Today we’re talking about Virginia Tech football’s next opponent, the North Carolina Tarheels. To tell us a little about the UNC team, we’re talking with the fine folks over at Keeping It Heel, a very good UNC sports blog. Like we did with Bearcatsblog last week, I will also be answering some questions over on their site too, so check out for that later today. So let’s get to the questions. Hope you enjoy…
Q: With UNC not being bowl eligible this season, how are the players and coaches approaching these bigger (well, usually) games in conference?
A: The attitude around the team this season has been very upbeat. With new head coach Larry Fedora the Tar Heels are talking like they don’t even know they are under sanctions stating over and over they want to win the Coastal division, ignoring the fact that they can’t technically win anything. I also think the team is smart enough to know any bowl game they would normally qualify for this year wouldn’t be a big one and they are fine building confidence this year and looking to next for the post season.
Q: Bryn Renner showed a lot of promise last season and has played very well so far this season. How has he improved from last year and what does he bring to UNC’s offense?
A: I wouldn’t say Renner has improved from last year, at times, he has struggled learning the new offense. He has done a great job as a traditional drop back, under center passer to Fedoras new shotgun style spread offense. He’s very mentally tough and has kept the team in games despite large deficits at times. He also showed the team and fanbase his toughness playing through a concussion early in the season after sticking his neck out in an attempt to rush into the end zone. Personally, Renner has surprised me in how fast he has adjusted to the new style which in my opinion doesn’t fit his style of play.
Q: UNC has three running backs with over 200 yards this season. What do each of these backs do that brings something a little different to the table?
A: Giovani Bernard is the stud of the group and the other two wouldn’t be where they are if he didn’t miss 2.5 games due to injury. On a contending team, Bernard is a Heisman candidate. AJ Blue is the power back and is the North and South runner of the group and has received the bulk of the load when Bernard is out and is the primary backup when he is healthy. Romar Morris is the speedster, I would compare him to Darren Sproles, a great receiver out of the backfield and a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the football.
Q: What should Virginia Tech fans be on the lookout for in terms of UNC’s defense this Saturday? Is there a player or scheme to watch out for?
A: The pass rush and front seven is the strength of the Tar Heels defense. Sylvester Williams is the guy to watch out for, he’s a mammoth man in the middle that can cause havoc if the interior offensive line has any weakness he will expose it early and often.
Q: Jabari Price leads UNC’s defense in tackles with 21. Now, a cornerback leading a team in tackling is kind of rare. What makes Price so effective in that Tarheel defense?
A: Price is the teams best player in a weak secondary and his leading the team in tackles is more indicative of the teams weak pass coverage. He’s great against the run also and if a back gets past the first level, Price is there to stop the big gain.
Q: What type of offensive approach do you think UNC will display against Virginia Tech? Will there be a heavy reliance on the run game, pass attack, or a balance of both?
A: Fedora’s spread attack is a balanced one with both the run and the pass. UNC has a lot of offensive weapons and they like to use TE Eric Ebron a lot. They also like to challenge on the edges with their big receivers. Fedora runs the hurry up at all times and wants to run 80+ offensive plays per game, keeping the defense on their toes at all times.
Q: UNC doesn’t seem to have a real game changer on kick returns right now, though Bernard has been effective on punt returns. How do you think the special teams battle will play out?
A: This is an aspect of the game that has frustrated me. Fedora lists Romar Morris as his #2 KR and has yet to utilize him on returns. Sooner or later, I expect him to try Morris back on KR, if it happens against VT, Hokie fans should be on edge during his returns. The Heels have been great on PR, blocking two punts early this season already and have had several different returners have success.
Q: Who, in your opinion, has the best name on UNC’s roster, and how does it stack up name-wise against George George of the Hokies?
A: Interesting question, I’ll go with Norkeithus Otis, I can’t explain why I just like it.
Q: The Hokies are currently 6-point underdogs right now according to the wise-guys in Vegas. What do you think of the line? How would you bet it?
A: I would touch this game in Vegas I’ll tell you that upfront. Both teams have been up and down this season, I’ll go with the Heels in a close win because they have a more explosive offense in my opinion but it could go either way.
Q: If you have a prediction, we’d love to have it.
A: UNC 24-VT 17…Giovani Bernard TD run in the 4th quarter breaks a 17 all tie and wins it for Carolina.
Catch my answers to the questions he asked me during our sit down over at Keeping It Heel.