Close-Knit Tar Heels Test Offense, Showcase Defense in Scrimmage

The No. 23 North Carolina football team held its first fall preseason scrimmage last weekend in preparation for the 2014 kickoff in just 18 days. And in a somewhat surprising twist, it was the Tar Heel defense that made the most noise.

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Head coach Larry Fedora’s scrimmage evaluations are out. And so far at least, the defense has the early edge over the offense.

“It was sloppy in some areas. We had too many balls on the ground offensively. But on the other side of the football, the defense created some turnovers, which was a really good thing,” Coach Fedora says.

A disruptive defense is a positive sign for the UNC defensive unit that displayed steady improvement a year ago. The ability to create havoc in the opposing backfield and produce turnovers bodes well for Carolina’s chances moving forward in 2014.

In Saturday’s scrimmage, defensive tackle Ethan Farmer ran rampant in the backfield and stirred up fumbles, while safety Tim Scott snagged a pick-six.

But the offensive-minded Coach Fedora says objective one for his team is to take better care of the football.

“There was a common theme. There were too many balls on the ground. That was the common theme,” Coach Fedora says.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Overall, though, Coach Fedora says the maiden scrimmage was a positive experience, especially for the underclassmen just getting their feet wet in big-time college football.

“It was a typical first one. Everybody’s effort was really good. We got a bunch of reps for some young kids that were swimming mentally. It was good for them to get out there and see themselves doing it,” Coach Fedora says.

On Saturday, the biggest question mark for Coach Fedora’s Tar Heels, the offensive line, validated a disappointing assumption the Carolina skipper had made earlier in the spring.

“The thing that I found out was that we don’t have enough depth, which I knew beforehand. The good thing is we’re getting a lot of learned reps – the guy gets out there and something else happens that he hasn’t seen yet in practice. That’s one more experience that he gets before we get to game time,” Coach Fedora says.

There is a bright spot up front on the offense, however. Coach Fedora says sophomore center Lucas Crowley is developing nicely in the preseason, growing steadily in confidence as he gets set to fill the big shoes left by Russell Bodine, who is now a member of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

“You’re the quarterback of that offensive line. You have to be able to make every single call. You have to understand the tempo. On top of it, you have to get the ball back to the quarterback in the perfect position. It’s just a comfort level of doing it over and over that I think he’s finally got to, so now he can start excelling as a player,” Coach Fedora says.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

The focus and intensity level is at a fever pitch on Navy Field right now, and a lot of that oozes from Coach Fedora. But he says he can sense a far greater belief out of this year’s squad thanks to the close bonds these Tar Heels have formed.

“They are enthusiastic and excited about the season. They know how much work they’ve put in to this year. They know they’re a closer team than we’ve been in the past with better team chemistry. It doesn’t mean we don’t have problems. There’s just a different feel amongst them. They’re excited about the potential,” Coach Fedora says.

That potential will look to be realized soon enough when the Tar Heels rush out of the Kenan Stadium tunnel Aug. 30 to take on the Liberty Flames under the lights.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-test-offense-showcase-defense-maiden-scrimmage/

Summer Green Named To Hermann Trophy Watch List

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – UNC junior forward Summer Green (Milford, Mich.) is one of 35 NCAA Division I women’s soccer players tagged as the leading players to watch this season that could vie for the 2014 MAC Hermann Trophy.

The MAC Hermann Trophy is the most prestigious individual award in NCAA soccer presented annually to one male and one female athlete. The winners will be announced Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at the trophy presentation banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis.

Green is currently in Canada playing with Team USA as a member of the 2014 Under 20 World Cup squad. Green heads into her junior year at fourth-ranked North Carolina, which begins its slate August 22 versus Stanford in Chapel Hill, after being named third-team All-ACC as a sophomore in 2013. As a freshman in 2012 on Carolina’s NCAA championship team, Green was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team as well as to the Soccer America All-Freshman Team and the first-team Top Drawer Soccer Freshman Team of the Season.

The 2014 Watch Lists were announced earlier today on NSCAATV.com on the “2014 NSCAA College Soccer Review Show,” which also revealed the 2014 NSCAA/Continental Tire Preseason College Rankings for NCAA Division I men’s and women’s teams.

The lists are compiled by the NSCAA Men’s and Women’s NCAA Division I All-America Committees, based on their analysis of returning All-America and All-Region players, as well as any prominent newcomers.

