The 'Rights' of Spring
Carolina capped the second spring of the Larry Fedora era with a satisfying scrimmage on Saturday. The Blue team, which was made up primarily of veterans and first-teamers, came away with a 34-10 win, but the Tar Heels impressed all around (read the highlight report). "Our team had a great spring. We really did. We’ve come a long way. We’ve got a long way to go, but you got to see a few guys get out there and make some plays today," Fedora said afterward. "Anytime you split the team, you get real thin in a lot of areas, and it makes it that much tougher. The continuity is really hard, but the guys played hard today and that was the main thing.”
The day's breakout star may have been freshman Khris Francis. The Durham Hillside product carried the ball for the White team and had 101 yards on 20 attempts. On the first play of the game, he was stopped for no game. But the ball went back to him, and he toted it 24 yards against the first-team defense. He said getting a big play early gave him confidence, but still, "I honestly did not expect that at all, but I'm happy with the productivity," Francis said.
Fedora said the early enrollee was always learning, taking instruction and putting it on the field. "He hit some holes and exploded in them," the head coach said. "One time I said I thought he got stood up. I said something to him, and the next time he’s got his shoulders down and he’s running north-south. That’s what he’s got to do, so he did some nice things.”
"He did great today," senior tailback A.J. Blue said. "As a young running back, it kind of takes time to do the things that he did today, and I just wanted to see how he would progress throughout the spring, and he did awesome. He had some splash plays throughout the spring, where you realize that he could actually come in and compete on this level, and then you had some times where you realized that he was a freshman, but today, it was all downhill for him. He really ran the ball well today."
The second time around in the fast-paced, no-huddle offense, the unit as a whole looked smoother. In total, the Tar Heels ran 148 plays between the teams, and the whole process seemed to be more streamlined. "I think it's through the roof now," Bryn Renner said of his comfort level in the offense. "It's morphed into where I can be a leader, and I can coach guys when they do make a mistake and that's the big thing about being a quarterback. Last year, I don't think I could do that."
It was certainly an offensive show, but there was defense on Saturday. Senior defensive end Kareem Martin was a standout on the line. He had seven unassisted tackles, five of them for loss, on the day. Travis Hughes made a case to step into the linebacker role vacated by Kevin Reddick with 14 total tackles. "He knows the defense a lot better than what he did last year," Martin said of Hughes. "He's always been a great player, it's just the fact of knowing where to be, and I think being year two in this defense is really going to help him."
Other Tar Heels who raised eyebrows:
A pair of early enrollees in their first college experiences: Quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10-18, 2 interceptions, touchdown) looked calm in the pocket and capable of making plays, and Jordan Fieulleteau had eight catches for 59 yards for the White team.
Sophomore wideout Quinshad Davis had three catches for 34 yards, but also hit Sean Tapley for a 52-yard pass play.
Redshirt freshman tight end Terrance Knox was a favorite target of Trubisky's. He had six catches for 72 yards.
A.J. Blue and Romar Morris are deadlocked at 1-2 in the offensive backfield, and ran the ball effectively.
Freshman safety Dominique Green had an interception and three total tackles.
All in all, it was a beautiful day in Chapel Hill complete with some good football. Fans got a taste of the Tar Heels that should carry them through the summer. From now until fall camp, it's up to the players to discipline themselves.
Fedora was cautiously optimistic with the day's results. Happy with some things, but always seeing room for improvement. "We've got 138 days left (until the season opens at South Carolina)," he said. "We've got a long way to go in 138 days."