Less hoopla and little fanfare surrounds the upcoming 2015 Carolina football season. And that may be just what the doctor ordered…rest, relaxation and a little dyslexia.
Yes, that’s right. It’s time for the Tar Heel footballers to go dyslexic: Out with new, in with the old.
A miserable 2014 season has left Carolina faithful dazed and confused. The once hearty optimism surrounding the Red Bull-guzzling Larry Fedora regime has long since faded out of Chapel Hill. And although that could all change with a season-opening win in the Queen City against South Carolina, I’m saying it won’t…unless, unless, UNC goes old school. (You’re welcome, football purists!)
First and foremost…UNC must run the football A LOT.
And this strategy is not merely confined to around the water cooler. Some encouraging comments have have been circulating in preseason workouts. Fedora has voiced his desire for a heavier rushing attack this fall. Bravo, Coach! Especially with a defense low on talent, burning up some valuable clock to provide welcome rest seems a no-brainer. And who knows, those first down sticks may actually start moving down the field?
As much as everybody enjoys the highlight reel acrobatics and SportsCenter Top 10-worthy plays, over four quarters of ACC football, it takes more than flash to come out a winner. It takes substance. It’s not always sexy, but you’ve got to establish a base first. Otherwise, it’s a ‘smoke and mirrors show’ – a spin of the Roulette wheel. We’ve seen that play out through the first few years of the Fedora era. When it’s good, it’s great. When Marquise is clicking, Switzer is feeling it, and Mack Hollins is in sync…wow! It’s beautiful to watch. The Tar Heels can seemingly play with anybody in the country.
But when the high-tech machine isn’t oiled and lubricated properly, look out! Interceptions, turnovers, three and outs. The game gets away from UNC in a hurry…against anybody.
With a return to the old school approach of running the football more than passing, Carolina will stay in games that in the past, the Tar Heels found themselves down 14-21 points. And then, when a patented Larry Fedora lightning bolt strikes in the fourth quarter (when the opposing defense is gassed, mind you), a victory would be secured. What’s more, UNC has the talent to do it. With TJ Logan and Elijah Hood in the backfield, there’s plenty of ammo to work with. Move those chains!
The second ingredient to UNC’s dyslexic, throwback approach this fall? Get angry again on defense!
I’m confident this will happen. The hiring of former national championship-winning head coach Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator was a shocking one to say the least. But heck, now that he’s here, it makes complete football sense. While no miracles are likely to be performed by Chizik this fall (after all, he’s taken over a unit with a major dearth of talent!), I think a mindset change will be evident. And this newfound aggression may be the most important development for the 2015 Tar Heels.
For the past two seasons, UNC has lost its ability to tackle. Yes, there is the occasional big play, but we’ve seen more arm and Ole! tackles than you can shake a stick at. Right now, when opponents tee it up against a UNC defense, they’re licking their chops. Four or five years ago, UNC boasted a physical, fast and angry defense that stopped running backs in their tracks. Now, they give way to runaway trains. I hate to say it, but it boils down to being a little soft. That’s not a good trait in football, especially big-time ACC football. A passive attitude is contagious. It spreads like wildfire.
Even with a talent deficit, I’m confident Chizik is busy putting out those fires. He will change the mentality. The Tar Heels are about to get angry, playing with a chip on their shoulders. Chizik has the players motivated again in a scheme they can wrap their hands around. Will there be mistakes and points scored? Most definitely. But above above all, he’ll have them hitting people and delivering punishment a ‘la SEC. That bodes well.
With the spotlight squarely on nationally-ranked Clemson and Florida State, along with the resurgence of an able Wolfpack club down I-40 and Coach Cut doing his thing over at Duke, nobody is expecting much from the boys in Carolina blue. And who can blame them? However, if a reliable ground-and-pound game is established to go along with an aggressive-minded defense, 2015 could prove a fruitful campaign inside Kenan Memorial Stadium.
But if Tar Heel Nation is to see an ACC contender this season, it will require the curtain be closed on the Fedora Freak Show, a little more thunder than lightning, and a mild case of dyslexia to circulate the locker room.
Out with the new, in with the old.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattdoakes