Welcome back to Fixing Carolina Football. If you missed day one, you can find it here. Today we will be tackling the defense and special teams for the Tar Heels, trying to offer solutions and ideas to get the Heels back on track on the gridiron.
The UNC defense has been really bad through five games. The worst performance by far was against ECU, and the better performances have come against South Carolina and VT. Going forward into the season, if UNC wants to get better, it is going to have to re-emphasize tackling and cut down on the number of missed assignments. Nearly all the deep touchdown throws teams have had against UNC have come on either a missed assignment by a defensive back or a lack of communication between a safety and a cornerback. With a bye week, the Heels can focus on getting back to the basics and improving on defense that way.
Stats- The Hokies only got 1.4 yards per rush last weekend.
That stat above shows that the Tar Heels have made improvements in the run defense this season. Against ECU, the Heels got torched repeatedly, and ECU got 4.2 yards per rush. So the VT game did illustrate some improvement, as the rush average dropped nearly 3 yards per attempt. The difference between the ECU game and the VT game was really just effort. Kareem Martin was very quiet against ECU, but versus the Hokies he stepped up on a lot of drives and pushed his way into the backfield for tackles for loss. Keeping that level of effort up will be a major key to the Heel’s success going forward. I think the run defense will continue to improve to the point where it won’t really be a problem. The problem on defense, and the reason for so many points, comes in the secondary.
Stats- Opponents are averaging 12.7 yards per catch this season.
UNC’s secondary has not played well all season. They have missed assignments and tackles in key moments of games. They repeated get torched on long throws and the defense really suffers from it. Giving up an 80 yard pass to Logan Thomas when he is almost standing in his own end zone cannot happen. It kills all of UNC’s defensive momentum and moral. The way you fix this problem is tough, because ultimately Carolina needs more talent in the secondary. At least UNC is experienced, but none of the experienced players have gotten any better from last season to this one. Without any real way to add more talent to the program immediately, look for the Heels to try to create turnovers. Getting an interception or two more a game would really help out the defense. Also, look for more rotation of personnel; getting more fresh legs and young guys that want to play could help out the Heel’s effort on defense.
Stat- Thomas Moore is 18-18 kicking extra points and field goals this season.
Thomas Moore has stepped up big time this season and has been a really good kicker for UNC. The East Chapel Hill High product has looked good in his first season as a starter after replacing Casey Barth. This is the first time in a while UNC hasn’t had a Barth kicking extra points, but Moore has played more than well enough in their place.
UNC’s kick return game has been alright so far this season. Long gone are the days of Brandon Tate and the chance that any kick could come back for a touchdown. But Ryan Switzer has been explosive on punt returns, even taking one to the house. (It was called back after a penalty.) The key caveat however is a fumble against VT that changed the game for the Heels. That was actually his second fumble of the game, so for next week Coach Fedora has to balance the risk of fumble with the chance of a big play. I think the offense needs the jump-start, and I’m sure Switzer has worked on punt returns in practice, so I say stick with the freshman returning punts.
Once again, if you have any suggestions for UNC Football to get back on track, share them in the comments section.