The Whole Nine Yards

In a new weekly feature, IC's football guru Buck Sanders conducts an in-depth discussion on the state of the Tar Heels with former UNC quarterback standout Jason Stanicek.

Buck: Thanks for agreeing to be a part of this new Inside Carolina feature, Jason. Let's get right into it. UNC is 2-0. How important is it to a team to get off to a good start?

Jason: I think it's very important for a young team to get off to a good start. In addition, going on the road and getting a win is very helpful. It obviously builds confidence, but also helps the team realize that if they prepare and practice the right way, positives outcomes (wins) can be the result on Saturdays.

Buck: That echoes what head coach Butch Davis said about the "validation" aspect following the Rutgers win – proving to the team that great preparation is critical to success. Were you surprised by the margin of victory at Rutgers?

Jason: I didn't think that would be the score going into the game. I thought we would put points on the board. I don't care who you are, anytime you turn the ball over four times you are very likely getting blown out. I thought our defense did a good job of not giving up big plays and creating turnovers when they presented themselves.

Buck: The positive turnover margin – and the third-down conversion rates – I think have been big keys for UNC so far. Turning to the coming game, UNC returned all its wide receivers, Virginia Tech lost all of its receivers from the year before. How important is experience in a wide receiver corps and their familiarity with the quarterback.

Jason: It's important, and it takes time to get that familiarity with your receivers. As a quarterback, at times you are throwing to spots/landmarks on the field and you have to trust your receiver to be in the right spot and more importantly be there at the right time. If you do not have that time together it can be a factor early in the season.

Buck: It is still early in the season, as you say, but so far T.J. Yates has had better protection than a year ago. What are the different elements of pass protection that make that possible?

Jason: There are a lot of different elements of pass protection that have attributed to T.J.'s protection. Obvious one is the play of the offensive line and our running backs picking up blitzes, but I think what contributes most of all is play calling, trying to avoid 3rd-and-longs, where it is obvious we are going to pass and the defense can just tee off on the pass rush. In addition, moving T.J. around (i.e. rolling him out), so the defense can just assume where he will be. Furthermore, T.J. has done a good job of throwing the ball away when nothing is there and changing the play at the line of scrimmage when it's appropriate. I think all have contributed to it.

Buck: Brandon Tate seems to have exploded this season as a senior. How do you account for a player who seemingly breaks out his last year on the field?

Jason: I think the coaching staff understands its personnel a little bit better this year and what they can and can't do. Brandon has probably demonstrated more maturity and ability over the last year to handle an increased role in the offense. He is an explosive player and needs to get his hands on the ball in space throughout the game.

Buck: He's clearly been a huge part of the UNC offense. Speaking of offense, option offense seems to be making a comeback. Georgia Tech is running it and Virginia Tech has incorporated it into its offense this year as well. Having been an option-type quarterback, what makes it so difficult to defend?

Jason: It force a defenses to play a plan vanilla base defense. It forces a defense to play assignment football. Every player on defense has a job, and they must do it consistently throughout the game. It's hard to blitz and play man-to-man. It forces defenses to play very disciplined football. It allows an offensive team to really dictate the pace of the game.

Buck: UNC will face that type of offense again at least twice more this year, against Georgia Tech and Connecticut, so it will be interesting to see how UNC does against it. The game Saturday against Virginia Tech is essentially considered a toss-up – even though it matches up last year's ACC champion and a team that went 3-5 in the league last year. Does it surprise you how fast things can change?

Jason: Not these days. It's amazing how a reduction in 10 scholarships (95 to 85) can impact the game. Injuries, attrition, and one down year in recruiting can really impact a program from one year to the next. The lack of quality depth is the biggest difference.

Buck: The development of Yates and some stability at quarterback obviously helps with that as well. What characteristic about T.J. Yates do you think is his strength, and what do you think he needs to work on the most?

Jason: T.J. obviously has physical talents, but I believe his biggest strength is his ability to lead and be the guy the team looks to for leadership. I think T.J. needs to work on his footwork more and getting his body into the right position to deliver the ball on time and accurately. In addition, and just like any other QB, just enhancing his football/QB IQ.

Buck: What do you think is the most important characteristic for a quarterback to possess?

Jason: A QB does obviously have to have physical talents to play the position, be able to throw accurately, have good footwork, and other physical type of tools. In addition, QBs need to be good decision makers. You have to make decisions quickly that give your team a chance to win.

But for teams/programs to be successful over the long haul, I believe the QB needs to be able to walk a fine line between cocky and confidence. Your teammates want to look at you and see someone who has and exudes confidence in getting the job done and making plays happen, when they need to happen. While at the same time, still be able to be just one of the guys.

Buck: Great stuff. Thanks, Jason, and we look forward to your take next week and for the rest of the season!

Got a topic or question you want discussed in next week's "The Whole Nine Yards"? Email us.

Jason Stanicek wore the #9 uniform for the Tar Heels from 1991-94. He broke a number of UNC records during his career and now stands No. 3 in school history for total offense (5,497) and passing yards (4,683), and No. 2 for career completions (372). Jason, who resides in Raleigh with his family, is the Vice President and Financial Advisor at CAPTRUST and can be found in the stands at Kenan Stadium on gamedays.

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