It’s been said over and over that an offense is only as good as its linemen up front. Will this be the case for Carolina in 2014?
If so, it’s tough to project the success of head coach Larry Fedora’s offensive machine based on training camp reports.
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Although returning starter Jon Heck has stood out above the rest on the O-line, Coach Fedora says the Tar Heels aren’t ready for game day just yet.
“Jon Heck may have had the best summer of all the offensive linemen with the improvements he’s made in his body and his mobility. We’re still not there yet. I’m not going to say we’re ready, because we’re not,” Coach Fedora says.
Coach Fedora isn’t getting impatient as the season draws near, though. It’s an exercise in patience up front for the entire team, and he says it just takes time for the pieces to gel together into a cohesive unit.
“I’m very confident we’ll have a group that’s ready to go, but they may not be a finished product on the 30th. You’re talking about five guys knowing what each other is going to do in every situation and how they’re going to do it. It’s critical. It’s going to take some time for them to grow. We have to understand that as a staff and offense,” Coach Fedora says.
Behind the line, the litany of offensive skill players has been well documented for the Tar Heels – none more so than electrifying playmaker Ryan Switzer.
Coach Fedora says Switzer is still learning the nuances of playing the wide receiver position. Switzer, after all, has never lined up as a wide out before. In high school, he sped away from opposing defenses as a running back.
“I think his biggest growth is in understanding what it takes to be a receiver and be a complete receiver – the blocking, running routes, understanding the whole concept of the route and how to get open on the route,” Coach Fedora says.
Switzer says the playbook has been expanding for him this year. Instead of quick out patterns, he’s being freed up to fly further down the football field. The sophomore says these deeper routes make hitting pay dirt a whole lot easier.
“What’s different from last year is I’ve been getting a lot more down-field passes. A lot of my catches last year were quick-gain and trying to get some yards after the catch. I’m happy with that. I don’t always have to make a guy miss. I can catch the ball in the end zone and don’t have to work too hard to get in there,” Switzer says.
Although Switzer got his feet wet catching balls last season, Coach Fedora says to expect a breakout performance on the receiving end from the All-American in year two of his Chapel Hill career.
“I don’t think there’s any limit. Last year, he didn’t even scratch the surface with what he did at the receiver spot. He could break out at that position this year, he really could,” Coach Fedora says.
As for the man who will be slinging the football out to Switzer and company, Switzer says he doesn’t expect a final verdict to come until after the first two home contests against Liberty and San Diego State.
“It’s going to take the first two games to really see. If you want to give Mitch [Trubisky] a fair shot, you need to see what he can do when it’s live and the lights are on. I think those couple games are going to determine who our starting guy is going forward,” Switzer says.
A relative unknown situation at offensive line, a two-horse race at the quarterback spot and a dynamic player attempting to master a new position make for a tantalizing trifecta of offensive storylines for the Tar Heels