CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Senior running back T.J. Logan has spent much of his career at North Carolina being overshadowed by his offensive counterparts. So far in 2016, the all-purpose back is proving that he isn’t one to overlook.
Logan started the season off with a bang against Georgia, rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown, while also adding a 95-yard kickoff return for touchdown to open the second half. The Greensboro, N.C. native followed that performance with another impressive outing against Illinois last weekend, rushing for 54 yards and recording a 24-yard touchdown catch.
For Larry Fedora, Logan’s recent performances are coming as no surprise.
“I think all the hard work that T.J. puts in is paying off and you see it on the field,” Fedora said at his press conference on Monday. “He looks like he’s at a different speed than the other players on the field… He’s got such a great attitude; any way he can help this football team he’s excited to do it.”
While Logan’s speed is his most identifiable trait, it may not be the reason that he is seeing so much early success in his last year with the Tar Heels.
“The difference I see in him is that he’s finishing runs off now,” Fedora said. “Nobody is hitting him and stopping him right there. He’s going to get more yards or another yard and a half. He’s finishing and that’s huge. That’s one of (Elijah) Hood’s strengths. He finishes his runs off and now I think T.J. has seen that and it's made him a better runner too.”
That connection between Logan and Hood, where both backs learn from each other, has made them a dangerous tandem, but it’s also heightened the competition between the pair. They both know that if they don’t perform, the other man will seize the opportunity.
“We go with the hot hand,” Fedora said. “We know that both are going to play and they both know that we’ve been doing it this way since they got here and that hasn’t changed. It’s still about production. If you’re producing, you get the ball. If you’re not, then the next guy gets the opportunity to produce.”
For Logan, that opportunity to produce can be from anywhere on the field. Whether it’s a rush, a catch, or a kickoff return, he wants the defense to know that he shouldn’t be overlooked.
Was there more of an emphasis this week to use the run to set up the pass?
“No, not really. It was just the way the game went. It’s what the defense gave us and what we were trying to take advantage of in the game according to what they did. Any time you run the ball effectively you’re going to be better offensively.”
Do you feel like there’s balance between the run and pass game right now?
“I like balance, but balance to me is not the same as balance to you. To y’all it’s 40/40. I don’t look at carries, throws, I never look at that. If we rush for 100 yards one game and throw for 300, and then the next game run for 300 and throw for 100, then that’s balance to me. I look at the end of the year and where we’re at and it’s not about how many carries and runs. It’s about if we were productive with both styles of offense.”
Did Mitch do a better job of recognizing the defense and making decisions out of that?
“He did. He had a lot fewer mistakes, actually. He was much more relaxed, much more doing what he does in practice.”
What other than Mitch’s footwork did he improve on?
“His eyes were really good. Throughout the game I think there was only one ball where I think he didn’t do a good job with his eyes and that was when he threw the deep ball to Mack (Hollins) on the side and the safety almost got to it. To control the safety better he has to do that. But I think he did a really nice job with his feet and with his eyes throughout the game.”
What’s the most impressive thing you’ve seen out of James Madison?
“They run the football. I mean they’ve rushed for 800-something yards already in two games. That’s hard to get done in practice against air. They’ve had a lot of success running the football in the first two weeks and they’re serious about it. You score 136 points in two games, you’re hitting a lot of cylinders early in the season.”
Has the linebacker corps met expectations so far?
“I would say they still have a ways to go, but Andre (Smith) played a really productive game the other day, and Cole (Holcomb) did, too. You’re talking about two young guys, both of them are sophomores. They’re young and don’t have a lot of experience. We are continuing to harp on the leadership part because that position dictates it. We need it. You don’t see that throughout the entire game and we’ve got to have it there. They’re making plays but we need them to raise the level of the guys around them.”