Rome Solving The Fullback Puzzle

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With the emergence of the H-back role, the fullback slot has become the forgotten position. It's still on the preseason depth chart, but just barely – fullback is listed as one of twelve spots for the first-team offense, meaning that Bobby Rome could be named the starter next Saturday and still not take the field with the first unit.

Confusing, right? Rome sat down with Inside Carolina Friday evening to discuss the evolution of the fullback role at UNC and to pinpoint the exact differences between the H-back and fullback positions.

"The difference might be that – well, that's a tough one, because the difference is really just personnel," Rome said. "Our fullbacks and H-backs do the exact same thing. When Zack [Pianalto] is taking a rep, I'm watching him, and when I'm taking a rep, he's watching me. We're basically running the same things, just using different personnel to give different looks. We try to [mess] the opponents up with their personnel."

Head coach Butch Davis shared his thoughts on the position during his post-practice interview on Friday.

"It's a dual role, because the fullback position and the H-back – there's a tremendous amount of carryover in their positions," Davis said. "It's one of the things that we like about it – you cannot get stereo-typed in your play-calling because you have the versatility and flexibility to run just about everything that we have in our offense inside of multiple personnel groups.

"Whether there's a tight end in the game, a fullback, four or five wide receivers – it really doesn't make any difference since the assignments are all the same. It gives you the luxury that if someone happens to be injured for a week, that you can feature one position over the other and make teams have to defend you with both personnel packages."

At least the depth chart at fullback is easy enough to understand – it's just Rome. The red-shirt sophomore is responsible for understanding not only the fullback and H-back positions, but also knowing the requirements at running back, where he spent most of his time during training camp.

"We all come together and work together sometimes," Rome said. "When I work with running backs, I do more ball-handling, and when it's time for me to go catch some passes, I'll go work with those guys and catch some balls."

The 5-foot-11, 255-pounder has been working hard with running backs coach Ken Browning on solidifying his blocking technique. Rome has the body structure and upper-body positioning to truly make an impact at the Atlantic Coast Conference level, and the former high school quarterback is anxious to take the field and deliver some blows this coming season.

"The way I'm motioning and stuff like that, I'm more of a clean-up guy," Rome said. "I've got to make all of the blocks that other guys can't make – all of the athletic blocks, including the block that might spring a touchdown. I've got to go out there and try to make that block on the defensive back that a lot of guys can't make."

If you are still a little confused about what the fullbacks, H-backs and tight ends will do in North Carolina's offensive sets this season, understand that you are not alone – it's that way for a reason.

"That's the thing about our offense – we can line guys up anywhere and run any type of play, and the defense has to figure out a way to stop it," Rome said.

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