Charting Success Under Fedora

IC breaks down the stats of note from Larry Fedora's head coaching tenure.

North Carolina kicks off its 2015 season in seven weeks against South Carolina and the primary talking point between now and then will undoubtedly be new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik’s impact.

Immediate improvement is expected following the 2014 defensive debacle, but how much growth and correction is necessary to elevate UNC into contention for the Coastal Division title? It's tempting to look at UNC's 6-7 record last year and expect dramatic improvement in the W/L column given the offense's inconsistent play and the defensive ineptitude at times, but as we noted earlier this week, certain data suggests the Tar Heels overachieved in 2014.

While Larry Fedora’s track record may seem to suggest his HUNH offense can simply pull along an average defense to victories, the data tells a different story.

The first chart below details Fedora’s offenses during his seven years as head coach, split between Southern Miss and UNC. The 3rd/4th columns (Total O/PPG) are not adjusted for tempo, while the 5th/6th columns (YPP/OE) provide per play and per drive measurements. The offensive efficiency statistics, courtesy of footballoutsiders.com, are raw data based on actual drive success against expected drive success based on field position.

Year Record Total Offense Points Per Game Yards Per Play Offensive Efficiency
2008 (USM) 7-6 433.5 (20) 30.6 (31) 5.7 (39) .303 (22)
2009 (USM) 7-6 416.4 (31) 32.9 (18) 5.99 (29) .243 (26)
2010 (USM) 8-5 453.4 (18) 36.8 (15) 5.72 (49) .145 (34)
2011 (USM) 12-2 461.4 (17) 36.9 (14) 6.2 (25) 0.45 (50)
2012 (UNC) 8-4 485.6 (14) 40.6 (8) 6.49 (14) .378 (18)
2013 (UNC) 7-6 425.7 (49) 32.7 (43) 5.87 (48) .094 (57)
2014 (UNC) 6-7 429.8 (48) 33.2 (38) 5.56 (66) .129 (44)
* National ranking in parentheses

Despite consistent success across the statistical categories – only one of the 28 data points falls outside of the top-50 nationally – only three seasons yielded eight or more wins and just one resulted in more than eight.

By pairing the offensive statistics with its defensive counterparts, we find that the 12-2 campaign was built on strong performances by both sides of the ball.

Year Record Total Defense PPG Allowed YPP Allowed Defensive Efficiency
2008 (USM) 7-6 365.0 (64) 24.1 (54) 5.42 (68) -.001 (63)
2009 (USM) 7-6 392.5 (81) 25.8 (61) 5.38 (56) .185 (88)
2010 (USM) 8-5 356.4 (47) 29.5 (81) 5.55 (63) .062 (70)
2011 (USM) 12-2 343.0 (29) 20.8 (25) 4.61 (10) -.396 (8)
2012 (UNC) 8-4 389.6 (57) 25.7 (53) 5.21 (36) .033 (64)
2013 (UNC) 7-6 403.1 (64) 24.5 (43) 5.28 (39) -.142 (43)
2014 (UNC) 6-7 497.8 (120) 39.0 (119) 6.53 (117) .627 (127)

It’s worth noting that Fedora employed a 4-3 defense at Southern Miss under Todd Bradford’s direction from 2008-10 before hiring Dan Disch to install Vic Koenning’s 4-2-5 scheme in 2011. After the breakout 2011 season that culminated in winning the C-USA title, Fedora hired Koenning and kept Disch on staff when he took the UNC job.

Considering that Fedora’s teams fielded above-average defenses utilizing the 4-2-5 in 2011-13, it’s likely fair to categorize the 2014 disaster as an outlier emanating from various issues, ranging from poor coaching to a questionable amount of talent.

Chizik’s arrival and implementation of his modified Tampa-2 defense will at least provide a stable foundation for a unit that crumbled at various times throughout the 2014 season. Due to the talent on hand and how it fits into Chizik’s system, improved X’s and O’s may not be enough to vault UNC back into the top half of the national rankings without help in other areas.

Fedora has said he looks at two primary statistics when breaking down defensive performance: turnovers and explosive plays allowed. While the latter is difficult to chart accurately, the former is readily available for analysis.

Year TO Gained TO Lost TO Margin
2008 (USM) 29 16 1.00 (T-10)
2009 (USM) 27 17 0.77 (T-10)
2010 (USM) 26 17 0.69 (T-20)
2011 (USM) 28 30 -0.14 (73)
2012 (UNC) 25 18 0.58 (T-32)
2013 (UNC) 21 18 0.23 (T-42)
2014 (UNC) 23 23 0.00 (T-60)

Fedora’s emphasis on winning the turnover margin has clearly resonated with his teams. What stands out most on the above chart is that the only year his team had a negative turnover margin was during his conference title run in 2011. Those miscues were offset by a defense that set a NCAA record with eight interceptions returned for touchdowns.


Inside Carolina Top Stories