Is UNC Filling In The Gaps? Spring Football Underway in Chapel Hill

I’m back with more UNC football but this time instead of breaking down National Signing Day it’s on to spring football. As I mentioned earlier, the Tar Heels had a season that was anything less then desirable so I’m sure when they kicked off spring practice earlier this month they were ready to get to work. So after signing a pretty decent recruiting class and getting all of those early enrollees set and ready to go, the Heels are ready to turn things around this season.

Let’s hope for the fan’s sake that new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik can work some magic on defense. The young team that took the field last season will have to be able to actually compete. I know it’s early but head coach Larry Fedora said they are starting to add some depth on each side of the ball at a number of positions, which only makes for better players and a better team. Let’s look at some of the things the Heels will need to figure out before fall ball comes.

  1. Defense: I said it before and I’m going to say it again they had a terrible defense last season, and the only way to fix that is to start over. Now that Chizik is in I think it’s safe to say that the defense will definitely have some new energy and a new look this spring. While all the guys are not there for spring this is the time Chizik can teach concepts, go back to the fundamentals and start teaching his new defensive system to the guys who are already there. Chizik is bringing to the table a much simpler defensive strategy to the Heels with a 4-3 scheme. Even though it’s the beginning stage of the reclamation project there’s no better time to start then in spring camp. This will be the time when Chizik and the rest of the defensive coaches will see who their leaders are going to be and what types of players they have to work with. Six return for UNC on defense but they were able to snag some really good defensive freshmen who can hopefully bring some energy, talent and depth. There is no doubt that it’s going to be a work in progress all spring and into the summer and fall, but I think they could come out and really turn themselves around. Of course, they only have one place to go and that’s up.
  1. Quarterback: Tar Heel fans are probably wondering why I’m adding this to the list, well in case you have not been keeping up with the team, QB Marquise Williams is not playing spring ball. He’s recovering from a hip injury. So what exactly does this mean for the offensive line then? Fedora said they were gaining depth in some positions on both sides of the ball, and I think QB is one that will be a work in progress this spring. Fedora will be looking at Mitch Trubisky to step up during Williams’ absence. Williams, a senior was named third team all ACC, accounted for over 3,800 total yards and 35 total touchdowns (including one receiving), would be Fedora’s first choice without a doubt, but I think Trubisky can step up to the plate. If he can be productive and really learn with the offense he could be quite the contender. It will be interesting to watch him progress through spring practice and see what strides he will make. Or maybe we will be looking at a freshman stepping up to the plate and creating competition with Williams? Who knows but it will definitely be a sight to see.
  1. Offense: While their defense was a disaster, the offense didn’t have too much to brag about either. While they are returning almost all of their starters on the front line, they are going to need some restructuring as well. Maybe not as much as the defense but a definite make over will need to take place. The offense is returning some key men and adding outstanding freshmen Mason Veal, William Sweet and Tommy Hatton. Only Veal and Sweet are currently at spring practice now, but they add a lot to this lineup. Depth is not something Fedora lacks on the front line, it’s more about finding the right combination to put out there. They will be looking to improve both rushing production and pass protection. I don’t think they will have too many issues on this side but changes will have to be made. Finally the thing for the offense is figuring out early what their strengths are. In a league like the ACC, where the competition is always tough you have to be more then good you need to be great… no exceptions.

Overall I think so far Fedora and his staff have a lot to work with, but a lot of work to do. Overhauling the defense will be an ongoing process but one that when it finally clicks and you have guys that get it and can execute, they will be top notch. There are still some freshmen who have yet to step on campus and veterans who are recovering from injuries, but in the meantime they will keep plugging away. I think they’ve filled in the gaps where they need to but it will definitely take Fedora time to put everything together. They have a lot to look forward to, especially a public scrimmage this weekend in Chapel Hill. There is no traditional spring game since Kenan Stadium is getting a little bit of a face lift. The open scrimmage this weekend will be held at the Navy Practice Field at 10 a.m. Then they will top off the spring with another public scrimmage down in Charlotte on April 11. That game will be at Rocky River High School at 1 p.m.

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