CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – In a season that has been full of redemption for the Tar Heels, no player embodies the team’s improvement quite like senior kicker Nick Weiler.
“Nick has come through for us in so many ways,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said during his weekly radio show on Tuesday.
Weiler made a career-high four field goals on four attempts in North Carolina’s 26-19 victory over Pittsburgh last Thursday.
The Fairfax Station, Va. native has connected on 14 of his 16 attempts this season, including a pair from a career-long 48 yards against North Carolina A&T and Illinois. A season ago, Weiler was good on 5-of-8 attempts with a long of 23 yards.
Fedora’s biggest concern now is figuring out the resurgent placekicker’s range each game.
“It’s about how his leg feels, how the ball is coming off his foot, all those kind of things,” Fedora said.
The coaching staff determines their cut-off mark based on a variety of factors, but the most important, according to Fedora, is how Weiler feels during his pregame warmups.
“When he goes out in pregame, (special teams graduate assistant Jonathan) Rutledge will come to me and tell me which way he wants to kick, with the wind, against it,” Fedora said. “And in some stadiums, you can’t really tell what the wind’s doing, like at Heinz Field. It’s swirling, and there’s a lot of wind there, so I didn’t have any idea according to what the flags were doing which way he wanted to kick.”
Weiler’s consistency this season has allowed the coaching staff to adjust its play-calling on the opponents’ side of the field to yield more scoring opportunities.
Do you have any reaction to your team being ranked?
“Not really. I want to be in that last poll. That’s where I want to be. So this one doesn’t mean much. They don’t give you a trophy for doing it right now, so we might as well wait and see what happens in the last one.
Do you have any reaction to the fact that the Duke game is a sellout?
“Heck yeah, I’m excited about that. That place is going to be packed, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a great game.”
Quinshad Davis is now the all-time leader in receptions at Carolina.
“Couldn’t have happened to a better guy. What a great team player he is, and any time we need him to make a play, he makes a play. He’s been consistent and had to overcome a lot of adversity with the problems with his body, and I can’t say enough great things about Quinshad Davis.”
Are you concerned that the officials will call the Duke game “both ways” without fear of the ACC office scrutiny because of all of the attention from Duke’s last game?
“I would not question the integrity of our officials in the ACC. I’ll put it like that.”
If you are in poor weather, does it change your play-calling?
“Never has in the past, probably won’t go in the future. The only thing that ever has bothered me at all is extremely high wind, and that’s it. You may call a few pass plays going one way that you wouldn’t the other way, that’s it. I’m more concerned in that area in the kicking game more than anything.”
Do you expect Duke to have a chip on its shoulder Saturday?
“I would imagine whether they won or lost they’d come in ready to play. David Cutcliffe has always done a great job of having his team ready to play, and I think our team will be ready to play, so it should be a heck of a ball game.”
What do you have to do to be successful against Duke’s defense?
“We’ve got to move the ball. We’ve got to be consistent, and just move the chains. So it comes back to the quarterback a lot of times, just making good decisions, and then taking care of the football.”
What are your thoughts on standout Duke safety Jeremy Cash?
“They do a lot with Jeremy. They put him all over the place, bring him on blitzes, he’s a pass-rusher, I mean they do a lot of things. He’s not just your typical free safety.”
What do you think of Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk?
“Kendrick Singleton and him played together in high school, so he’s a big guy that can run. He’s really got good speed, so he likes to beat you with his legs, but he can throw it. He’s done a really good job within David’s scheme of moving the ball around.”