Green was Carolina’s third-leading scorer in 2013 with 24 points on nine goals and six assists. As a freshman in 2012, Green scored seven goals and had eight assists for 22 points.

Near the end of the collegiate regular season, NCAA Division I coaches that are NSCAA members will vote on their top choices and the lists will be narrowed down to the top 15 players. College soccer fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the selection process, by voting for their favorite semifinalist in November at the MAC Hermann Trophy website, managed by LockerDome.

Carolina’s Hermann Trophy winners have included Shannon Higgins, Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm, Tisha Venturini, Cindy Parlow, Catherine Reddick and Crystal Dunn. Dunn is the most recent Tar Heel to win the award in 2012.

From that pool of 30, six finalists (three men, three women) will be chosen for the award. The winners will be announced in January.

For more information about the history of the MAC Hermann Trophy and a list of past winners, visit the MAC Hermann Trophy information page at the NSCAA website.

For more information about the history of the MAC Hermann Trophy, and news and video from previous MAC Hermann presentations, visit lockerdome.com/machermanntrophy.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/summer-green-named-hermann-trophy-watch-list/

MSoc’s Okwuonu Tabbed For Hermann Trophy Watch List

For a second-straight season, North Carolina defender Boyd Okwuonu has been identified as a potential candidate for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy as announced on Wednesday.

The reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Defender of the Year has anchored a Tar Heel defense that has ranked first and sixth, respectively, over the last two years in goals-against-average in the nation.

Okwuonu, a senior from Edmond, Okla., has been recognized already by TopDrawerSoccer.com on its preseason Best XI list.

The MAC Hermann Trophy is the most prestigious individual award in NCAA soccer presented annually to one male and one female athlete. The winners will be announced Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at the trophy presentation banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis.

Near the end of the collegiate regular season, NCAA Division I coaches that are NSCAA members will vote on their top choices and the lists will be narrowed down to the top 15 players. College soccer fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the selection process, by voting for their favorite semifinalist in November at the MAC Hermann Trophy website, managed by LockerDome.

From that pool of 30, six finalists (three men, three women) will be chosen for the award. The winners will be announced in January.

For more information about the history of the MAC Hermann Trophy and a list of past winners, visit the MAC Hermann Trophy information page at the NSCAA website.

For more information about the history of the MAC Hermann Trophy, and news and video from previous MAC Hermann presentations, visit lockerdome.com/machermanntrophy.

Carolina opens its exhibition schedule with home matches against Gardner-Webb on Friday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m and versus the Carolina Railhawks on Monday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. The Tar Heels will also face ACC rival Wake Forest in an exhibition on Aug. 23 in Winston-Salem, N.C., at 7 p.m.

The regular season opens with a pair of powerhouse programs traveling to Chapel Hill over Labor Day weekend to take part in the annual Carolina Nike Classic. The Tar Heels will take on No. 7 California on Friday, Aug. 29 and No. 4 UCLA on Sunday, Aug. 31. Both matches will begin at 7 p.m., at Fetzer Field.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/msocs-okwuonu-tabbed-hermann-trophy-watch-list/

Tar Heels To Host Railhawks In Men’s Soccer Exhibition

The University of North Carolina will host the Carolina Railhawks in an exhibition men’s soccer match on Monday, Aug. 18 at Fetzer Field beginning at 7 p.m.
The match will serve as a fundraiser for the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund. Admission is free, but donations will be collected to support the former Tar Heel captain who passed away suddenly at the age of 22 of an Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy on August 5, 2012.

The Kirk Urso Memorial Fund provides a platform to develop and support youth heart health research and programming to honor the memory of Kirk Urso.

A 2012 graduate of North Carolina, Urso led the Tar Heels to four consecutive NCAA Men’s College Cup appearances and captained the 2011 club to the national title. He was selected by the Columbus Crew in the first round (No.10 overall) of the 2012 Supplemental Draft, and appeared in six games (five starts) with one assist.

Urso was admired for his unwavering work ethic and steadfast character both on and off the field.

The Fund supports research and programming focused on congenital heart defects and sudden cardiac death in youth.

Carolina will also host Gardner-Webb in its first exhibition of the season on Friday, Aug. 15 starting at 7 p.m.

