1. How has North Carolina become No. 16 in the country in total offense and scoring offense?
The Tar Heels actually average fewer yards per play, 6.4, than Georgia Tech does, 6.6. North Carolina, however, plays a non-stop hurry-up style that permits more plays and possessions per game. The contrast in styles could be a determining factor in Saturday’s game.
“That’s what they do,” interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly said. “They do tempo like we run the triple option.”
Against N.C. State in its previous game, North Carolina had 20 possessions, twice as many as Tech had in its win over Maryland. The Yellow Jackets’ shortest possession, a three-and-out, lasted 1:19. The Tar Heels, not counting a game-ending kneeldown and a punt returned for a touchdown, had eight possessions that did not last that long.
“It’s going to fall somewhere in the middle,” coach Paul Johnson said. “I would doubt there’s going to be 20 possessions. If we can get off to a good start and get that thing slowed down, maybe they don’t want to go as fast.”
Said North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, “We understand we’re not going to get the possessions we’ve normally had in a game because of their style, and it’s just the way it is.”
To prepare for North Carolina’s hurry-up offense, coaches have used two offensive scout teams against the defense in practice. One scout team will run a play, and as soon as the defense makes the stop, the other scout team runs to the line of scrimmage for the next snap.
A-backs Dennis Andrews and Austin McClellan have been portraying North Carolina tailbacks Giovani Bernard, A.J. Blue and Romar Morris. Johnson said that McClellan, a freshman walk-on, “has really been really good all year.”
2. Quarterback Tevin Washington, who was held out of practice Tuesday with bumps and bruises, returned to practice Wednesday. Offensive tackle Will Jackson, who has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, probably will not play, Johnson said. Morgan Bailey has started in his place.
With Washington out Tuesday, freshman Justin Thomas took snaps with the second-team offense while Vad Lee practiced with the first string.
“Sometimes, we’ll take Synjyn (Days) and let him get some work in because he’d be the third guy, but (Tuesday), I wanted to give Justin a chance to get a day’s worth of work in,” quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon said.
3. Among the fleet of dangerous skill-position players that North Carolina boasts is tight end Eric Ebron, who ranks second on the team with 35 catches. He averages 15.6 yards per reception. Last year against Tech, he caught two passes for 44 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown reception.
“A lot of skills, whether he’s blocking or whether he’s out in space,” outside linebackers coach Joe Speed said. “He’s a very good athlete, good speed, good hands.”
Speed’s players, notably Brandon Watts and Jeremiah Attaochu, likely will be assigned to Ebron at various points.
3. The Andy McCollum reunion tour continues. In the past two years, the Tech inside linebackers coach has played against two teams he coached for, Middle Tennessee State and N.C. State, and went with Tech to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, where he coached Texas-El Paso. On Saturday, he’ll coach against Fedora, who was an assistant coach for McCollum when he was head coach at MTSU. McCollum coached there from 1999-2005. Fedora coached for him in 1999-2001. They also coached together as assistants at Baylor 1993-96.
Because of the connection, said inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, “We’ve got a heads-up on what they’re doing.”
4. Bohannon on B-back David Sims: “He’s starting to feel like himself again. In fact, we were talking about it coming off the field (Tuesday). He’s getting back to where he was a year ago and that’s encouraging. … If he’ll just keep moving forward, I feel good about that.”
Bohannon said that Sims, who competed with Zach Laskey for playing time, is the starter. Sims had eight carries for 33 yards against Maryland.
Thanks for reading.
In case you missed it…
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog