We reached out to two North Carolina bloggers for this week's upcoming game against the Tarheels. Yesterday we spoke to Doc of The Tar Heel Fan Blog. For today, we talk to Michael Felder of InTheBleachers, who is a former UNC player himself.
1. UNC played surprisingly well against LSU two weeks ago and has had two weeks to prepare for Georgia Tech. What is North Carolina doing to prepare for the Ramblin' Wreckbone offense? Watching KU film much?
While Kansas brought the fight to the Wreck just a week ago I think UNC's plan is going to be more akin to those strategies employed by Iowa in the Orange Bowl. They'll stay vanilla on defense and make sure that all of our guys are fully aware of their assignments and use the speed on defense to make plays.
The Heels in 2008 gave up a ton of yardage to the Jackets but ultimately won on the strength of timely stops and turnovers. I expect this front seven to still be in position to take advantage of the ball being on the rug.
One facet of this contest that is incredibly under discussed is what it takes to prepare for this offense. While folks often site extra time as being a requirement they wrongly attribute that to the defense needing more time to prepare. Yes, the defense benefits from extra film and more looks at the defense BUT the true reason the extra week helps so much is for the scout team offense.
Generally on scout team you run plays off of cards and the scout quarterback throws the ball to whoever they saw get the ball on the tape. With Georgia Tech things aren't that straight forward and it generally takes extra meetings, extra reps and extra time for the scout offense to give the defense a good look. This "extra time" is the bye week and for the Heels that means the scout squad is now running the best version of the option attack they can.
2. This game is huge. Georgia Tech needs it to validate themselves this year. Butch Davis needs it to salvage his NCAA-foundered program. What is the feeling in Carolina regarding this game? Are the fans more worried about the 2010 football season or the pending sanctions?
A lot of folks; we'll call them "general" (read bball fans) UNC fans are so wrapped up in the "image" of the university I doubt that they know we're even playing. So that's about par for the course from them. As for UNC football fans and folks that truly care about our athletic programs this game is a huge contest. We've lost seven ACC openers in a row and it would be nice to start the ACC season off in the win column instead of fighting to get above .500.
3. Agent-gate: Who is still out? Who has been re-instated and what will their contribution be on Saturday?
Right now, as it stands today the only new "old" face officially cleared for practice is Shaun Draughn. For those of you keeping track that means Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn, Greg Little, Ryan Houston, Charles Brown, Kendrick Burney, Deunta Williams and Da'Norris Searcy are the starters out AND Linwan Euwell, Jordan Smith, Brian Gupton and Michael McAdoo are the reserves set to miss Saturday's contest.
I would not be surprised to see Deunta Williams and a couple other names come off this list come game time though.
4. TJ Yates played very well against LSU and a lot of Tech fans think it was more of a fluke than revelation. Tell this condescending Tech fan why and how TJ Yates has "improved" since last year.
Well he's gotten stronger, worked on his deep balls a bit more and spent some time at the Manning Camp as a counselor honing his skills and helping kids. So I guess that's how he's "improved" this offseason.
However, unlike most folks who so often blame the quarterback for everything when he struggles I look at the big picture. Folks bagging on TJ make it seem as though having four out of five wide receivers seeing their first game action and playing nine different combinations of offensive linemen start in front of you had zero impact on his play. The problems for the 2009 Tar Heels didn't start in stop with Yates, rather he was a victim of the WR and OL ineptitude that surrounded him.
After all, this is the same kid that went 21-35, 283 yards, TD and 137.35 QB rating in a 25-27 loss where GT narrowly escaped in Butch Davis' first season. TJ's the same kid that is just under 3,000 yards from being UNC's all time leading passer and has his name on a myriad of other records.
So no, I don't think TJ has improved tremendously, he's about as solid as he could get from an athletic stand point. However, I do believe that the offensive line and wide receiving core have improved tremendously, all of which contributed to the 412 yards against LSU on one of college's biggest stages opening night.
5. Tell us about UNC's defensive scheming. How has the scheme changed with the suspension of several key defenders?
Same scheme as the last three seasons; a lot of picket fence coverage, reliance upon speed and forcing teams to make mistakes through their own inherent impatience. They play a lot of zone coverages and use their speed to break on the ball and make plays that turn defense into offense.
Regarding the impact of the young gunners on the scheme I'd personally say it is negligible. The young kids we have in the back four are a bit better athletically than our older guys so Butch and Everett Withers ask them to do most of the exact same things and follow the same principles that original starters Burney, Brown, Williams and Searcy are asked to do. Trey Boston and Mywan Jackson are both players, young but have a tremendous amount of ability so if they figure out what they're supposed to be doing; as they did in the second half against LSU, they could have a nice impact on the ball game.
6. Who is the head coach of UNC in 2011?
Two schools of thought here. As a staunch football supporter with a vested interest in the program I believe we need to remain married to Butch Davis in order to, in the short term, salvage our recruiting class, and in the long term build on the momentum that he's created around North Carolina.
Others; both rivals and the image conscious folks, believe Butch Davis has to go either immediately or at the season's end.
To those folks I say really?
Bobby Bowden survived the free shoes, Peter Warrick at Dillard's and the most recent "music test" scandal; Nick Saban has sustained three offseasons of agents being involved with his players plus the textbook scandal; Dennis Erickson and Rick Neuheisel both are still coaching but somehow "Butch Davis has to go" is their mantra.
Sorry to rant, to answer the question if those folks win out I see North Carolina doing exactly what the university did in 1997 when they decided that Big Time College Football got "too rich" for their blood; hire some underqualified assistant for the bare minimum and rip everything that Butch Davis has built in the last four seasons down to the ground.
With Dick Baddour and Chancellor Holden Thorp at the helm my level of faith in them making a football intelligent decision is about as high as the confidence Tech fans have in Paul Hewitt navigating through an ACC season with a winning record.
Thanks to MIchael for taking our questions. You can follow him on twitter via @InTheBleachers. Go Jackets!