Tar Heels' offense still finding itself

BY foxsports • September 25, 2012

Four games into the Larry Fedora era at North Carolina and the Tar Heels are still a long way from fulfilling the vision their new coach has about how the offense should eventually look.

UNC is making progress, no doubt, but it also still looks a bit disjointed at times and is far from being a fast-break team with the ball. But it's coming along in part because the signature piece to the offense has a handle on it and doesn't mind the coaches prodding him about needing to improve.

Bryn Renner has passed for 684 yards in UNC's last two games -- a school record by one yard over T.J. Yates' mark set in 2007 -- and Renner also has thrown an ACC-leading 11 touchdown passes this season. He's passed for 1,191 yards and completed 62.5 percent of his pass attempts. But the Heels need more. They need to be faster.

"I think we're building toward that," Renner said. "But I think every week it's a point in the locker room and a point from the coaching staff to just get the tempo started and get us going. I think we've improved light years from where we were for Elon, but it can always get better."

UNC beat Elon 62-0 in the opener, but the Phoenix offered little resistance. Wake Forest, Louisville and East Carolina were better tests, and at times the Tar Heels were brilliant against them. But at times they weren't.

And in last Saturday's 27-6 victory over visiting ECU, the Tar Heels didn't get plays off nearly as quickly as Fedora wants.

"We're still working on tempo every day," Fedora said. "We're still not there. We're asking for fanatical effort and tempo throughout the game and we're not there. We still don't understand that really yet so we have a lot of work to do in that area."

Versus Elon, UNC averaged running a play every 21 seconds when in possession of the ball, but keep in mind the Tar Heels turned off the jets in the third quarter with the final margin already in hand. The following week in a 28-27 loss at Wake Forest, UNC ran a play every 19.8 seconds.

In Week 3's 39-34 loss at Louisville, Carolina ran 88 plays while having the ball for just 21:36. That's a play every 14.7 seconds. But the Tar Heels fell down big early – 36-7 at halftime – and stormed back to almost win the game. UNC was basically in a two-minute drill the entire second half.  

Carolina ran only 72 plays vs. ECU, averaging a snap just every 23.1 seconds. Owning a second-half lead and not wanting to risk anything is only a slight excuse. Renner still threw the ball 43 times compared to 29 running plays by the Heels.

Fedora is pleased with Renner but wants the junior signal caller to get as much as experience possible. Making the reads and throws are part of it, but it's the intangibles that are necessary to get the unit moving faster.

With just three interceptions this season, Fedora sees Renner making those strides.

"Moving the chains, again, is the most important thing he is doing and taking care of the ball," the coach said. "And the other day he did a tremendous job of taking care of the football. We went through 60 minutes of the game and we didn't turn the ball over, so that's a big deal right there."

It will help whenever tailback Giovanni Bernard is in tip-top shape. Bernard missed the two games prior to Saturday, and only had 50 yards on 18 carries vs. the Pirates. He did catch six passes for 52 yards and a touchdown, but Carolina needs Bernard, A.J. Blue and Romar Morris to provide balance with quick-hitting runs inside and out.

UNC is averaging a solid 144 yards a game on the ground, including 4.3 per attempt. But that figure needs to improve. The spread offense is designed to flex out defenses, and with that scat backs, especially Bernard and Morris, should be able to consistently dart through the tackle zone and into more open field.

They can be more effective, which is the general theme for the offense in general. Even for an offense averaging 37.5 points and 453 yards per contest.

"We still got a long way to go before we get to where we want to be, so hopefully we'll get a little better this week," Fedora said. "But we have made improvement every week."

Idaho takes an 0-4 record to Kenan Stadium this weekend, but the game won't be about the Vandals. It will be about UNC inching closer to its coach's satisfaction, as great a task as that may be.