Bunting - 'Get it done'

CHAPEL HILL - It's something most fans take for granted -- and most players, too, for that matter.

It just seems to be a given that the exchange from the center to the quarterback will happen without a hitch every single play on the football field.

North Carolina center Jason Brown used to feel that way too. He never thought about it before this year when he made the move to center, and now it is one of his primary focuses.

"Never [had I thought about it]," Brown said of the center-quarterback exchange after his first game action at center against Miami (OH). "I just thought that was [the centers'] God-given talent, something that is expected from them. Now it's totally different. It's expected from me, and now I know exactly how it feels."

The biggest challenge UNC head football coach John Bunting has made this year is to the offensive line. That's where it all begins, and the battle for control of the line of scrimmage will determine how successful everyone else on the team can be. And it all begins with Brown.

"I was disappointed in the offensive line," Bunting said. "I challenged them during the week, and I challenged them on game day to come through, and they did not. Individually, I think they are much improved. I saw that during the course of training camp, but then we got out there in the game, and we did not play as well as we need to play for us to be a winning football team."

The Tar Heels turned the ball over an ACC-record nine times, tying a record Wake Forest set against Duke in 1956. Three of those came on a faulty center-quarterback exchange. One came in shotgun formation and bounced right off of Darian Durant because it came before he expected it.

"The call was on the first sound, and Darian went up to the line and gave us a reminder of the cadence," Brown recalled. "As soon as he spoke, I took that as the first thing he said, to snap the ball. I was anticipating his first word. When he said that, I was ready."

Too ready. First-time jitters, on-the-job training, miscommunication -- call it what you want, Jason Brown suffered through it on Saturday.

"I felt a little guilt on my part, like 'Jason, what have you done?'" Brown remarked of the turnover. "It starts with me and the quarterback. The receivers can't run their routes, the rest of the offensive linemen can't do their thing, the running backs can't receive the ball, if it doesn't start with me and Darian. It's just something where you have to realize that it's a mistake. You want, for the world, to take it back, but you can't. The only thing you can do is go to the sidelines, resolve the issue with the coach and work to never let that happen again."

"There were some communication problems, perhaps in the first snap that hit him in the chest" Bunting remarked. "The other ones where he was under center was a combination of the two. Jason was a little late, a second late -- a split second late with the ball -- and Darian pulled out. He was anticipating the ball to be snapped because that's what you want to have in a cadence situation in football. To get an advantage on offense, cadence is important.

"That ball is snapped, the offensive line is in motion. You could see on two or three occasions where our offensive line was just a split second ahead of the ball being snapped. It couldn't be caught by the naked eye, really. I felt kind of funny out there, seeing it happen. I almost felt like we should have been flagged, but it happened so [fast] that they didn't catch it. That's what happened. Darian is anticipating the ball to be there. I think youth at center [was one cause], and Darian has got to ride the center."

"One cause of the problem was the game situation," Brown said. "I'm a new center, and I've never faced being a center under game pressure, a game situation. I wouldn't say that I cracked under pressure, but there definitely was a lot of pressure out there. Right now, I feel better [able] to accommodate that pressure, now that I've seen what it takes to be out there during game situations."

Brown and Durant have already begun to iron out the mistakes in preparation for Syracuse this week.

"What we said to each other is that we have to communicate better," Brown explained. "Just like I communicate with the rest of my offensive linemen, Darian Durant and I have something to bond -- we have to communicate as well."

Trial by fire, that's what happens when you have young players in new positions. Brown has now had his first taste of game action at center. And what has John Bunting had to say to his young, inexperienced center?

"Since the game, we know what needs to take place for us to progress," Brown said. "[Coach Bunting] just looked at me in the eyes and said, 'Get it done,' and I know exactly what it means. It's going to take a lot of focus on my part and a lot of effort to get it done. That's basically what he said, 'You get the job done.'"

"It's definitely a challenge," Brown added, "but, with the severity of the issue and where I am right now, I don't have any time to learn or to take the role of a follower. I have to step up right now and take charge as a leader of this team."

He'll have his chance on Saturday against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome at 8:00 p.m.(ESPN2).

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