Spring FB: Offense Taking Steps

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--The UNC football team reached the half-way point of spring football practice Friday evening, completing the seventh of 14 practices before the Tar Heel Spring Football Game on Saturday April 8. The theme continues to be "enthusiasm," and it is spreading.

"There were over 300 high school coaches here," head coach John Bunting said. "There is a lot of interest in this football program for the right reasons, and I'm FIRED up about it!

"I talked to them myself today. We have all the state champions here speaking. [This is] by far the most high school coaches we have ever had, and I am excited about that. This program is buzzing, and they see it and appreciate it."

One aspect of the program that is drawing a lot of interest--even from Bunting in spite of his background in defense--is the offense. With a new offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, and so much youth at skill positions, there are a lot of questions to answer, but the pieces are beginning to fit into place.

"I see an offense that can make some plays," Bunting said. "I see an offense that is being installed that, when it is completely installed and understood, has a chance to be really good."

The offensive line is still a work in progress, but the potential is there. In the absence of Brian Chacos and Ben Lemming, who are both out for the entire spring with injuries, Andre Barbour is showing promise at tackle, Kyle Jolly at guard, and Scott Lenahan at center.

In an offense that quarterback Joe Dailey described as one "that has an answer for every defense," job one is getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers. Rising seniors wide receiver Jesse Holley and tight end Jon Hamlett are known commodities in the passing game. Rising sophomore Brandon Tate, who made a name for himself as a kick returner last season was the target of some screen passes in practice--an area on offense that received particular emphasis--and Kenton Thornton made a long touchdown catch.

"It's a fun offense--an explosive offense," said Holley. "It's a quick offense. Everything is moving at a fast pace. My goal is to know what I have to do--get in the endzone--so if the young guys have a question they can come ask me. I'm learning multiple positions.

"I like the vertical game. Last year we didn't throw the ball a lot down the field. We throw the ball down the field more. We attack the seams and make [the defense] respect our passing game. That will open up our running game. We also can pound the ball at you. Last year we were a cautious offense. We did things only in a certain part of the field. In this offense it doesn't matter. It can be 1st-and-10 or third-and-long, and we might throw the bomb [in either situation].

Ronnie McGill will be the headliner at running back in the fall and Barrington Edwards is expected to provide support. This spring is about finding a third running back to fill out the rotation, and so far red-shirt freshman Bobby Rome has set himself apart from the others, showing he can catch passes out of the backfield, making the longest run from scrimmage on the afternoon.

In a race that is a marathon rather than a sprint that will conclude in late August, Sexton and Dailey will push each other to the end. The consensus so far has been that Dailey's experience gives him the edge, and Holley agrees: "He's been in this kind of offense, he's been in the fire, but it's not over. All I can tell you is come September 2, whoever is in there I'm going to be happy with."


  • Chase Rice made a tremendous interception by laying out in front of the tight end showing a burst to close and the hands to make the catch.

  • Sexton showed he can throw the deep ball by completing one touchdown pass to Kenton Thornton and another to Brandon Tate but Tate dropped the pass.

  • Larry Edwards picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.

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