Inside Carolina

Tar Heels Prepping for Cut Blocks

Georgia Tech's rushing attack relies on cut blocks.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - When preparing for an offense like Georgia Tech’s rushing attack, every detail of the game is important. That’s why North Carolina has placed further emphasis on defeating cut blocks this week.

“We’ve definitely cut in practice and things of that nature,” UNC defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said this week. “I don’t know that you’re ever really ready for it until you get a whole game’s worth, but we’ve definitely done a good job trying to simulate that in practice.”  

Cut blocking is an integral part of Georgia Tech’s triple option offense. The Yellow Jackets will likely utilize it more than any other team the Tar Heels face this season, which senior linebacker Shakeel Rashad understands going into Saturday’s game.  

“It’s not like you’re really learning to beat cut blocks in one week,” Rashad said. “Every team cuts, just nobody cuts as much (as Georgia Tech), so you just have to be ready to deal with it a whole lot more often.”  

Different drills have been utilized in practice to prepare the defense for this blocking tactic.  

“We added cut balls into our drills, some of the linemen are cutting, so you just have to be ready to play that cut block whenever it comes,” Rashad said.  

While the emphasis on cut blocking has been increased, it’s also important to practice with moderation.  

“I don’t know if anybody wants their players being cut all week long,” Rashad said. “When it is time to go defeat cut blocks in practice, you have to do it as best as you can, you have to maintain your focus and understand until you have to repeat that process over and over again in that game.”

  That’s where understanding the mental aspect of cut blocking is critical, according to senior defensive tackle Justin Thomason.  

“The No. 1 thing I’ve found out through all of these years is that you can’t think about it,” Thomason said. “You can’t let them psych you out before you even get into the game.”  

It boils down to each player having a natural feel for the game, and knowing the right level of aggressiveness and physicality to play with.  

“If you’re too aggressive and you don’t worry about the cut, then you get cut,” Thomason said.  “But if you’re too soft, you will get knocked back, so it’s really just a feel-type thing.”

  Defeating blocks has been head coach Larry Fedora’s mantra all week.  Against Georgia Tech, it will take extra physicality to do so, and maybe some extra ice bags after the game as well. 

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