Onus on the Defense

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The efficiency with which Furman executed its option attack last Saturday stunned the North Carolina defense, maligned early this season after allowing an average of 369 total yards per game. Defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders is in charge of plugging the holes.

Once the issues in the Rutgers game were ironed out, and a statistically respectable performance was turned in against Virginia Tech – although not represented by the final 35-10 score - the Paladins caught UNC off guard.

Sanders knows this, vowing his defense will bounce back this Saturday at 19th-ranked Clemson.

"I look at the positive things that happened in the Rutgers game, and against Virginia Tech, we held them to 200 yards of offense," Sanders said. "Then, in three days, we had to prepare for something they had never seen before (in Furman's option offensive attack). That falls on us as a coach.

"I'm not making excuses, I needed to do a better job – point one. But you think you've got it, and all of a sudden, here's all that other stuff," he said.

With regards to ultimate culpability – and the UNC defense is taking the brunt of the blame for the Tar Heels' 1-2 start - a major difference between offense and defense is: if there's one breakdown, then punt the ball. On defense, one or two breakdowns can result in one or two touchdowns.

"So you have to be more precise," Sanders said. "All the pistons have to be firing. And I'm not trying to slight on the offense at all, it's just a different ballgame.

"Defensively, we want all the pieces of the puzzle to be there, and all the pistons firing at the same time. But the bottom line is it's a team game. We'll keep working hard."

  • Carolina has allowed just two sacks in three games. The offensive line made it nice and cozy for redshirt freshman Cam Sexton in his first collegiate start last Saturday, not only by giving him ample time to pick out receivers, but by opening holes for Ronnie McGill and Barrington Edwards to uncork the Tar Heels' rushing attack.

    UNC's tailback tandem combined for 259 all-purpose yards against Furman.

    Senior tackle Brian Chacos said, "Only giving up two sacks to a bunch of good teams ... at this point last year we had given up eight or nine. We've only given up two, and those two were coverage sacks – not really the offensive line's fault. We're just going to keep building off that. We take a real pride in pass protection. And, it felt good to run the ball this week.

    "We're starting to make some huge strides. Scott Lenahan and Garrett Reynolds, they're doing a tremendous job. I especially think Garrett is doing a great job at tackle."

  • Like a catcher after a night game, the UNC coaches decided to sit senior punter David Wooldridge last week, in favor of junior John Choate, who punted twice for 41.0 average and a long of 45 yards.

    Wooldridge has punted seven times for a 35.4 average, with three downed inside the 20. He's had one blocked so far this season.

    So who will get the starting nod on Saturday at Clemson?

    John Bunting said, "Wooldridge punted it very well (Wednesday). I will take more of a look at hang times and distances after tomorrow's practice. I think it will be fairly easy to figure it out.

    "John did well the other day. One of his punts was designed to be a shorter punt or sky punt. Another one needed more hang time and we got good coverage. The guy we're playing against this week is about as fast as anyone in the country, so we're going to need great hang time this week."

  • Playing time could be up in the air in the secondary this week. Bunting has already said safeties Kareen Taylor and D.J. Walker will start. It's also likely corners Jacoby Watkins and Quentin Person will get the first look at the field.

    However, Bunting assured reporters following Wednesday's practice that redshirt freshman safety Bryan Dixon will play. Redshirt freshmen corners Jermaine Strong and Jordan Hemby could also get in on some snaps.

    "Bryan Dixon will play," Bunting said. "It was great to have Kareen back, but Bryan will get out there. Those two corners – I won't hesitate to put them out there. That's probably the hardest position to play on defense come Game Day."

    True freshman Kendric Burney has earned a chance to play as well, Bunting said. But with his redshirt option yet to exercised and the coach's hopes to preserve it, things may have to get desperate for Burney to see the field.

  • Inside Carolina Top Stories