When UNC prepared for ECU two years ago, we planned to run the ball as much as possible. It was our belief that the nature of ECU’s offense prevented their defense from preparing adequately for our run game.

Offensively the Pirates are no huddle, four wide receivers, and heavily oriented toward the pass. We didn’t think that they would be able to practice against a running game consisting of multiple personnel groupings, confusing run fits, and conflict of assignment play-action passes. They didn’t have the personnel to form a scout team mimicking what we did offensively.
We were right. In 2010, Johnny White and Shaun Draughn both went over 100 yards rushing and combined for 277 yards on 43 carries in a big win. Last season, Gio Bernard eclipsed the 100-yard mark with 12 minutes remaining in the first half and the RBs combined for 226 yards on 40 carries in another win.
This plan is the same one Louisville used against UNC last week as the Cardinals RBs combined for 200 yards on 36 carries and their offense held the ball for more than 38 minutes.
This year, UNC’s offense will look like spring football to Brian Mitchell, the DC at ECU. The over/under for passes in this game is 100 and there may be 200 offensive plays run between these similar offenses.
The good news for both defenses is that this is what they see every day in practice. Neither defense will be shaken by the quick pace, confused by pass concepts, or asked to figure out complex running plays. However, UNC’s advantage is future NFL QB Bryn Renner. As he gets more comfortable in the new offense, he will continue to improve. I’m sure Gio will be back soon, but A.J. Blue and Romar Morris have been outstanding in his place. They have both run and caught the ball effectively. This takes pressure off the wide receivers to always get open. When Bryn is willing to check it down to backs like these if nothing is open downfield, it makes calling plays easy.
N.C. State v. The Citadel
Kevin Higgins, the Head Coach at The Citadel, is a good coach who does a lot with a little. Imagine game planning against the schemes of Georgia Tech (i.e. straight option football) but with diverse personnel groupings, formations, motions, and shifts.
A problem that Mike Archer, the DC at State, will have is the same problem ECU had against UNC in the past. It is hard to practice against option football. The N.C. State offense is not set up to run the option and won’t have many players on their scout team to mimic what they will see this weekend. The first realistic look State sees of option football this week may be in Saturday’s game.
Coach Tom O’Brien has committed significant time in spring practice and summer training camp to defending option football. This advance preparation is smart because it is nearly impossible to prepare for this type of game in one week.

Option football creates headaches. On every play, the quarterback decides whether to give the ball to the fullback, keep it himself, or pitch it to a halfback. These are his “options” depending on how the defense reacts. Therefore, the defense has to tackle each of these positions on every play because they don’t know who is getting it.
This is assignment football at its best and any lack of discipline regarding these assignments is costly. It also eliminates “gang tackling.” When playing such disciplined assignments, players are forced to make unassisted tackles because the pursuit is not nearly what it is with a conventional offense.
It is my firm belief that nothing stimulates good morale on a football team like running the football effectively. To do so, an offense has to work as a unit more than in the passing game where isolated match ups come into play. Offensive lines love coming off the ball with flat backs and an aggressive demeanor.
Receivers and QBs know there will be big plays with conflict of assignment play-action passes. Defensive players love watching their teammates control the clock from the sideline. And after last week, The Citadel’s morale has to be sky high. The Bulldogs ran 63 times for 463 yards, controlling the ball for 38:11 minutes, and jumped out to a 31-0 lead over Appalachian State. That’s some attention-grabbing football.
The best way to control such a potent offense is to keep it off the field. State is going to have to put together some long drives and eat some time off the clock. Mike Glennon should have another strong day and find a lot of completions against a defense that doesn’t work a lot against complex passing schemes.
Duke v. Memphis
Memphis is off to a slow start this year under new Head Coach Justin Fuente. But their leading rusher is a young man our community should have an interest in. Jerrell Rhodes, a Jordan HS alum, is Memphis’ starting TB and I imagine he will be excited to come home to play a game in Durham. He is a fine young man who I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know in the recruiting process. I wish him well.
The Tigers will have a tough time handling a Duke offense that is becoming more balanced. Just like last week, Duke needs to run the ball effectively. Against N.C. Central the Blue Devils did: 29 times for 128 yards. Couple that run production with a 25 of 35 passing day and Duke will continue to give DCs headaches.
Look for Duke to strengthen its run production again versus the 108th run defense in the country. Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Roper know how important it will be to show a diverse attack heading into conference play the following week.
Carrboro High School v. Chapel Hill High School

This game might be the best one in the Triangle this weekend. Friday night the Chapel Hill Tigers host the Carrboro Jaguars in a battle of 5-0 teams. Carrboro Head Coach Jason Tudryn brings a physical brand of offensive football against a swarming, gang tackling, and hard-nosed defense of Chapel Hill, coached by Isaac Marsh.

Carrboro has a punishing ground game led by QB Alex McVeigh and RBs Doug Parrish and Trai Sharp. They grind it out behind a strong OL led by OT Ezavian Dunn. Carrboro mixes formations, motions, and shifts to gain strategic advantages in the run game as well as any team in the state, at ANY level. I get ideas every time I watch a Jason Tudryn coached team.
However, they are going up against one of the best defenses in the state this week. Chapel Hill has an imposing DL led by Brian James and Alex Colson who protect a group of LBs and safeties who pursue and gang tackle like the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I am excited to call the game with Paul Connell on WCHL radio at 7:30.