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 bye week analysis and an early look ahead to the FSU game.

Buck: The Tar Heels needed a break and fortunately they got one last Saturday, getting an average (at best) FCS school at home. Now they get the weekend off before playing Florida State at home a week from Thursday. What is the biggest need during their time off -getting healthy or tweaking the offense?

Deems: Off weeks are all about getting better, while healing as well. I would love for UNC to be able to go full pads Wednesday and Thursday and have the defense blitz the offense every play going at full speed. That would be ideal and that's the only way to get a true look and feel at game pace. Unfortunately they don't have the luxury of being able to do that given the injuries on the offensive line. Obviously they need their best players playing and healthy, so getting the guys back is paramount. However, with the back-ups that didn't fare too well in the 2nd half, this would be an ideal time to line them up and get some good full speed work to simulate game pace.

Mark: This bye week could not come at a better time for this football team. This football team should focus on three things this break: getting healthy, getting mentally and physically rested, and continuing to look for answers on the offensive side of the football. I think that the biggest need during their time off will be to get healthy because it will help the offensive productivity when the injured guys are able to get back and contribute.

Buck: Mark, the defense scored twice on Saturday, but they also put the Tar Heel offense into good scoring position by creating turnovers and handing the ball to the offense in the red zone. That is something the defense did quite a bit last year, but not very much at all this season. For the Tar Heels to win against quality teams, isn't it just a reality that the defense has to "prime the pump," so to speak, for the offense by giving the defense the ball in great field position?

Mark: Buck, the offense is going to need all the help they can get from this defensive unit. It is very clear to everyone that the defense is going to have to keep UNC competitive against quality opponents and will even have to win some games by scoring itself. That being said, the next six games are going to come down to the turnover ratio and negative plays. If the Carolina defense can do this, the Heels will have a shot at winning some more games.

Buck: Deems, in terms of tweaking the offense, how much can or should the Tar Heels try to modify their offense in one bye-week; an offensive scheme that they've been practicing since the spring? Is it a matter of simplification; that is, focusing on those parts of the offense they can execute and eliminating the parts that they aren't executing well? Schematically, how much can the Tar Heels change what they are doing?

Deems: Alluding to question one, they can't work at full speed blitz pick-up or even full speed inside-run game, so this really hinders their ability to get better during the off-week. Given that, I think they need to tweak the offense to more max protection to project T.J. Yates. Whether it be something as simple as leaving the tight ends in to block or teaching the running backs to chip the rushing defensive ends every play to slow down the rush. If they indeed do this, they have to win outside one-on-one with UNC's young receivers.

UNC will be blitzed hard on the 22nd. FSU is desperate and they will look at tape of the UVa game and bring the heat. The receivers need to work hard this off-week in one-on-one drills and getting off jams and finishing routes. This is an area that is very doable as the contact is minimal and improvement can be obtained as coaches can teach without worrying about implementing a game plan.

Buck: The defense has put up excellent numbers this year, but those numbers came against Connecticut, ECU, two FCS schools and Georgia Tech, the latter of which is the only proficient offense they've played to date. It has been some time since North Carolina had a top-ranked defense, so can they keep it up as the competition ratchets up over the last half of the schedule?

Mark: The defense is pretty good right now, but it can still play better: creating turnovers, scoring on defense, and getting ‘three-and-outs' will help this team tremendously from here on. This side of the ball, right now, has what the offense is lacking: consistency and playmakers. Football is won and lost by those who make big plays, such as turnovers, sacks, long passes, and long runs. Right now the UNC defense has played consistently enough to win football games but it hasn't really made many big plays. Saturday the defense did make big plays, but for UNC to continue to win the D will have to continue to make big plays. Even so, the offense is going to have to help some too.

Deems: We will certainly find out a week from Thursday how the defense stacks up. FSU is putting a lot of points on the board and their quarterback is playing great. The Seminoles have a little bit of dissention going on as their defense is not living up to their general standards. Friction develops on all teams when there is a huge discrepancy in production. Jimbo Fisher has his offense playing well. We know they will be athletic. The Tar Heels will have to be more disciplined this week than any week so far. They don't need to get caught in the hype and become so amped that they forget their responsibilities. I love watching the UNC defense fly around; if everyone plays like Robert Quinn, Carolina will be fine on that side of the ball.

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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