Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at North Carolina.
Spring Practice Starts: March 14
Spring Game: Saturday, April 14
Three things to look for:
1. Dramatic change in offensive tempo. It seems like the overplayed theme with first-year head coach Larry Fedora's arrival in Chapel Hill, but tempo will be the make-or-break factor for offensive success. The fast-talking Fedora brought his offensive coordinator (Blake Anderson) and offensive philosophy from Southern Miss, where the Golden Eagles ranked fifth nationally in plays from scrimmage. According to starting quarterback Bryn Renner, the Tar Heels want to snap the ball "about 10 seconds into the play clock." This will be a big change, especially for the four returning starters along the offensive line. The Tar Heels strength' up front helped lead the way for Gio Bernard's All-ACC freshman season at running back, and the unit has the experience together to be a force again in 2012. In order to do so, the adjustments to the new system and tempo will need to begin now.
2. Looking for leaders in the secondary. North Carolina's pass defense was ranked near the bottom of the ACC in 2011, giving up 241.3 yards per game through the air. Only Boston College and Duke were worse last season statistically, and not by much. The Tar Heels suffered from a combination of injuries and lack of experience at cornerback and safety, often leading to breakdowns in coverage when the team needed a big stop. Under new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who plans to run a 4-2-5 "attacking" defense with multiple looks, the Tar Heels will call on more players to do more things in the secondary. The scheme will play to the advantage of linebacker/safety hybrids, as well as linebacker/defensive line hybrids. This spring will be a time to identify the key contributors in the new coverage scheme.
3. Rebuilding the defensive line. The change in defensive scheme also changes some responsibilities on the defensive line, but it will not make up for the mass exodus of talent at the position. Quinton Coples, Tydreke Powell, Jordan Nix, and Donte Paige-Moss leave very big shoes to fill up front. They will be led by senior Sylvester Williams and junior defensive end Kareem Martin, both coming off breakout 2011 seasons, but will need players to step up and fill out the depth this spring.
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