Super Speedy UNC Spring Football Review

The offseason is a tremendous lull for most sports, but we Americans have found out that if you poke at football long enough during hibernation, you can find something to talk about. So let’s all grab a stick, shall we?

Players Who Should Get You Really, Really Excited for September

WR Dwight Jones: Will burning the redshirt last November pay off? For the moment, the answer is yes. Jones, the man in the center of that practice photo, has developed rapidly since the 2008 season, and while he certainly hasn’t reached Hakeem Nicks-levels of route running, he doesn’t have to. The projected top 3 receivers (Jones, Greg Little and Josh Adams/Rashad Mason) are all 6’4″ or taller, leaving¬† T.J. Yates with the ideal “throw it up and see if they catch it” scenario when things go wrong. If it brought down the undefeated Patriots, it can bring down Virginia Tech, right?

TB Jamal Womble: Aside from the spring game, very little is known about Womble except for all the records that he broke in high school. The Spring Game has proven to be an unreliable data set, but it seems apparent that Womble will get a lot of carries this season. He’s has speed and strength, but most importantly he has vision. He seems to have a keen eye for which alleys to attack at the line and in the secondary. With less than 10 carries in an exhibition game, he has shown more vision and elusiveness than Draughn and Houston showed last season.¬† Unlike Draughn and Houston, Womble will also be an effective receiver out of the backfield. Having lost the top three receivers from 2008 and looking for T.J. Yates to stay healthy, UNC will need to bolster its backfield production in 2009. Jamal Womble looks like he can make an immediate impact.

LB Zach Brown: Bruce Carter and HIS HIGHNESS QUANTAVIUS have established themselves as two of the most athletic linebackers in the ACC. Zach is faster than both of them. Whether that translates to pure defensive awesomeness is yet to be seen, but Everett Withers would be hard-pressed to find a better college linebacking corps to suit his Cover 2-esque scheme.

Really Tall Punter Guy: I don’t remember this guy’s name, but he’s the tallest player on the team, he wore #39 at the spring game, and he has a cannon for a leg. He punted three or four times, and each of them went for about 60 yards and had tremendous hangtime.

Players Who You Really Hope Made the Most of the Offseason


CB Jordan Hemby: Kendric Burney is a lockdown corner, but Hemby is still a projected starter by his side. This should concern you because his play in 2008 was, to put it diplomatically, enigmatic and inconsistent.

SS Da’Norris Searcy: Trimane Goddard left some pretty big shoes to fill. Searcy is talented, and he displayed flashes of brilliance against West Virginia in the bowl game. Still, it’s yet to be seen how easily he can fill Goddard’s role.

Defensive-End-By-Committee: It’s close to certain that Robert Quinn will spearhead one side of the line, but the other side looks to be a revolving door of inconsistent veterans and talented but inexperienced freshmen.

The Offensive Line: The offensive line kept some stability from 2008, but the absences of Garrett Reynolds (graduation/NFL) and Aaron Stahl (foregoing last year of eligibility due to injury) will be felt.

WR Greg Little: Greg goes back to his natural position this season as the most experienced receiver on the team and, perhaps ironically, the non-QB best acquainted with John Shoop’s playbook. Fans are beginiing to wonder if he will justify the hype surrounding his arrival in Chapel Hill. This is the year where he will either silecne the critics or prove them right. I think he’ll do well, but the jury is out for now.

T.J. Yates’ Health: Wolfpack Fans, if I don’t see frisbees on the field at Carter-Finley this November, I will be severely disappointed in you.

Am I being a bit opitmistic here? Probably. But the summer is the time for optimism, a time for anticipating what’s to come. Grumbling, cynicism and reduction of expectaion should wait, at least, until UConn scores on a devastating 90-yard drive in the third quarter. Until then RESERVE THE HOTEL TO MIAMI WERE GOING 11-1 OMG WHOOOOOO!!!

Photos: The venerable Inside Carolina.

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Your Weekly Reminder of This Season’s Unbridled Awesomeness

(Photo: IC)

It’s been a week off from football for the Heels, so maybe this week you need a quick reminder of how great this season has been.

  • Trimane Goddard has, by himself, more interceptions than the entire team has in 2002, 2003, 2004, or 2006.
  • What was in August considered to be the team’s biggest weakness, linebacker, may now be its biggest strength. Bruce Carter, Mark Paschal, and QUANTAVIUS THE MAGNIFICENT have played beyond anyone’s expectations for 2008.
  • Goddard’s performance has made him a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, the first time that a UNC player has been a candidate for a season-ending award since Julius Peppers in 2001.
  • This year’s team has forced more turnovers than in those four seasons combined.
  • Cam Sexton is 4-1 as a starter. The same Cam sexton who went 0-5 in 2006 and many fans had since considered to be a doomsday scenario at QB up until the beginning of this season.
  • For the first time in a while, we have a legitimate rushing attack, with Shaun Draughn getting most of the carries and Ryan Houston being used in short yardage and goalline situations. in years past, even getting inside the five was not the sure sign of a touchdown. This year, we have yet to drive inside the 10 yard line and come up with anything less.
  • As a byproduct of that, the Heels offense is more efficient. They don’t administer many self-inflicted wounds, as they would have in years past. The defense creates a lot of opportunities, and now the offense is capable of making them pay.
  • UNC is much more efficient on third down situations. The Heels have a more effective running game, which they use often on first and second down. Given a short field on third down, the offense converts 45% of its chances this year, second only to Florida State in conference.
  • Because they convert third downs and can run the ball, the Heels are now very good at sustaing long, prodding drives that take time off the clock and keep opposing offenses off the field. This deeply contrasts with Tar Heel teams of years past. The 2003 memory of Arizona State still haunts me. The Heels needed onlt one first down on 3rd and 1 with less than two minutes to go against the Sun Devils to seal the win. Unfortunately, no one was confident in the running backs. So instead the coaches called…a QB sneak. Naturally, Darian Durant was stuffed, UNC had to punt, and Arizona State drove down the field to score the game-winning touchdown as time expired.
  • Conversely, look at the Virginia game of this year. With each passing possession the Cavs were gaining momentum, and with 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter the Heels started from their own six. thanks to some decent running and a few well-timed catches by Hakeem Nicks, the Heels were able to drive down the field for more than seven minutes and ultimately score a field goal, giving UNC a 10-3 lead with 2:22 to play. If not for the Everett Withers’ two-minute defense, that would have, and should have, been the drive that won the game and brought the Heels to 7-1. The times have certainly changed.
  • At least two of the players leading our offense, Cam Sexton and Shaun Draughn, were so deep down in the depth chart in August that few people expected them to have any factor this season.
  • By the end of next year, Brandon Tate and Hakeem Nicks may be the two most decorated receivers in school history.
  • UNC is 6-2 in November, and may win the ACC Coastal division without the help of T.J. Yates or Brandon Tate for most of the season.
  • Just for good measure, I have to say it one more time: Cam. Sexton. Is 4-1. As a starter. Meanwhile, four-star QB Mike Paulus has been relegated to standing on the sidelines and practicing his Blue Steel.

paulus_mike1Well, you can’t please everyone.