The Tar Heels have had two full weeks to reflect on their gutsy performance in the second half against LSU in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game.
During that time, more information continued to emerge regarding the NCAA investigations into improper benefits received from agents and academic infractions.
However, those who played in the game two weeks ago know that the program can’t just wait for the NCAA to deliver its final rulings on the 12 players remaining under investigation. Some of those players now have a game of experience under their belts, one more than they had entering the LSU game.
True freshmen cornerbacks Tre Boston and Jabari Price and true freshmen defensive ends Kareem Martin and Tim Jackson figure to be more comfortable as they take field against Georgia Tech at Kenan Memorial Stadium.
Defending the Run: Discipline, Intelligence, and Gap Assignments
The defense will be challenged as they face one of the strongest rushing attacks in the nation. The spread option scheme thrives on misdirection and keeping the defense off-balance. If the defensive line and linebackers key on the quarterback, the defense leaves a gap for the A-back to break a long run on a pitch.
Therefore, the young, mostly inexperienced defensive squad will have to stick with its gap assignments. Senior linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter remember how they took care of Georgia Tech in 2008 and need to impart that wisdom. Defending the spread option is less about athletic superiority and more about being smart and playing the running lanes.
Quick Start for UNC’s Offense
Georgia Tech’s offense does not lend itself to playing from behind. UNC would like to get a lead early and force Georgia Tech to throw the ball down the field more often. Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt has completed a dismal 6-for-21 in the first two games of the season, so the Yellow Jackets would rather not play facing a deficit.
If TJ Yates can continue his strong play from two weeks ago (412 yards and three touchdowns), the Tar Heels should have no trouble putting points on the board.
The Tar Heel offense got a boost when earlier this week, the starter at tailback in 2008 and 2009, Shaun Draughn, was cleared to play adding more depth to the position. Butch Davis has not indicated how much Draughn may be able to contribute but said that the team would use a “running back by committee."
Senior tailbacks Johnny White and Anthony Elzy both played in the LSU game, but both suffered ankle injuries. They will be ready to play, hopefully more effectively than against LSU, a combined 75 yards on 22 carries.
It became cliché after the LSU game to say that when the second-string starts, the third-string plays more special teams, and that hurt UNC. The Tar Heels focused on special teams during the last two weeks, so they should have cleared up some of the issues.
Also since White and Elzy are key special teams performers, but were unable to contribute in that phase against LSU due their offensive responsibilities, the introduction of Draughn will help lighten the load.
This is a key game for both teams to establish an early lead in the Coastal Division and carry momentum through the rest of the conference schedule. Georgia Tech would like to avenge their embarrassing loss to Kansas last week while UNC looks to perform despite the ongoing NCAA investigations.
We will see on Saturday whose will is greater.