Giovanni Bernard the first team All-ACC running back, is now, according to North Carolina Tar Heels new head coach Larry Fedora, the leading candidate to return punts for the Heels this season. Bad idea, the reason is risk versus reward.
Understanding how important field position and a good special teams unit is in football, weighing the potential benefits of having the star RB pull double duty as a return man against the risk of injury, simply isn’t worth it.
The Reward: Let’s start with the rewards of having Bernard return punts. I have zero doubt in my mind that Bernard is by far the best return man on Fedoras roster. It makes sense right? He’s the best play maker on the team, he has good hands and he’s excellent in the open field. Learning a new offense is hard, there will be some growing pains make no mistake about it. Anything you can do to help the offense is good, and better field position is great. Bernard would solidify the return man position as an area of great strengths for the Tar Heels, something that’s obviously tempting Fedora, and may force his hand.
The Risk: Onto the risk, you know, it, I don’t have to draw it out, injury. I’m especially adverse to putting a RB back there due to the amount of wear and tear backs endure carrying the football so much. Running backs carry the football so much, they put their bodies arguably more punishment than any other position in football. Asking a RB to take on the load of being the return man, the lone guy running against a current of eleven defenders running full speed at him just doesn’t sit well with me.
When I watch my football teams play on Saturdays and Sundays I don’t want to cringe every single time I watch a kick or punt return. I want to see some backup corner back, receiver, running back, anyone, just the biggest offensive weapon on the team. I vote no for Giovanni Bernard as the return man in Carolina, what’s your vote?