The Tar Heels use a rotating quarterback system that has been successful for first-year Head Coach John Bunting since he went to the package after his team got off to an ugly 0-3 start. Senior Ronald Curry, who is a four-year starter, and redshirt freshman Darian Durant have guided Carolina to a 7-2 mark since the change which includes a 41-9 trouncing of ACC power Florida State. The Tar Heels game with the Seminoles was the first game in which the rotation was used.
Curry and Durant are similar in styles and Carolina offensive assistant Ken Browning said the Tar Heels don't change the offense much with either one behind center, but it does change the pace some. "Each one of those guys, even though you are running to a large degree the same offense, you change the tempo a little bit," Browning said. "They are not completely different in terms of what they can do, but when Ronald runs a play or Darian runs a play, I think it makes it a little harder to prepare for."
The major difference between the two signal callers is exactly why Lovett wants his unit to be aware of which one is behind center. Curry, who wears No. 1, and Durant, who wears No. 11, both are good athletes with strong arms, but their difference comes in decision making.
"With the Durant kid, they'll run all the quarterback plays that they run with Curry, the draws and all the different things they do with the option, but when he drops back to throw the ball, he tries to stay in the pocket more," Lovett said. "He steps up, moves around and creates problems down field because he wants to throw the ball.
"With Ronald Curry, what he has done is when he drops back he might pull it down a little quicker," Lovett added. "He's got some real good foot speed and elusiveness. He presents a problem like that because when he drops back and his eight or 10 yards deep and your linebackers are eight or 10 yards deep, now you have one of the best athletes on the field in space with your linebackers and that is not a great matchup for us."
Curry's and Durant's statistics backup Lovett's assessment of the duo. Curry has passed for 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns while running for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Durant set Carolina freshman records in passing yards (1,843), touchdowns (17) and completions with (142). Durant ran for just 128 yards and added two rushing touchdowns.
Curry has been a four-year starter for the Tar Heels and make his final start for UNC Monday night vs. the Tigers. Durant will likely see about 50 percent of the snaps and give North Carolina a glimpse of the future as he will be the No. 1 man next season.
"I think the reason it has worked is both of them are outstanding young guys and they are both team guys," Browning added. "They both bring something a little different to the table when preparing from a defensive standpoint and each of them has strengths, amazing strengths. By having a rotation, it takes pressure off of those two guys and that has probably helped us too."
The pressure will be on Lovett and his defenders to be able to differentiate between the No. 1 and No. 11 and if they are not able to do that, the Tigers might be left having to deal with the No. 2.