It felt like so little time ago we were talking about months before we would see what first year head coach Larry Fedora would do with his new offense and defense in Chapel Hill. Then, as the summer hit the month of August months turned into weeks, then weeks turned into days and finally, with this post, we are going to talk about hours before the beginning of a new era at North Carolina football program. Tomorrow, with kick off at 12:30 p.m. EST (televised by ACC Network and on the radio on Sirius 136 and XM 191), which means in less than 25 hours from now, Carolina will host Elon in the first game for both squads this season and the first game between these two programs ever. While it’s just great that football is back in season, for UNC getting back on the gridiron is also a way to get the off the court stuff on the back burner and have all focus on the season itself.
“Ready or not, it’s here. The season is here. We’re in game-week mode. The kids have worked extremely hard and had a really good camp and now we’re ready to find out who the Tar Heels are going to be this year.”
This is how coach Fedora began his Monday press conference. And ready or not, that is exactly how it is, all the hard work and sweat that this squad had put in, both in spring ball, then the summer and finally the pre season, will now be put to the test for real, on the field, for a dozen games. Some people might think that the real season might not come until next week, I beg to differ for many reasons. First, it’s a new regime and it needs not to just win the game but to show that their new schemes work, both on offense and defense.
Here are my keys to the game:
- Do not keep it close. As we all know in this game UNC has everything to lose and Elon has everything to gain. Keeping it close will make the Phoenix believe that they can win this game and that is the last thing anyone in Chapel Hill wants. If I was on the Carolina coaching staff and won the coin toss tomorrow I would take the ball in the first half, telling my team to go down and score at all cost. Having read on CBS that in Elon’s last 20 games 10 have been decided by a touchdown or less, the Phoenix have won six of them should be food for thought for all on the Heels side to make sure that this game is out of reach by half time.
- Do not give up the big plays on D. With a new defense, with players that are getting accustomed to the new schemes and their team mates as they have not played much, giving up the big play, especially if they also end up yielding points, is going to give momentum to Elon. The Phoenix have Aaron Mellette, a wide out that has caught 207 passes and 26 TDs in his career, will be going up against a shaky back four for UNC. That match up does not fare well for UNC and I am sure is one that Elon will try to use over and over when on offense.
- Run, baby, run! While the spread offense is going to highlight some of the receivers that are on the Carolina roster this team is going to be as good as Giovani Bernard makes them. If the second year starter can be dominant in each game this season it will open up any and all the passing lanes that quarterback Bryn Renner needs. The one thing that, looking way forward, coach Fedora has to think about is putting in another back when possible as Bernard might be on his last season in Chapel Hill. With an experienced line like the one that will be on the field for UNC the run game should shine under any type of offense and no matter who is the one carrying the pigskin.
- Keep the field long for the opposition. This defense, which in the past might have been the driving force for the Heels, is going to be working to gel as a unit while they learn the schemes with players that are not as talented as some years back. The last thing that they need is for the offense to turn the ball over or for the special teams to give up big plays and have a short field to defend.
In the end this game should be a definite “W” for the North Carolina football squad, beating Elon by 4 touchdowns, with the final score being 38 to 10. But more than the score I am going to keep an eye on how the squad plays, on both side of the ball, watching how the veterans look in a new scheme and how the newer players fit in with the older ones. For more on Carolina football and/or basketball make sure to check back on isportsweb often.