Keep Jordan Jefferson Mobile
Even with Marvin Austin out at defensive end, the Tar Heels still possess a potent front seven with Robert Quinn, perhaps the best defender in the ACC on the other end and a very talented defensive end backup in Quinton Copels to fill in for Austin.
UNC also has arguably the best trio of linebackers in the country. In order to keep them off of Jefferson’s back it would be wise to feed him a bevy of roll-out pass plays to utilizes his very capable wheels and to force the Tar Heels to chase a moving target and not tee off on a pocket fixture.
Do Not Abandon the Run
Richard Murphy, Stephan Ridley, and company may initially find the going tough, as the offensive line will have their hands full in trying to create running lanes against this group. In order to be successful at the end of the game the Tigers must not abandon the run if success is hard to come by early on.
By continuing to pound away at this group, mixed in with at least moderate success in the passing game, the offensive line will begin to loosen them up a bit in the fourth, providing some rushing opportunities.
Utilize the Short Passing Game, Especially with Russell Shepard
The combination of a very mobile Jordon Jefferson along with a very capable receiving corps will present numerous opportunities for success, especially in the short to intermediate passing game.
Russell Shepard, with his elite speed and quickness, will be able to create matchup problems for the defense in the short passing game and can really cause major headaches for Butch Davis with his yards after the catch potential. Accounting for Shepard while dealing with superior receivers in Ruben Randle and Terrance Tolliver down field will be a challenge for the Tar Heel defenders.
Keep the Corners on their Islands
Patrick Peterson is All-World in what he brings to his corner as a defender, and Morris Claiborne isn’t far behind. With Greg Little, the only truly seasoned wide receiver on the North Carolina team, possibly suspended for alleged NCAA violations, the two Tiger cornerbacks have a good chance of controlling both sidelines by themselves, freeing up the safeties to play center field with an occasional assist from the middle linebacker.
This would greatly enhance the pass defense and also lend help in run defense.
Stuff the UNC Rush
The Tar Heels have a solid rushing attack in their two featured running backs, Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston. They hit the hole hard and have been productive, however they lack elite breakaway speed and don’t possess brute power to run people over.
Their offensive line has been adequate at best, however, they return four out of five starters from last year. The Tigers should stuff the box from beginning to end, limiting run production, given the assets in the LSU secondary.
Make QB T.J. Yates Uncomfortable
Yates has the physical skills to be a good, productive quarterback at this level, however, the fifth-year senior has struggled in the past. In 2009 he threw 15 picks, unfortunately for him, he only tossed 14 touchdown passes.
He is somewhat mobile, but he can be rattled into poor decision making with pressure. I see safety blitz, early and often, written all over this one. Brandon Taylor and his buddies at safety should be able to cause havoc in the Tar Heel passing game.
The Tigers have the overall talent advantage from top to bottom and are a more balanced team on both sides of the ball. If the coaching staff play their cards right and the players bring their “A” game and execute (like they did on their last trip to Atlanta) the Bayou Bengals should be stuffed from feasting on fresh Tar Heel come late Saturday Night.