Learning On The Run

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--Ronnie McGill was expected to anchor the UNC Tar Heels' running game this season, but a torn pectoral muscle earlier in the year meant that true freshman James "Cooter" Arnold and transfer Barrington Edwards, who hadn't played in two years, had to carry the load against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the season opener.

The two combined for 50 yards on 16 carries to mixed results even though the 3.1 average was considerably lower than last season's average of almost five yards per carry. Each had carries of over 10 yards, but each one also missed some opportunities on the carries they had.

"I think the runners, Barrington and Cooter, are going to be disappointed on a couple of different runs [when they see the tape]," John Bunting said shortly after the game in Atlanta. "They have to let that thing open up for them. When you get the zone pressures coming off the edge, sometimes things are going to open up if you are patient. You can't always cut back."

"There were some opportunities where the backs were approaching a defender and they took an evasive maneuver, when actually there was somebody coming to block that guy," running backs coach Andre' Powell said. "But that's what young guys do."

After watching the game film on Sunday, the coaches presented selected plays to the offense, and the precocious freshman immediately saw the error in his ways.

"On a couple of plays, I could have slowed down and let them develop a little more," Arnold said. "It would have opened up... For certain plays you have a certain tempo, and in order for the play to work you have to be in the right tempo for the play to develop…

"We've got an outside zone play where you go fast straight off the ball; there are other plays where you might have a pulling guard so you have to slow down a little bit to let them get in front of you. You have to give it time to develop and get behind your blockers."

Edwards, who said that he had some first-game jitters, but has now put that behind him, also saw room for improvement.

"I didn't have a whole bunch of carries," he said, "but from the ones that weren't that good, that were negative plays, there were one or two that I could have done some things right that could have led to a better outcome."

The players spent time in meetings this week talking about what the line does, what the defense does, running options based on defensive alignments, things that they can anticipate, and then they performed drills on the field to reinforce what they learned in the film room.

One area where the running backs did well was in pass protection. They didn't give up a single sack on the day.

"Georgia Tech got me ready for a whole lot," Edwards said. "There wasn't a play where they didn't send two or three guys."

Saturday night against the Wisconsin Badgers will provide an opportunity to show what they have learned.

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