CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – On the first play from scrimmage, North Carolina’s veteran offensive line blew open a hole that Elijah Hood burst through for a long touchdown run on Sunday.
Quarterback Marquise Williams was tasked with manufacturing much of UNC’s ground game in 2014 due to youth and inexperience along the offensive line. That position group apparently made a statement with its play in the first scrimmage of training camp.
“They just had a purpose,” offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic said on Monday. “They came out and they wanted to be physical. We came out and the first run was 60 yards. Everybody blocked really well up front, Hood broke a tackle and then you get big plays. They finished the drive and they continued to play hard from the beginning to the end. The one unit really just bought in and they stayed hungry.”
When asked about his primary takeaway from the scrimmage, Williams replied: “That run game.”
“The run game was absolutely where it needed to be,” the fifth-year senior continued. “I’m pretty sure we had over 200 rushing yards.”
Explosive plays in the ground game were limited last season as the Tar Heels managed just 13 runs of 20+ yards in 13 games. Consistency up front provided more of those plays on Sunday.
“We popped a couple of big runs with the ones,” left guard Landon Turner said. “Elijah Hood – they were working him pretty hard. He had two really long runs. That’s what you live for as an offensive lineman.”
There was a litany of players on both lines banged up to varying degrees on Monday, which speaks to the increased physicality that’s been a focal point in camp.
“To win a championship, you’ve got to have a physical toughness about you,” quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf said. “You’ve got to be able to establish your will against your opponent and that comes with running the football. You’ve got to be able to run it when you want to run it. And I think we showed yesterday that we’re going to run the ball and we’re going to get the ball in our backs’ hands. We’ve made that an emphasis in this camp.”
The physical nature of the scrimmage extended beyond the lines. Run blocking on the perimeter has also received more attention this August, according to wide receiver Bug Howard.
“In the past, we would block somebody and let them go,” Howard said. “But this year we’re staying attached.”
Monday’s practice was shortened due to the length of the scrimmage, which totaled 155 plays. UNC head coach Larry Fedora told reporters the scrimmage was “very situational” in design with both sides of the ball going three units deep and each period consisting of six plays and special teams work.
“It was your typical first day scrimmage,” Fedora said. “There were some great things that happened on both sides of the ball and there were some catastrophic things that happened on both sides of the ball, including special teams…
“The great thing about it is that all of the catastrophic or all of the bad things that happened are all correctable. We’ve got people in place; we’ve just got to make some plays.”
While Fedora declined to highlight any particular players that stood out during the scrimmage, he did provide some insight into the miscues that transpired.
“We had two balls on the ground,” the fourth-year UNC head coach said. “We didn’t create any interceptions. We gave up some big plays. Offensively, we didn’t convert some things. It’s your typical things.”
OL Play Highlights First Scrimmage
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