The regular season opens with a pair of powerhouse programs traveling to Chapel Hill over Labor Day weekend to take part in the annual Carolina Nike Classic. The Tar Heels will take on California on Friday, Aug. 29 and UCLA on Sunday, Aug. 31. Both matches will begin at 7 p.m., at Fetzer.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-host-railhawks-mens-soccer-exhibition/

UNC To ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Final Four teams Florida and Wisconsin could meet in the semifinals of the fourth annual Battle 4 Atlantis.

North Carolina, UCLA, Oklahoma and Georgetown are also in the eight-team field announced Wednesday.

The Gators and Hoyas meet in the opening round Nov. 26, with the winner facing Wisconsin or UAB. Butler will play North Carolina, and UCLA is taking on Oklahoma in the other opening games.

The championship is Nov. 28 at the 3,900-seat Imperial Arena, a ballroom converted to a basketball venue.

From Nov. 14-22, the teams traveling to Paradise Island will host a game on the mainland. The opponents include Louisiana-Monroe, Coastal Carolina, Chattanooga and Robert Morris.

Villanova upset then-No. 2 Kansas in the semifinals and beat Iowa to win last year’s tournament.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-battle-4-atlantis/

Switzer, QB Duo Lead Bevy of Offensive Talent on Warp-Speed Tar Heels

The trademark of the No. 23 North Carolina football team has become the warp-speed no huddle offense of head coach Larry Fedora. With two adept quarterbacks and a plethora of playmakers at UNC’s disposal, Kenan Stadium should be filled with plenty of offensive fireworks this fall.

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Former Mr. Football of the state of Ohio, redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky, has embodied the competition-based culture at Carolina since the moment the offseason began in 2014.

Coach Fedora has made it clear that much like the raging quarterback battle; all positions are up for grabs. Trubisky, embroiled in a fight for the starting job with junior Marquise Williams, says he’s impressed with every aspect of the offense.

“The guys up front have really grown a lot since spring. From right to left tackle, all those guys have improved tremendously. As a quarterback, it’s great to see that. With the receivers, we have a lot of weapons on the outside. Of course, we have all the running backs for the dog pound. We’re going to have a special offense this year,” Trubisky says.

Mitch Trubisky (UNC Athletics)

Mitch Trubisky (UNC Athletics)

With tight end Eric Ebron set to play on Sundays rather than Saturdays this fall, the onus now falls on senior Jack Tabb. But Tabb says he’s excited for the challenge and is embracing the opportunity to impart his knowledge and experiences to the underclassmen.

“I’m just excited to play. That’s all there is to it. It feels good. I’ve been here a long time and been through a couple coaches. I learned a lot over the years. It’s good to be able to teach the young kids how to work to be the best,” Tabb says.

Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Switzer has made it blatantly clear that he aims to top his achievements from his freshman campaign. One of his stated goals is extraordinarily lofty: to win the Heisman Trophy.

But Coach Fedora says he has no problems with Switzer dreaming big. He says he hopes the coaching staff can help all the Tar Heel players live out their dreams.

“I got no problem with that. That’s his dream. That’s one of his goals. He told me that before he came here – one was to be an All American, one was to win the Heisman Trophy. I don’t have a problem with that. Our goal as a staff is to help them reach their dreams and goals, whatever they may be,” Coach Fedora says.

Switzer sprinting ahead (GoHeels.com)

Switzer sprinting ahead (GoHeels.com)

Although Switzer has been lobbying to join forces with running back T.J. Logan on the kickoff return team, Coach Fedora remains undecided on that prospect. But the Carolina skipper is busy preparing for how opponents are set to combat Switzer on punt returns the this fall.

“All their eyes are going to be on him. It’s going to be interesting to see what teams do in those situations when he’s back there. Are they going to punt away from? Rugby punt? Punt it out of bounds? We’ll tinker with some things. We may have two return men back there. We could do a lot of different things. For me, it’s been about trying to figure out what teams will do against us and then have an answer for that,” Coach Fedora says.

As for that widely publicized quarterback duel, Coach Fedora alludes to the fact that Williams has always maintained a slight edge over Trubisky if for nothing else but the experience factor.

“Marquise was ahead of him coming out of spring ball. A lot of that is because he’s been around here and has quite a number of game reps under his belt. He’s won some football games. It’s a little bit more natural for him now. Mitch has to be a lot more conscious to do it,” Coach Fedora says.

