Cover Four: Chizik’s Impact and the Keys to 2015


Cover Four will be a weekly column written by Matt Haley, a staff writer at Keeping It Heel. 

Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels are busy installing the game plan for this Thursday’s match-up with the Gamecocks from South Carolina. After a disappointing 2014 season that fizzled with an embarrassing loss to Rutgers in the Bowl game, the biggest question is how can the Tar Heels change the perception of Coach Fedora’s program? This week’s edition of Cover Four will dive into four factors for success in 2015.

1. Will the hire of Gene Chizik impact the defense in 2015? North Carolina gave up over six yards per play on defense in 2014 and allowed opponents to convert on close to 50% of their third downs. That is a recipe for disaster. Opponents were successful on third down against the Tar Heels for two reasons: the Tar Heel defense struggled on first down, as teams consistently averaged over six yards per play. That put teams in prime second and short situations. When the Tar Heels did have opportunities to get off the field, missed assignments allowed big gains in the passing game. Key to watch Thursday night: North Carolina’s success on first down as it relates to keeping SC behind the chains.

North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina Tar Heels /

North Carolina Tar Heels

2. Everyone knows North Carolina is loaded at the skill positions. However, for the Tar Heels to create explosive plays, the offensive line has to provide the running backs with some lanes to run through. There is enough blend between talent and experience in Coach Kap’s group that Seth Littrell should be able to have a balanced game plan each week. Area to watch Thursday: Talented sophomore Bentley Spain at LT.

3. At times in 2014 Larry Fedora was probably looking in the stands or asking Anson Dorrance if anyone could kick a football through the uprights. The legends of Jeff Reid, Connor Barth, Casey Barth and all the great kickers to come through UNC had to be sick watching the clown car that was UNC field goal team last year. Even Nick Saban wouldn’t have sent them out past an extra point. Key to watch Thursday: Who am I kidding? Everyone will close their eyes on the first FG attempt and pray it goes through.

4. Marquise Williams enters the season as the clear cut starter. What Williams must do in 2015 is consistently perform at a high level. For as great as the Notre Dame game was, his performance against NC State was equally as bad. If North Carolina gets a consistent Marquise Williams, a Coastal Division title is within their reach. Key to watch Thursday: Bryn Renner completed close to 70% of his passes his first year in the Fed Express offense. Williams has completed 58 and 63% in his two seasons as a starter. In this offense, a seasoned quarterback should be completing closer to 68-70% for consistent success.

There are many sub stories to begin the 2015 college football season. Tune in each week to “Cover Four” topics around the Tar Heels and the ACC.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mandmsportshow