Deems & Mark: State of the Heels

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders conducts the weekly roundtable discussion with former Tar Heels Deems May and Mark Paschal, with reflections on two tough losses and frank analysis regarding a season at an apparent crossroads.

Buck: It is tough on everyone - the players, the staff, the alumni, and the fans - when the football team is underperforming relative to expectations. Do you have any words of wisdom that may help frustrated UNC fans get through these times?

Deems: People react differently to tough times. Some people quit and throw in the towel. The Tar Heels don't want or need the ones who quit; they should go pull for Florida/Steelers in football, Carolina/Lakers in basketball, and the Yankees in baseball.

Some voice frustration, opine for change in aspects where UNC is underperforming. They, however, show up every Saturday and cheer for the Heels and invest their hard-earned money in the UNC athletics program. They are deservedly frustrated right now, and have earned the right to complain, but their love for the Heels is undeniable, and they will support the team through thick and thin.

Then there are the ones that are the worst - the ones that say, "I don't care about football, I just go watch until basketball starts, we'll never be good at football, this is a basketball school, etc., etc." These are the types that I loathe. They are the cancers of the UNC program. They are the ones that inflict the most damage to the players' psyche and hurt UNC's recruiting more than anything. I went through this when UNC had back-to-back 1-10 seasons and you never get over it. The players from those days harbor ill feelings to this day and you can ask any of my teammates and they'll tell you the same thing. For those out there that feel this way, please don't ever speak to me or anybody associated with our football program - keep your miserable pathetic thoughts to yourself.

The fact is UNC is 3-2. The fact is that UNC is terrible on offense right now. The fact is UNC is very good on defense and hence will be in every game because of that. So UNC has to win on special teams. UNC's punter and kicker were much better last week. If the Tar Heels can win the battle of special teams and defense, they have a chance to win every game they play. The defense will need to create more turnovers and quite frankly the ball hasn't bounced their way the last two weeks when it was on the ground, but the good thing is that the opportunities have been there. Things are so bad offensively right now that they just need to set small goals such as no turnovers. The defense needs to set the offense up on a short field. The offense needs to try to piece together two or three first downs in a row in order to give the defense a good breather. We know the Tar Heels can't win with their offense right now, but it's important that the offense just not lose the game for Carolina right now.

Mark: Yes, everyone is upset, confused, and baffled. But no one wants to play well and win more than the guys in that locker room. Those guys are the ones who have invested countless hours, who have bled, and who have sacrificed to play well on Saturdays and for the rest of this season. Trust me, they heard the boos on Saturday and they will try to avoid all the other flying shrapnel this week because they all know this is only a distraction. I'm sure they will all come together, if they have not already done so, and look each other in the eyes and determine if everyone in the room has everyone else's back. The season is far from over but they are also aware they must fight their way out of the corner they are in.

Buck: Mark, we've touched on this briefly in previous discussions. After the game, Robert Quinn said, "[The offense is] going three-and-out and we're back on the field, or they're turning the ball over and we're back on the field. It's a team game. I'm not trying to play the blame game, but the offense has got to help us some." You can't argue with what Quinn said, but is the lack of offense threatening to become a destructive force in the locker room?

Mark: Robert should not have said that, no matter how much he feels that the offense is letting the team down. Finger pointing is the last thing this team needs and the team leaders in that locker room have to make sure that everyone pulls together rather than ripping one another apart. The team must fight to stay strong considering the adversity it is facing. That being said, the defense is obviously frustrated with the ‘O' and that frustration could very well become that destructive force you are talking about

Buck: Everyone knew from the beginning of the season that the offensive line was one of the keys to the season. Against BCS opponents UConn, Georgia Tech, and Virginia, UNC has averaged 1.2 yards per carry and has given up 11 sacks. Jonathan Cooper and Lowell Dyer may return to the lineup at some point, but is it possible to get the O-line fixed this year, during the season?

Deems: I don't know if they can get it fixed, I really don't. The things they really have to look at are not only the injuries, but also the talent level. They obviously upgraded significantly on the defensive side of the ball, talent-wise. They are behind in talented depth - big time - on the offensive line. Coach Davis' job is to protect his players. His comments on youth and injury are his way of protecting his players and you have to love a coach who will protect his players. I just think, talent-wise, the O-line is really behind. Coach Pittman has had enormous success in the past; you just don't lose that ability to coach. Coach Shoop is the same way. It's hard to call plays when you're having constant breakdowns on the OL. When they do pick up the blitz, the QB has to stay in there and deliver, while the wide receivers have to win outside one-on-one (ala Boyd against ECU) and the wide receivers haven't come close to doing that in the last two weeks. It is not entirely the OL's fault (when holes are there the backs have been dancing in the hole too much), but they are feeling the most heat. If Dyer can come back soon, the offensive line will have a chance to build some depth, but if he can't, they will continue to struggle.

Mark: Running the football on offense and stopping the run on defense boils down to attitude: Carolina has not developed a ‘hit-you-in-the-mouth attitude' on offense that is needed to be successful. The 1.2 yards a carry is bad and if Carolina can't get it fixed this year, there are going to be a lot of disappointing Saturdays.

Buck: Deems, Sean Glennon at Virginia Tech was a decent quarterback that the Hokies couldn't protect last year, so they went with a mobile option at quarterback, and the same reasons led to Russell Wilson becoming the starter at N.C. State last year. Even though it may not be T.J. Yates' fault that the offense has stalled, given the lack of a running game and the sack issues, should UNC consider a move at quarterback, if they have a more mobile option?

Deems: I think they should consider a move at every position if this continues. I know that may not be possible, but it's just the way I feel. I like T.J.; we spent some good time together at the Manning Camp talking football. But unfortunately the QB is going to be the center of the most criticism; it just comes with the territory. You can't have arguably the best game of your career against ECU and follow it up with perhaps the two worst performances and not expect to be criticized. Granted, nothing has worked to help Yates for the last two weeks, but he can't get frustrated, throw his helmet, and sulk off the field; it's contagious.

T.J. has always come back and I hope he emerges from this slump, but if he doesn't, he may need to regroup, watch from the sideline, and try to regain some confidence. Unfortunately, with only 12 games, "hitting your way out of a slump" isn't an option.

Buck: It was a tough day this past Saturday guys, thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings with IC's readers. Your passion for UNC football really shines through.

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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