Inside Carolina/Jim Hawkins

UNC Offensive Staff Sharing Play-Calling Duties

UNC is taking a group approach to its offensive play-calling in 2016.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The inner workings of No. 20 North Carolina’s offensive play-calling have been a bit of a mystery ever since Seth Littrell left for North Texas in December. With three weeks left until the season opener against No. 16 Georgia, offensive coordinator Chris Kapilovic maintains a coordinated approach will best serve the Tar Heels’ explosive offense.

“I know it’s a repetitive answer where we always share the duties and it’s scripted, and it’s just all very true,” Kapilovic told reporters on Friday.

Quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf, who added passing game coordinator to his title when Kapilovic was promoted in February, will remain in the press box during games this fall. Without a secondary line coach on staff, Kapilovic will stay on the field.

“We’re going to stay with the formula that’s worked for us for years,” Kapilovic said. “Keith will stay up top, he’ll have his eyes up top, I’ll be down in the bottom and we’ll share some play-calling duties.”

Head coach Larry Fedora told reporters on Signing Day that he would “be more involved in the play-calling” than he had at any point during his time at UNC.

Fedora’s offensive philosophy is rooted in simplicity and statistical trends, which places significant importance on game week prep. For example, Fedora tracks down-and-distance for every play over the course of a season to determine averages. During a 2013 coaching clinic in Charlotte, N.C., the Tar Heel head coach explained that his offense typically encounters three 3rd-and-shorts, six 3rd-and-mediums and six 3rd-and-longs each game.

As a result, his offensive staff preps a set number of plays for each situation before the games so that the call sheet is dramatically reduced.

“A lot of the stuff we already have scripted,” Kapilovic said. “In all of the critical situations, we know what we want to run. We typically script the early plays of every drive and then from there we get rolling. I’m talking to [Heckendorf] in between plays and saying, ‘we need to run this, this and this, we’re going to roll from there and we’ll make some checks.’ Obviously, he’s leaning more heavily on what we want to do in the throw game and I’m leaning heavily on what we want to do in the run game.”

Staff chemistry is critical for such an approach to work.

“You can’t do that with everybody, but we have a staff that there’s no egos and everybody understands their roles and we work well together,” Kapilovic said. “So it’s just been a smooth transition for us.”

Kapilovic said the primary difference between his previous role and his new title is more time with the entire offensive unit and more media responsibilities. 

“The big thing is that I’m responsible for everybody now," he said. "Every meeting I’m talking to the offense. After practice I’m leading that group. So I’ve got to do a great job being a leader. I’ve got to do a great job building relationships with everybody on the offense. I’m not just the O-line coach.”

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