Just for the record, the defense "outscored" the offense, 61 to 35. Two safeties were recorded. There were lots of sacks. When the first team defense was on the field as a unit, the second team offense recorded only one first down all day.
The spring game is also not always an accurate predictor of what the final make-up of the team will be in August. Last year, quarterback Luke Huard passed for an impressive 9 of 12 for 103 yards and one touchdown. Not long following spring practice, Huard decided to forego his eligibility and graduate rather than play another year. Ravon Anderson, a running back who ultimately transferred from UNC, was another previous spring wunderkind.
Don't get the idea that the format and the exhibition on Saturday was just a team going thorough the motions. The spring game this year, perhaps more than in past years, seemed more like a working session than just a show for the fans.
Many college coaches believe that spring games are a necessary evil. Necessary to give fans a look at next year's team, necessary to build enthusiasm, but also a chance to get players injured. If there was a referendum on whether the spring game should be held at all, it is not a given that college coaches would choose to continue it. A lot of coaches consider a good spring game one in which no one gets injured.
Once upon a time, college teams had 30 days in which they could cram 20 days of practice, and were allowed three hours of full contact scrimmages every day. In those days, it was possible to implement a lot of the playbook, get serious about evaluation, and go into August training with a much clearer picture of their team's potential.
Now, spring practice is limited to 15 days, only ten of which can be spent in full pads. These days, spring practice is more likely an opportunity to work on fundamentals, perhaps focus on one or two aspects of the offense or defense, and get some feel for players who are going to have to fill in the gaps from the previous year's team.
With that in mind, the Tar Heel coaching staff appeared to use the spring game as an extension of practice, spending time evaluating younger players, seeing how they might react to certain play calls, and in general getting the most out of the game as possible.
So what can we take away from the spring game? There are several observations that have a good chance to hold up next fall when the Tar Heels take the field for real.
- Wide receiver Jawarski Pollock was the main event. His six catches for 100 yards, a lot of those yards gained after the catch, had the Kenan Stadium crowd buzzing, and his teammates bragging about the new face in the wide receiver corps. C.J. Stephens said, " Jawarski is great. One of the quickest people in the world." Darian Durant added, "His main strengths are the way he runs his routes and then runs after the catch." Coach Bunting added, "Pollock is really quick, very competitive young man, he is a great playmaker because he has a great feel for where everybody is. He going to really help us both in the kick returns and maybe be a third down receiver. He'll break in that starting four receivers group like we had last year, which was a big personnel group for us last year - four wides. I see him being one of those four." Pollock says of himself, "I like making the short catch and make people miss."
- Quarterback CJ Stephens had a good day, going 6-10 for 103 yards and one touchdown. He showed he could air out the long ball, and had one of those dropped by Sam Aiken that would also have been a touchdown. On one occassion, he showed the ability to adjust to pressure by dumping the ball off to tight end Zach Hilton, and also had a run on 3rd and California that came up about seven yards short of the first down.
- Darian Durant took half of his possessions with the second team offense, which as previously mentioned failed to get but one first down against the first team defense all day. On one of his turns at bat with the first team offense, however, he lead a 70-yard drive that lead to a one-yard touchdown by Willie Parker. Durant was 3-7 for 33 yards. Coach Bunting said after the game, "I think it is obvious that Darian hasn't thrown the ball as much as the other quarterbacks have. He makes such great decisions, we are anxious to get back to a training camp situation when that time calls for it, and I am sure he is going to compete to be number one."
- The offensive line is solid on the first five players, but is thin, extremely young, and inexperienced after those starting five, the only exception being junior Marcus Wilson.
- Finally, the Tar Heel defense, particularly the first team, shows some promise. The second team offense is not even close to being an ACC caliber offense, but holding them to only one first down was still notable for a defense that had nine new faces lining up for them.
What Tar Heel fans saw on the field may not bear any more relationship to the team that takes the field against Miami of Ohio than the final score. But the team, as a whole, may be better off because of this game.
Traditional Scoring Plays
Safety - Malcolm Stewart
Safety - Doug Justice
1-yard run - Willie Parker (Orner conversion)
41-yard pass - Stephens to Aiken (Orner)
56-yard pass - Baker to L. Williams (Orner)
42-yard pass - Hall to Pollock (Orner)
1-yard run - Chad Scott (no conversion attempt)
Rushing (Att.-Yards, TD, Long)
Willie Parker (6-54, 1 TD, 28)
Chad Scott (13-39, 1 TD, 18)
Dokun Olagoke (13-51, 0, 18)
Jacque Lewis (1-(-4), 0, (-4))
Passing (Comp.-Att.-Int, Yds., TD, Long)
C.J. Stephens (6-10-0, 103 yards, 1 TD, 41)
Darian Durant (3-7-0, 33, 0, 15)
Matt Baker (3-6-0, 65, 1 TD, 56)
Terrance Highsmith (3-8-2, 38, 0, 18)
Jared Hall (3-11-0, 80, 1 TD, 42)