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

Coach Fedora says when Renner went down to injury last year; no one could have known the readiness of Williams.

“He was preparing himself week in and week out. Even though we may not have known the intensity and the effort that he was putting into it, he was doing it internally. When he stepped out there, he knew what he was doing and was ready to go,” Coach Fedora says.

Williams’ dedication to his craft has only been amplified by his competition with Trubisky. And although the two say they remain close friends through it all, there’s no question Trubisky has been preparing, much like Williams a year ago, to marshal the Tar Heel offense on Saturdays.

But no matter the eventual signal caller, the potency of the Carolina weaponry they will be wielding appears undeniable.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/bevy-offensive-talent-buoys-warp-speed-tar-heels/

Schoettmer, Tar Heel Defense Ready to Leave Mark on 2014

The much maligned Carolina football defense seemingly picked up some steam at the close of the 2013 season. Following the 55 points surrendered against East Carolina, the Tar Heels held all of their remaining nine opponents under 30 points.

This year, veteran linebacker Jeff Schoettmer and company are ready to build off that momentum and turn some heads on the defensive side of the ball.

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“The first two seasons we’ve been average as a defense. But this year, we’re finally understanding the defense as a whole,” Schoettmer says.

The Carolina defense was a tale of two distinct seasons a year ago – pre- and post-ECU, but this year, the Tar Heels are not expecting a slow start.

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning watered the playbook down for his men in the second half of 2013. The move turned out to pay dividends as Schoettmer says the unit’s confidence went through the roof, freeing his teammates up to play a cohesive, fast and physical brand of football.

“There’s a lot of confidence. Guys have confidence that they know they can make a play. It also goes back to guys knowing their responsibilities better. Towards the second half of the season, we had less calls and let guys play. It boiled down that we wanted it more. […] Finally, we just came together,” Schoettmer says.

Schoettmer with the tackle (Herald Sun)

Schoettmer with the tackle (Herald Sun)

With the loss of an influential senior class, which included defensive stalwarts Tre Boston and Kareem Martin, new leaders will need to emerge on game days in Chapel Hill.

Schoettmer recognizes the hole that’s been left, but he’s not too worried. He says the UNC defense sports a trio of talented veterans ready to fill the void.

“I’d like to say myself; Tim Scott and Norkeithus Otis [are leaders]. We’re three older guys who have been here a while. We’ve done a good job of it this summer. Kareem [Martin] and Tre [Boston] are gone. We have to move on from them. This summer and spring, we’ve taken control to leave our mark and help the young guys. I think we’ve done a good job of it so far,” Schoettmer says.

Junior defensive tackle Justin Thomason is not yet known by the vast majority of Carolina observers, but Thomason says he’s learned the proper practice intensity it takes to compete at the highest level on Saturdays from past Carolina standouts and key teammates like senior safety Tim Scott.

“I learned a lot from Tim [Scott] and Kareem [Martin] in the past years – and Sylvester [Williams]. They taught me how to practice. That’s the main thing. You have to practice every practice like it’s a game,” Thomason says.

UNC training camp (UNC Athletics)

UNC training camp (UNC Athletics)

Sophomore defensive back Dominique Green, who turned in a breakout freshman campaign that included three interceptions and five pass breakups, says the communication lines are much more open on the field in training camp. He says his defensive teammates are on the same page.

“We hear all the guys talking to each other and letting each other know where they need to be and how they need to do it. Everybody is taking it in and not taking it the wrong way. All you hear is everybody talking. We’ll be sharper this year,” Green says.

Coach Koenning and the rest of the defensive staff will be able to judge the unit’s sharpness more clearly when the Tar Heels welcome the Liberty Flames to Chapel Hill Aug. 30.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/schoettmer-tar-heel-defense-ready-leave-mark-2014/

Larry Fedora Seeing Game Plan Come Together in Year Three

Preseason training camp is in full swing for the No. 23 North Carolina football team. And with the season opening game against Liberty a mere 25 days away, head coach Larry Fedora is giving the Tar Heels a crash course in preparation for a 2014 campaign full of expectation.

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Coach Fedora says he’s been happy with the energy level and excitement surrounding the players during preseason practices, which began last Friday.

