Shoop, Part IV: Strategy

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- A series of articles at Inside Carolina written when John Shoop was first hired looked at the possible influences on his offensive philosophy through the coaches he had worked with.

There were coaches like Jon Gruden, a West Coast offense guy, or Gary Crowton, who favored more of a spread offense, and Norv Turner, a vertical-passing game guru.

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders sat down with UNC offensive coordinator John Shoop earlier this month for a one-on-one interview. This is a five-part series running all this week from that interview session.
Part I: Acclimation
Part II: Game Planning
Part III: Play Calling
Part IV: Strategy
Part V: Friday
Developments since Shoop came on board suggest that his offenses lean more heavily on Norv Turner's designs than on other influences he was exposed to in the NFL. Shoop agreed, with a caveat or two.

"Your offense becomes a little bit of what your players are," Shoop said. "Norv is without a doubt the best deep thrower of the football that I've ever been around. His concepts for getting the ball deep ... I mean, he talks so often about twenty-yard plays, 'How can we get chunks of yards,' double moves, things like that."

With Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster catching the ball, and T.J. Yates' touch on the deep throw, it is little wonder that the last two seasons the Shoop offense has closely mirrored that of Turner's preferences.

"Our personnel kind of fit doing that a little bit this year," Shoop said. "We could throw the ball deep as well as anybody in the country, and we had some of the most creative double moves that you'll find anywhere. A lot of those things are what we learned from him, Norv Turner -- it's kind of his package, there's no doubt."

North Carolina's running game improved in 2008, which made Turner's type of offense an even better fit. Turner relies on a power ground game that draws the defense in close, and then goes over the top with play-action passes.

"I don't watch our power run game without watching our power play-action passes, they go together," Shoop said. "This last year, I think we were an effective run team. We were effective enough that it helped us on our play-action passes and we did pretty doggone well on those passes."

While last year's offense followed that pattern, changes in personnel have already suggested to Shoop that approach has to be improved upon, and modified as well. The need to improve the running game is a crucial piece of what Shoop hopes to do better next season – finish games.

"We need to be able to run the ball no matter the situation," Shoop said. "We've got to do a better job of, not checking runs so much, run/pass combinations, but, (say to the defense), ‘Go ahead, put 13 guys in the box, we're still pounding the engine and running it, that clock is still eating.' We've got to do a better job of that."

With UNC's top three wide receivers from 2008 not returning next season, there might also be a change in emphasis in the passing game.

"In the last two games, against Duke and West Virginia, we did a better job of distributing the ball," Shoop said. "We had some really strong wide receivers this year, but we need to get more balls to the tight end, we need to get more balls to the running back. T.J., in those last two games, did a great job of kicking the ball wide to Shaun Draughn as the secondary receiver a few times, or finding Richard Quinn. The play that maybe sticks out is Richard Quinn's touchdown against Duke - I'm thinking, ‘Man, he got it, great job! (Yates) didn't try to force up a home run ball.' I think that was just a great play.

"(Distributing the ball) is something we're going to have to do next year -- use the tight end and running back a heck of a lot more in the pass game than we have."

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