Schematic Adjustments Possible on D

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Vic Koenning’s 4-2-5 defense is designed for versatility in the ever-evolving offensive world of college football. Teams rolling out the beef on offense, however, may force UNC to change its approach.

Missed tackles and not fitting gaps properly have plagued UNC's ability to stop the run all season long.

Koenning, UNC's associate head coach for defense, acknowledged on Wednesday that his defense can encounter “physical mismatches” against teams that roll out jumbo packages. UNC’s 4-2-5 essentially utilizes an oversized linebacker on the defensive line – starting bandit Norkeithus Otis is listed at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds – and a hybrid safety/linebacker as a fifth defensive back.

"If you're not as big in the defensive line, you have to move them more," UNC head coach Larry Fedora said. "And then when you move guys, you have a chance of getting in the wrong gap. That's where it creates problems for you. So it is difficult when you're going up against a big offensive line."

On Saturday, Miami scored a pair of touchdowns using a jumbo set with two tight ends. The first came on 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line in the first quarter as a pair of UNC defensive backs were lined up against an offensive tackle and a 250-pound tight end on the left side of the formation.

Duke Johnson’s record-setting 90-yard touchdown run in the second quarter also came out of a jumbo set with UNC ram Donnie Miles being blocked out of the play by a tight end outweighing him by 50 pounds.

On Johnson’s sprint down the right sideline, Miami had seven blockers on the line of scrimmage that weighed more than 250 pounds compared to just three for UNC.

“That’s something we’ve talked about, that maybe the 4-2-5, we’ve got to have a 4-3 or a ‘50’ – a bigger guys package – like Virginia used,” Koenning said. “Virginia took one of their big defensive ends and put him as an outside linebacker. So maybe that’s something we need to think about doing in the future.”

The “50” defense creates a 5-2 front with an extra defensive tackle on the interior.

That type of adjustment could come in handy against Pittsburgh next weekend. Panthers running back James Conner – who is listed at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds – leads the ACC with 149.1 rushing yards per game.

Pittsburgh ranks 20th nationally in rushing offense with 247.7 yards per game. UNC, on the other hand, ranks 112th nationally in rushing defense (219.7 ypg).

Third-year Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst’s final four offenses at Wisconsin all averaged over 200 yards rushing per game, but it was his ability to adjust on the fly when Russell Wilson arrived prior to the 2011 season that showcased his versatility as a play caller.

Chryst has shown a similar willingness to mix up his offense this season. He installed a heavy dose of zone read plays for quarterback Chad Voytik (19 rushes, 118 yards) to offset Virginia Tech’s aggressiveness in crashing down on Conner three weeks ago.

While Fedora said UNC "could" potentially change its base look over the final three games, he was adamant the current scheme can work.

"I think you can stop the run in a 4-2-5," Fedora said. "I know you can because there's teams out there that do it. Now, whether or not the personnel fits exactly right now, maybe not. And if that's the case, we may have to get an extra D-lineman on the field."

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