“I was really pleased with the way they were moving around. It was your typical first day. We are in shorts. Everybody’s hopes are high. They’re excited. They were all flying around. But it was more about the recall for the coaches – seeing how much they had done over the summer and what they knew and didn’t know. We were really pleased,” Coach Fedora says.

The first couple seasons under the Coach Fedora regime has seen modest success for the Tar Heels, who’ve gone 15-10 overall with a Belk Bowl win putting an exclamation point on 2013.

But in year three in the system, Coach Fedora says he expects things will come even easier for the Tar Heels.

“You have guys over there who have been in the system now for three years. They don’t have to think about it any more. They can react. They can actually be as good as they can be. Now, they don’t have to worry about things. […] They can react to what they’re seeing and just play ball,” Coach Fedora says.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications

The No. 1 question as the season creeps ever closer will continue to be the status of the starting quarterback. Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky continue to duke it out on the Navy Field practice facility.

But although Coach Fedora won’t tip his hand on his starter, he has revealed the winning criteria for the job.

“It’s going to be who makes the offense most productive. It’s going to be who’s the most productive player on the field and who makes the offense most productive. On top of that, it’s going to be who leads this team the best. Those are two major factors for us,” Coach Fedora says.

For those expecting a decision on the quarterback position, think again. Coach Fedora is in no hurry to make a call.

“The game is on the 30th, right? We got to make a decision that morning sometime I imagine. We’ve got to put somebody out there for that first snap,” Coach Fedora says.

The man who will be play-calling for the Tar Heel offense this fall, Seth Littrell, is eager to take some more aggressive shots down the field in Kenan Stadium.

Coach Littrell (UNC Athletics)

Coach Littrell (UNC Athletics)

Earlier on in the spring, Coach Fedora says the players’ knowledge was far more advanced than Coach Littrell, because he wasn’t able to bring his own offensive scheme with him from Bloomington.

But now, the former Indiana offensive coordinator has caught up. Coach Fedora says Coach Littrell is much more comfortable in the offensive scheme these days.

“He’s a whole lot more comfortable. Seth didn’t bring his offense in here. Seth has learned this offense and added some things to it. He had to learn the terminology. I think he’s a lot more comfortable understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the kids he has and what he can do with them,” Coach Fedora says.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/larry-fedora-seeing-unc-football-come-together-year-three/

Tar Heel Brayden Schnur Qualifies For ATP’s Rogers Cup

Carolina men’s tennis player Brayden Schnur will be taking on the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic this week in Toronto.

Schnur, a sophomore at UNC, qualified for the Rogers Cup, an ATP masters series event, over the weekend with a pair of commanding straight-set wins over Japan’s Yuichi Sugita and Australia’s Matthew Ebden. The latter is ranked inside the top 100 in the world.

Brayden Schnur pumps himself up (UNC Athletics)

Brayden Schnur pumps himself up (UNC Athletics)

Schnur is currently ranked No. 609 in the ATP rankings, but that’s sure to change following the Rogers Cup.

Being a Canadian, himself, Schnur’s unlikely heroics in his home country are made all the more special. He says his dream is to play the game full-time professionally.

The 19-year-old enrolled at UNC in January and made quite a splash in his freshman campaign for the Tar Heels, who were knocked out in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Schnur will take on Italy’s Andrea Seppi, ranked No. 48 in the world, in the opening round. If Schnur is able to get past the crafty Italian, he could face a potential second-round meeting with American No. 1 and Greensboro native John Isner.

You can follow Schnur’s progress in the Rogers Cup at rogerscup.com.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heel-brayden-schnur-qualifies-atps-rogers-cup/

Three Players No Longer On UNC Football Roster

CHAPEL HILL — Three North Carolina players have left the program and the status of a fourth is in doubt.

Team spokesman Kevin Best said Wednesday that senior defensive tackle Shawn Underwood, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Gregg Webb and sophomore linebacker Clint Heaven are no longer on the team.

Best says Underwood and Webb left for personal reasons while Heaven transferred to Northern Iowa.

Additionally, the status of sophomore offensive guard J.J. Patterson is in doubt. Best says Patterson will not be part of the 105-man roster that will report to training camp, which starts Thursday.

Underwood was listed as a possible starter on the Tar Heels’ preseason depth chart.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/three-players-longer-unc-football-roster/