Friday, April 13, 2012

What to watch in North Carolina's spring game

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina coach Larry Fedora wouldn’t mind another 25, 30 practices or so this spring. Maybe by then, he said earlier this week, the Tar Heels would be able to accomplish all they need to accomplish before heading into the off-season conditioning program.

But there will not be 25 or 30 more practices for Fedora and UNC. NCAA rules limit teams to 15 spring practices, and UNC’s final one comes on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Kenan Stadium, where the Tar Heels will play their annual spring scrimmage (admission free, game televised at

Here are some things to watch:

The pace of the offense

UNC has a long, long ways to go before it understands the dynamics of Fedora’s fast-paced, no-huddle, spread offense. So reading too much into individual performances or statistics on Saturday could be a fruitless endeavor. Instead, take a more big-picture approach.

Fedora and his offensive coordinator, Blake Anderson, want to maximize the number of plays for the offense. And to do so, of course, the Heels have to operate at a quick pace. Pay close attention to the time between plays. There shouldn’t be much lag time.

UNC’s defense is further along than the offense at this point, and that’s not a surprise. It’s easier to react and make a play – which is what the defense is doing – then to perfectly execute a new system designed to exploit whatever holes might exist in a defense.

So defensive success is likely to be expected on Saturday. How well UNC does playing at a fast pace on offense, though, should provide a good indication of how far the Heels have come during the past few weeks of spring practice.

The new 4-2-5 defense

Fedora has completely revamped the offense, of course, but the defense is also a lot different than it was. Under new defensive coordinator Dan Disch, the Tar Heels are running a 4-2-5, which features a couple of hybrid positions. Those hybrid positions are better known as the “bandit” and the “ram.”

Now, what are the bandit and the ram? (As an aside here, I think “The Bandit and the Ram” could be the title for a really quality 1890s Western-themed sitcom of some sort, likely featuring a couple ne’er do well, bumbling masked criminals … OK, back to football.) The bandit and the ram are, in essence, outside linebackers that can shift around and play in different positions on the field. Sometimes one will play close to the line of scrimmage, while the other plays back towards the secondary. Sometimes they’ll blitz, other times they’ll provide more pass coverage.

The 4-2-5 allows UNC some flexibility, and you can expect some moving parts. It is, as coaches love to say these days, a defense that allows a team to be “multiple.” Sometimes UNC will appear to be in a 4-3. Other times a 3-4. It’s all part of the multiplicity of the 4-2-5.

Quarterbacks Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams

Renner is the clear first-team quarterback at this point, as you’d expect. He played well, for the most part, during his sophomore season, and he is the more experienced, tested player. And by all accounts, he has adapted well to Fedora’s fast-paced, spread offense.

But Williams is an intriguing player because UNC’s new offense so seems to fit his natural skill set. He was among the nation’s top-rated “dual-threat” quarterbacks during his senior season at Charlotte’s Mallard Creek High, but then he came to UNC to play in a pro-style system that didn’t necessarily fit his style of play.

Williams, according to some of his teammates, didn’t appear all that comfortable in the old offense while he spent last season redshirting. But he has made strides this spring in UNC’s new fast-paced spread, which is similar to what Williams ran in high school.

Though the coaching staff has said the quarterback competition is an open one, it still seems like it’s Renner’s job to lose. But an impressive performance from Williams in the spring game could make things interesting headed into the off-season conditioning program, and into the start of fall practice in August.

-Andrew Carter


Anonymous said...

I expect to see Holden and Butch there together.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

twerp done messed up football and not gone see the junk at unc when twerp is here when they rid of Butch why???????????????????????????????

Anonymous said...

Will Professor Swahili be in attendance since he is still employed at the "flagship?"

Anonymous said...

"What to watch in North Carolina's spring game"...

Umm, how about ~5,000 fans masquerading as "17,000" according the the Tarhole propoganda machine.