Tar Heels Emphasize Stopping the Run

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--After yielding 299 yards on the ground to Virginia last week, following a seasonal average of 227 yards per game in 2003, the Tar Heels have set stopping the run as their first priority on defense against Georgia Tech.

The equivalent of a full season has passed since Carolina last picked a pass out of the air from an opposing quarterback--and for good reason. Teams know they can gain yardage on the ground.

"The problem right now is that [opposing teams] aren't throwing enough…" head coach John Bunting said. "We're not going to get a whole lot of interceptions until we start slowing down the run game some."

Against Virginia, a lack of success on defense, early, led to more problems as the game progressed.

"Because, maybe, a few of them are very young we got kind of disjointed and out of sync," Bunting explained. "I've seen this happen before too: a lot of guys then try to make up for other peoples' jobs. Somebody tries to do somebody else's assignment--very confused."

Against Georgia Tech that will again yield large chunks of yardage. Bunting expects more productivity from the linebackers this week in the running game, but that is going to require working in concert.

"We're trying to work as a unit, to get all 11 people running on one mind," said Jeff Longhany, who will start at the "Sam" linebacker due to an internal disciplinary matter that will keep Tommy Richardson out of action this week. "We're trying to be more physical to stop the run. We've accomplished a lot this week… We've worked a lot on engaging and disengaging blocks and then falling off into the tackle. And we've worked on our reads. They run a lot of zone running plays that are difficult to read, so we've been working on that."

The Ramblin' Wreck has a stable of capable receivers, but the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading rusher in 2003, tailback P.J. Daniels, rushed for 240 yards on 36 carries as a sophomore last year in Atlanta. Carolina can expect a steady dose of Daniels on Saturday until they prove they can stop him.

"We're going to get seven or eight men in the box, and they are going to run at us," Lonhany said. "We have to stop it…We're going to try to stop the run, [first]. As far as linebacker keys, we key running backs. We're focusing on their zone running plays and stopping the running backs. We'll worry about the pass and play-action later."

According to "Will" linebacker Mahlon Carey, the linebackers have been working on attacking in practice this week.

"We want to stop the run," he said. "That's what they did last time--they ran the ball. It's a pride thing. We don't want anybody to come in here and just run the ball down our throats and feel like they can control the ball with us. We have to take pride in that and do the job that will stop them."


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