Three Things: Spring Football
It's the dawn of a new era in Kenan Stadium. With spring practice in the books, here are three things we learned about football under Larry Fedora.
1. It’s fast - and there will be surprises (the Stilman White Effect)
Spring football practice was conducted at a tempo not seen in recent memory in Chapel Hill. There was no prolonged stretch period at the beginning of practice - the team was into drills right away. That speed is intended to prepare the team for the speed of games.
Offensive coordinator Blake Anderson told me that it won’t just be the pace that may catch Tar Heel fans by surprise this fall. “The tempo of operation, that’s something that is going to be immediately obvious, I think. The diversity of sets and personnel that we use, I think people will expect it to be just a four-wide, drop-back team and that’s not what spread football is. The fact that we still run the ball, the fact that we’re going to run the ball physically is something I think people will. There’s always some wrinkles in there that you just don’t expect. Expect the unexpected. We’re going to attack and go after people.”
Twenty-five different players scored touchdowns for Southern Miss in 2011, and Anderson intends to bring that variety to Chapel Hill. “Everybody gets involved. They’re not going to see the ball go to the one same wideout all year long, the one same tailback. It’s going to get spread out. That’s something that fans will appreciate.”
Anderson referred to Stilman White’s three-pointer against Georgia Tech in explaining his offensive philosophy. “I watched when the little white dude shoots a three-pointer and the whole place goes nuts. There’s going to be a ‘little white dude’ that catches a touchdown pass and people are going to go crazy.”
2. The past is past
With the NCAA sanctions handed down, the Tar Heels know they won’t have an opportunity to participate in the postseason in 2012. Even with a Coastal Division crown, the Tar Heels would be barred from the ACC Championship Game. Seniors were allowed to transfer without penalty, but none chose to (Braden Hanson graduated in December and his transfer to North Dakota was announced in early January). With that in mind, the team decided to turn the page and focus on the 12 games on the schedule. “This is a new leaf for us,” Todd Harrelson said. “The sanctions came. We don’t have a bowl game, but we just look at it as another opportunity to more forward and not to be down that we have no postseason game. I just think now we’re more focused than we’ve ever been. We got past the stuff in the past. I’m looking forward to the future.”
3.There’s a lot of thinking going on
Both sides of the ball are learning a new playbook. So while the players were eager to show the coaches what they could do, they weren’t able to do so without thinking, head coach Larry Fedora told me.
“They’re excited, but at the same time, everything’s brand new for them. They’re trying to learn, and so you really don’t get to see what kind of player they truly are because they’re thinking the entire time they’re on the football field right now, and so their athleticism doesn’t look near as good as who they really are because they’re thinking. Obviously, the quicker they can learn it, the quicker they can become the athlete that they are, so we have to shorten the learning curve as quickly as we can for these guys so that they can play the way they normally play.”
Incumbent starting quarterback is not immune. “I see Bryn making all kinds of mistakes right now. That’s not really who he is, but because he’s having to think non-stop all the time, and he’s playing in a new system, he’s going to make a lot of mistakes. And that’s frustrating for him; it’s frustrating for the coaches, but that’s just the process.”