Can UNC offensive coordinator Phil Longo balance out his Air Raid offense with the Tar Heels’ rotation of good running backs?
This is Dakota with Monday’s sports notebook.
One of Mack Brown’s biggest moves this offseason was bringing in Longo to run his Air Raid offense in Chapel Hill. Longo is formerly of Ole Miss, where he helped receivers like A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf turn into NFL prospects.
The Air Raid offense operates at a high tempo, getting the ball into and out of the quarterback’s hands within seconds. Under Longo’s tutelage, Ole Miss fielded one of the nation’s top offenses in the nation.
The only problem? UNC has neither an experienced quarterback nor receivers for the 2019-20 season.
The three-man battle between Sam Howell, Cade Fortin, and Jace Ruder will continue until fall camp, but the winner will still be a very young player. Meanwhile, the only returning receiver with over 20 catches last season is junior Dazz Newsome.
Luckily, the Tar Heels have a talented staple of running backs to rely on.
A common misconception with the Air Raid offense is that it’s completely reliant on passing the football. Longo’s previous two offenses at Ole Miss and Sam Houston State featured great rushing attacks to go along with the passing game.
UNC returns three running backs who could be starters at other Power 5 schools. Michael Carter and Antonio Williams each rushed for over 500 yards last season and Javonte Williams averaged 5.2 yards per carry despite not recording many rushes.
If the running backs can carry the offense, it will allow the freshman quarterbacks to settle in more easily. Look for sophomore receiver Dyami Brown to take the job opposite Newsome as well.
The Tar Heels will likely have to lean on their running backs early in the season. The Heels open with South Carolina, Miami, Wake Forest, App State and Clemson just within the first month.
That’s a brutal stretch to open with and it will make Longo’s job that much tougher. Getting off on the wrong foot could spell doom for the Tar Heels’ first season under Mack Brown.