The Whole Nine Yards

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

Buck: Let's tackle the big question first, Jason. How huge a blow is it to this team to lose its starting quarterback?

Jason: It's huge. T.J. is the leader of the team and not having him out there is a big deal. But, you have to play this week, and prepare for a game that we all want to win. The coaches will craft a game plan to give us the best chance to win.

Buck: I agree that it's a huge blow, Yates appeared a lot more comfortable and settled this year at quarterback and now the Tar Heels will have to go with a less experienced quarterback, whether it is Mike Paulus or Cam Sexton. Can the loss of Yates be quantified? For example, does this mean two less wins? Three?

Jason: I don't think so; I think we have a chance to win the games on our schedule while T.J. is out. That depends on many things. I liked our chances better with T.J., but a full week of preparation, as opposed to coming in cold, by Cam or Mike, will make a big difference in how they play.

Buck: Speaking of preparation, how much will John Shoop change the playbook to adjust to the new quarterback, of any?

Jason: I think Coach Shoop will devise a game plan out of the playbook that takes advantages of the strengths of whoever the QB will be.

Buck: Both head coach Butch Davis and Shoop have said their offense will be built around what the quarterback does best, but on the road at Miami, how much will they simplify things for whoever the starter may be?

Jason: Both QBs have been in the program and got a lot of reps in the spring. Having a week to prepare, one would think that they wouldn't have to simplify things too much. You can't play not to lose. I'm sure the coaching staff will try to put together a game plan to win the game, and whether it's complicated or simple is irrelevant.

Buck: Speaking of "whoever the starter may be," do you have an opinion or any observations about who that should be?

Jason: It's hard to have an opinion on that since I have not had the opportunity to really watch the two of them. I think Mike fits into the pro-style system a little better, but Cam does provide some mobility and against Miami's defense that may be beneficial.

Buck: Since the staff inserted Paulus when Yates was injured, it is logical to conclude he is the top reserve and will start against Miami. Is that a safe assumption, or do you think they will determine that in practice this week?

Jason: I would assume Mike will start based on that. But whomever starts I think the coaching staff needs to make that decision (at least internally) and let them prepare for the week as the starter. It will allow the QB to mentally prepare for the game, gain confidence and in my opinion give you the best chance to win.

Buck: Turning to another subject that is nearly as troubling for the offense, why do you think UNC seems to have so much difficulty running the ball, particularly on the inside? Against Virginia Tech, UNC had over a dozen rushes that resulted in a gain of one yard at best, or in a loss. Does that indicate that the offensive line just isn't opening holes for the running backs? Can a casual observer tell what is going on with the running game?

Jason: Virginia Tech had at times eight or nine guys in the box, so it's going to be hard to run the ball. We ran it pretty well against Rutgers, but Virginia Tech is a pretty good run defense. With that said, our backs are pretty inexperienced. Little has had five starts at tailback and Draughn has played in three games at tailback. We are going to have to run the ball with T.J. out the next six weeks to take some pressure off our QB. I'm sure our coaching staff will come up with innovative ways to get our running game going.

Buck: Punters just never seems to get any love, but to me one of the under-discussed topics this week is the job that Terrence Brown is doing. Virginia Tech had poor field position for much the game on Saturday, and Brown was a major part of that. Special teams in general may be an under-appreciated part the game, but isn't the job that Brown is doing extraordinary?

Jason: They're under-appreciated because they are really only noticed when they screw up, but he has done a good job this year and outside of the one play against McNeese state, I think our whole special team play is improved. We need to take better advantage of that type of field position.

Buck: I agree, with T.J. out, the offense is going to have to make the most of the opportunities it gets. Turning our attention to the Miami game, their defense appears to be more vulnerable in the passing game. They rank 87th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and 11th in the ACC. They are averaging 2.33 sacks per game, but so far have intercepted only one pass. Meanwhile, they've been very stout against the run, second in the ACC and 17th in the nation. Since UNC will be starting a new quarterback, do they go ahead and try to attack what appears to be Miami's defensive weakness?

Jason: I think the key to the game offensively is not getting into predictable situations where the defense can really dictate the game. Miami is going to play very aggressively and I am confident that if we can devise a game plan to keep them off balance we will have a chance of winning. If we pass more on first down, use play action, run screens to try to keep them guessing and use their aggressiveness against them we should have some success.

Buck: For whoever has to start the game at quarterback at Miami, do you any advice for them?

Jason: Here would be my checklist:

  • Follow the game plan
  • Do not force anything
  • Get the ball to your playmakers
  • Know down and distance and game situation every play
  • Play with confidence
  • Lead

Buck: Thanks, Jason, it is great to have your insight.

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

Jason Stanicek ('91-94) wore the #9 uniform for the Tar Heels. 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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