops by sporadically from time to time, just an FYI.

  14. Josh,
    What can’t those be winnable games?
    I think the attitude of the players is there. I am concerned about what’s going to happen at the QB and LB positions and how the new defensive coordinator will pan out, but we’re returning 10 starters on offense and six on defense. We’re in a lot better shape than a lot of teams in the conference in that respect.
    I’m banking on at least seven wins this year and a bowl game. There are some question marks on the schedule, but I highly doubt this will be a losing season.
    This is going to be an exciting season!

  15. Josh Bowling says:

    No Andy. That post was not my thoughts, merely a reflection of what I hear around me concerning UNC football. I agree with you, as it is attainable for us to do that. I just hope that we haven’t lost for so long that their is a culture of losing that encompasses these players.

  16. Wilson says:

    I think you can contend that that culture is on its way out. In a sense, in walked Butch, and out walked the looming cloud over our players. I think anyone that has followed UNC football the last 5 years could see that.

    The players coming into our program now are not the type of players we’re used to getting, and I think the overall mindset of this staff has an incredible effect on the team as a whole. I think that culture of losing is being forced out.

  17. Sorry for missing the point, Josh.
    As if UNC basketball didn’t get any respect during the season, the talking heads on all the publications and TV shows are already picking UNC to finish at the bottom of the pack in the ACC. Why?
    One chucklehead on Yahoo Sports said that the closest North Carolina can get to an ACC title game is if they play the title game in Charlotte. I’m not saying we’ll win the conference this year, but it’s a prett dangerous statement to make considering the talent coming back and the talent that got recruited. In short, the “experts” are turning their backs on this team and they all have a good possibility of looking quite stupid by the time December rolls around.

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