At no time during head coach Larry Fedora’s first five years at the helm of the UNC football team have the Tar Heels ever needed to worry about finding offense.
Entering this week’s game against Virginia, however, Fedora is desperately trying to come up with a way to help his struggling team put some points on the board.
Having spent the majority of his time in Chapel Hill establishing himself as an offensive guru, Fedora now finds himself in an interesting position.
His Tar Heels have slipped to 1-5, while injuries and inexperience have brought his high-octane game plans to a halt.
Many fans have even begun wondering aloud whether they might be able to try out for wide receiver or offensive line positions.
Over the last three outings—all of which have been UNC losses—the offense is averaging only 11 points and just under 300 yards per game. After consistently ranking among the top teams in America on that side of the ball, this year’s group of Tar Heels is 89th nationally in yards per game out of 128 Division I FBS teams.
In an effort to put a stop to the bleeding, Fedora told reporters at his weekly press conference that he will become even more hands on with the offense—including the play calling—starting this week.
“I have been and will be even more so,” Fedora said, of his involvement with the play calling on offense. “Not necessarily in the words coming out of my mouth going to the signal guy. But I’ll be much more involved when we are in between series and those kinds of things and what I would like to try to do.
“I don’t know if that will be the answer,” the coach added. “But it’s something I feel like where I can help the most.”
Although he made it clear that he’ll just be helping his assistants a little bit more—not necessarily taking over the entire offense himself—Fedora is aware of the challenges presented by the limited number of weapons his team has available.
Freshman quarterback Chazz Surratt, like pretty much everyone on offense, has seen his numbers drop off during UNC’s three-game losing streak.
It’s tough to judge how effective he has truly been, however, when the playbook keeps getting smaller and smaller because of all the injuries to receivers and offensive linemen.
That’s where it becomes Fedora’s job to figure out how to properly integrate new material onto players—like Surratt—who are so limited in terms of experience.
“A lot of people give a quarterback a lot of credit, and then they give him too much blame because it’s going to take the other 10 guys for him to be successful,” Fedora said.
“I would say part of it is personnel,” he continued. “Part of it is what we’re doing with [Surratt] in some situations. And that goes back to personnel and how we’ve limited what we can do in the playbook.”
Virginia is not a team that has inspired too much fear in its opponents over the last few years, but head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s squad currently ranks 24th in the country in total yards allowed.
Fedora’s increased involvement on offense is the main difference in UNC’s approach to the Cavaliers this week.
And even though he claims he’s not superstitious, Fedora also shaved his beard off—which of course only prompted more questions.
“I don’t believe the beard will have anything to do with our play,” Fedora said. “I really don’t. If that was the case, I would have done it a long time ago.”
Photo via Gerry Broome (Associated Press)