All Out Aggression

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Forget everything you know about North Carolina football. The conservative approach that's lived on the Kenan Stadium field for decades has been scrubbed clean by a new head coach armed with Red Bull and a chaos button.

Be honest – how many times did you watch a UNC football game during the Butch Davis era and turn to a friend or spouse and predict the next play due to the oftentimes migraine-inducing conservative nature of John Shoop's play calling?

Five times? 15? 50?

You weren't alone. But if the Larry Fedora era delivers anything in its infancy, it's that your success rate in predicting plays will plummet.

If Davis's approach represented the far left of the philosophical spectrum, then Fedora's resides on the far right side.

When asked if the philosophical difference between the two coaching staffs is as great as the talking heads have suggested, senior linebacker Kevin Reddick didn't hesitate: "Yes."

"They're more aggressive, more attacking," he continued. "That's what you're going to get out of us this year – a more attacking defense, offense and special teams, especially."

Even the attitude off the field is polar opposite. You better be alert if you walk past Fedora in the halls of the Kenan Football Center because he's liable to greet you with a chest bump.

That shirtless guy tossing up heavy weights on the bench before throwing back three Red Bulls during a single practice? That's the new UNC head coach.

And here's the thing about that aggressive mentality – it's what the players want.

"Yeah, no doubt," Reddick said at the ACC Operation Kickoff event on Sunday. "We want to be told, ‘Let's go block the punt.' That's what we want. Let's return this kickoff back. Let's send the house on a blitz right here. We want that, so that's what changes the game and makes it fun."

Defensively, UNC is not reinventing the wheel with its 4-2-5 look.

"Every defense is the same," Reddick said. "… It's just that the terms are different. We may be doing a play this year that we did last year, but we're just calling it something different."

What separates this defense from last year's version is the amount of blitzing. Former defensive coordinator Everett Withers was content with sitting back in zone coverage and letting teams slowly move down the field because it was a preventative way of preventing a big play.

Current co-defensive coordinators Vic Koenning and Dan Disch may get burned deep on occasion, but the days of allow a dink-and-dunk attack down the field appear to be over.

Reddick has spent his summer mastering specific plays drawn up for him. While manning the inside linebacker position, he will have plenty of opportunities to blitz from the outside.

Offensively, Fedora's balanced spread system is designed to tax a defense mentally and physically, while creating opportunities for a variety of personnel. Four and five-wide receiver groupings will become the norm.

"Last year we were running two or three man routes, as far as play-action and things of that nature," quarterback Bryn Renner said. "I'll definitely have a lot more receivers to get the ball to. I think that's going to be key. We get more guys involved. We've got a lot of freshmen coming in like Quinshad Davis and [Kendrick] Singleton. Guys like can get on the field early and make plays for us to win."

Curious how the no-huddle system will affect a defense?

"It will wear you out, man," Reddick said. "It's a high-power offense. They're going off the ball no-huddle every time. They'll wear you out – quick hit you, quick hit you. If you're not ready or tired, somebody on defense is going to bust and it's going to be a touchdown for them."

The "one-foot, 10-foot" theory suggests that in a pro-style offense, when a player breaks his first tackle, the next closest defender is one foot away. In Fedora's spread offense, when a player breaks his first tackle, the next closest defender may be 10 feet away.

For a jitterbug like sophomore running back Gio Bernard, that difference could unlock significant potential.

"I think this offense is made for Gio," Reddick said.

Renner added, "I agree 100 percent."

But this offense is not limited to just Bernard. It represents an opportunity for a vast array of playmakers to get their hands on the ball.

"We showed spurts of that in the spring game," Renner said. "We were throwing more quick screens and guys were getting four or five yards and getting more first downs. We want that to be the case. Get the ball out of my hand and let them do the work."

Fedora's aggressive schemes may pay dividends in 2012 or it may fall flat if the players take longer than anticipated to adjust to the changes. But one thing is certain – Saturdays in Kenan will no longer be predictable.

"We're going to come out this year and play smart, fast and physical," Reddick said. "Try to win 12 games and try to mess it up for somebody else."

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