Deems & Mark: State of the Heels

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders will conduct a roundtable discussion each week with former Tar Heels Deems May and Mark Paschal. In the first edition, the group provides insider insight on the expectations and strategies for the season opener.

Buck Sanders: No opponent should be taken for granted, but there could be an opportunity for the North Carolina staff to take a look at a lot of players next Saturday against The Citadel. What players or units do you think the staff will want to look at in a little more depth in terms of getting some reserves into the game early?

Mark Paschal: Carolina will run the horses until there is a comfortable lead, which I would bet would be around the middle of the 3rd quarter. I expect to see the coaches rotate in some No. 2 players throughout the early part of the game as well.

The main thing is to get the "W" - get the starters some good "live" work and then take a look at the rest of the group. The obvious unit for me that needs to be looked at is the O-line. Like I said before training camp, this is my biggest concern and these guys will need to stay healthy and try and develop some depth.

Deems May: The number one question right now in my mind is backup QB. With Yates having been injured in the past, UNC must solidify a backup within the first few weeks. Hopefully they can do that Saturday night. I would also like to get some backup O-lineman in the game to establish some depth there.

Buck Sanders: No doubt getting some offensive linemen some work on Saturday is key, but I also am curious to see how the reserve quarterbacks play.

Players obviously know that The Citadel isn't Virginia Tech, for example. In terms of preparation and on game day, how does a staff get across to the team the dangers of taking an opponent too lightly? Or did the Appalachian State win over Michigan eliminate that problem forever?

Deems May: The App State game did not eliminate that problem forever, these kids have short memories. It's hard to prepare for a game you should win in a blowout, it's just human nature.

The coaches can harp on it all week long, but it ultimately falls on the leaders of this team. I would hope that Yates and Austin will take care of this for the offense and defense and whmoever is the leader on special teams, get on their guys to not let up. If you hear it from your peers often, it tends to resonate better, because coaches are always yelling and it's easy to tune them out.

Mark Paschal: Coach Davis and staff will approach this game just like they were playing Virginia Tech. The sincerity in the coaches' preparation will have a resounding effect on how the players prepare and work this week.

Carolina won't be perfect, but I promise they will be prepared to play. This is the time when the team leaders will need to stress the importance of every single game and opportunity they have. I also think these boys are chomping at the bit to go play someone else so that eliminates a lot of my fear about overlooking this Citadel team.

Buck Sanders: The leadership role of the players in how to approach a particular game or opponent seems to me to be an underappreciated facet of the game.

In the passing game, who has the most to prove going into The Citadel game – T.J. Yates, the wide receivers, or the offensive line?

Mark Paschal: The major concerns I have about the offense line are directed at the inexperience and lack of depth and that is why that position group makes me the most nervous for the long-haul of the season. That being said, Kyle Jolly, Alan Pelc and Lowell Dyer have experience and should dominate the smaller group of defenders for the Citadel.

That is why I feel that this will be a great opportunity for T.J. and the receivers to go out and prove that they can make plays, convert first downs and move the ball effectively down the field. Look for John Shoop to take some chances early, and try and stretch the defense and get into a rhythm with T.J. and this young group of receivers.

Deems May: The wide receivers definitely have the most to prove; they have huge shoes to fill. Who's going to be the go to guy on 3rd down like Nicks? Who's going to be the deep threat like Tate was or the backside receiver that kept defenses honest and didn't allow them to roll coverage towards Nicks (like Foster did last year)?

If Yates or the offensive line struggle against The Citadel it's going to be a long year.

Buck Sanders: There's no doubt that the wide receivers have received the most intense scrutiny during the offseason, but I am not sure we really know much more about them than we did before spring and fall practice. We heard a lot of good things about Josh Adams this spring, and this fall we've heard more about Dwight Jones and Todd Harrelson. It will be interesting to see which roles the different wide receivers will take on.

In terms of strategy, do you expect the UNC staff to be as "vanilla" as possible under the circumstances? What's the upside to revealing more of the playbook in this game?

Deems May: We should be able to be very "vanilla." We should be able to go into this game with five runs and 10 passes and execute on offense. On defense, we should be able to play base 4-3 and vanilla coverages and not show much to the future opponents. The only upside to revealing more of the playbook is to just make future opponents prepare a little more on the field and in the classroom, but I prefer to save the good stuff for future games.

Mark Paschal: The coaching staff will call and run what they think will work against this Citadel team. Each week the playbook gets tinkered with, changes are made both offensively and defensively to tailor to what will work the best against the opponent for that week.

Let me break it down like this - each team is different, has different strengths and weaknesses, and the coaches will look for those in film and attack those weaknesses. The outer shell of the UNC playbook stays the same - on offense some running plays will carry-over, and they will run a 4-3 defense and play cover 3 the whole season, but the passing game and running game will be tailored to fit what will work the best that week and the defense will run stunts and coverage's that will be the most effective against a certain offense. Look for Carolina to run what will put points on the board and what will keep them off for the Citadel.

Buck Sanders: It will be interesting to see just how much of the offensive and defensive strategies we'll see on Saturday. My guess is that Shoop won't show us every color of crayon in the box against The Citadel.

A couple of years ago UNC blew out James Madison in the opener and went on to win only four games. Last year McNeese State made the outcome uncomfortably close before the Tar Heels prevailed, and UNC went on to win eight games. So long as UNC wins, does the outcome against The Citadel really give us any insight into the season North Carolina will have this year?

Mark Paschal: This game will give us very little insight to the way the season will turn out. What it will give us is a small look into what to get excited about for the rest of the season. A success on Saturday will be; 1) A win, 2) No injuries, 3) Game experience for starters/backups, and 4) Film study on Sunday to see if they have the right people in place to put them in the best chance to win the next one.

I can't wait to take a look at the 2009 Heels. I am incredibly excited about this season, for me as an observer and for those guys who have put in eight months of work for 3 1/2 hours on Saturday.

Deems May: I'm not concerned with the final score. What I want to see is total domination in all three phases of the game. The Heels should be bigger, faster, stronger and deeper. All of these factors should translate to physical domination.

Anything less than this and I would be disappointed.

Buck Sanders: Thanks guys, this has been great. It's nice to have the insight a couple of former UNC players bring to the table. I look forward to doing this every week during the season.

Deems May excelled at tight end for UNC and was drafted in 1992, playing eight seasons in the NFL. He's since become a fan favorite for his candid commentary on the Tar Heel Sports Network.
Mark Paschal was a team captain for the Tar Heels in 2008. As a middle linebacker, he led the team in tackles prior to a career-ending injury and didn't miss a game in his career up until that point. He's the host of the Inside Carolina Call-In postgame radio show.


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