North Carolina Football: 7 Things on Summer "To-Do" List
In the minds of most college football fans, this is the lull period on the calender. As the temperatures rise and September remains a light at the end of a long tunnel, supporters of their football teams have little else to do than over-analyze every single little thing about every single little position.
The North Carolina Tar Heels have a lot of storylines on their TV program, both on and off the field. They have to replace a host of stars from last years 8-5 team, including longtime QB T.J. Yates. However, 14 of the 22 starters from last year are back, so a degree of continuity should lead to optimism heading into the season.
That's good, because the second consecutive season will likely be overshadowed by events off the field. They have been handed a list of accusations by the NCAA and must present a case to them in late October.
Because of all these issues, the Tar Heels have a lot on their plate during the summer season. This down time is the perfect time to get their act together because before we all know it they will be playing football again.
Here are seven things on North Carolina's list of things to do over the new few months.
Get Story Straight for NCAA
All the attention at Chapel Hill revolves around the ongoing investigation being handled by the NCAA. The Tar Heels face a host of accusations and problems which could derail a second straight season. The official list of accusations against the program was just released last week, so fans and onlookers are in chaos at the moment.
North Carolina is set to present their side of the story to some sort of board of 80-year-old elitists on October 28th. They have all summer to get all of their information together and try to
If the past is any indication as to what will happen to the Tar Heels, then fans shouldn't be worried. The NCAA rarely takes these things seriously and usually just gives a slap on the wrist. It seems that these allegations are of the minor variety and only a few scholarships may be on the line.
That said, the school needs to get their story together before they meet with NCAA officials.
Find a Consistent Second Wideout
Dwight Jones proved he can be a consistent go-to option for the Tar Heels offense in 2010 and will be heavily relied upon to do more of the same this year.
However, with a much more murky situation at quarterback going into this fall, the receivers are going to have to step up. Nobody, aside from Jones, had more than 25 catches in 2010 and this has got to improve for the Heels to have any chance of competing in 2011.
A second guy (whether it be Erik Highsmith, Jheranie Boyd or someone else) will have to put up big numbers to keep the offense balanced and put up points. Virtually all of the starters return from this group making it even more important that they help out the young quarterback with reliable hands.
Decide on a Quarterback and Get Him Reps
Having a playmaking quarterback, whether it be on the ground or in the air, is the single most important thing in college football. It has been proven time and time again that even moreso than the NFL, college football is a QB-driven sport.
Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, they have a host of problems at quarterback after the graduation of starter T.J. Yates. Sophomore Bryn Renner looks like he has the upper hand on the job at this point, but with Butch Davis it's anyone's guess. Braden Hanson and freshman Marquise Williams are also in the mix at this point
Whoever the quarterback may be, this is the vital time of the season. They all have virtually zero experience and playing in the ACC is no day at the park. Summer reps will be vital to the Tar Heels success, or failure, in 2011 and its crucial Davis decides on a starter and give him the keys to the car.
Decide on a Running Back(s) and Get Him (or Them) Reps
As murky as the quarterback situation currently stands heading into the summer, the running back position could be even more unclear.
Shaun Draughn and Johnny White had excellent seasons for UNC, almost exactly splitting the workload (129/130 carries for the two) and averaging over five yards a carry. They, including third-stringer Anthony Elzy, graduated, however, leaving a significant hole in the depth chart.
This shuffling has vaulted Ryan Houston, who didn't have a carry in 2010, to the top of the chart. Backing him up will be redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard. The former four-star recruit from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida tore his ACL last April and missed the entire season, so bringing him back slowly and getting him acclimated to the offense will be on the checklist for the Tar Heels.
Hunter Furr and another freshman, Travis Riley, should see carries for the team in 2011. In today's game, it's hard to shoulder too much of a load on one particular back, but deciding who will be the number one guy will set the tone and create a confidence that should help the entire offense.
Most teams use more than one or two backs throughout the season, and the Tar Heels will be no different. Settling on a feature back may not be so easy.
Ban Usage of Twitter Accounts for Entire Season
OK, so this is something that should be mandated by the NCAA, given the often foolish nature of college football players. But in the Tar Heels case it becomes an even more important focus.
The school has not monitored their athletes' accounts in any significant manner, which has led to some problems.
While Marvin Austin was still in school, some of his tweets certainly implied that he was doing things that were in violation of general NCAA reviews.
Rumors even swirled that this was the cause of the initial investigation that led to the suspension of so many of UNC's stars from last year's squad. Although it's hard to confirm something like that, the possibility that it's even try makes it enough cause to keep the players off the stupid website.
Athletes and Twitter is the new drinking and driving. Not a good combination.
Decide on the Future of Butch Davis
This might not be the best time to do this, but at some point it has to be taken care.
Butch Davis has done a lot of positive things for this football program. He brought them out of the doldrums of the conference by bringing in top class athletes. However in almost five years at the helm, he has failed to get them over the top and keep them in a ACC-title contention for the entire season.
Because the job he has done, in a larger context, reinvigorating the program, people in North Carolina have given him a lot more slack than most programs would.
This saga began almost a calender year ago and in that time Butch has received little in terms of votes of confidence.
His contract runs through 2014, so it's highly unlikely that he will get fired until after the season, if at all. There is still a small chance that Davis could get fired for the off the field mess, so it would be nice to see the higher-ups make a firm stance in defense of their coach.
Make the Team Focus Around the Trenches
You often hear about teams taking a smash mouth approach to the game, focusing on running the football and stopping the run with bruising lines. Given the talent they have, North Carolina should definitely consider this approach.
This is clearly the strength of UNC's roster. Their offensive line is deep and experienced. Jonathan Cooper, Cam Holland and James Hurst are the leaders of this group and should do an excellent job of creating running lanes and protecting whoever is behind center in the fall. By and large, the line is the strength of the entire offense.
On the defensive side of things, Quinten Coples, Donte Paige-Moss and Tydreke Powell are three of the best defensive lineman in the conference and they all return to lead the Heels D. They can get after the quarterback, despite only notching in 29 sacks as a group in 2010. Another year of maturity should help this group that was definitely affected by all the off-the-field drama.
North Carolina has the potential to control the line of scrimmage and give time to their playmakers on both sides of the ball to make plays. If extra attention is put on these two groups, the Heels may have a chance to win more than eight games in 2011.