Deems & Mark: State of the Heels

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders conducts the weekly roundtable discussion as former Tar Heels Deems May and Mark Paschal tackle the key issues heading into Saturday's showdown with Miami.

Buck: The win on Saturday seemed to take on greater importance than the typical UNC-Duke game. With an emerging Duke program under David Cutcliffe, how important was it for UNC to come away with a dominating win over the Blue Devils?

Mark: Any Carolina-Duke game is always going to be a hard fought game. It was great to see our guys play on a different level than the Blue Devils. We had more talent from top to bottom than they did, and really dominated most of the day. The score did not do that game justice. Duke is getting better and has more talent there than they have had in a long time and Coach Cutcliffe has those guys on track to be a tough opponent year in and year out. This game was a great stepping stone for the rest of the season and sets up nicely as a precursor for this week's game.

Deems: Any win is big for where UNC is at this point in the season. Whenever you lose early and you're basically out of the chase for the ACC Championship, your next goal has to be to improve on last year's record and get to an upper tier bowl game. The win Saturday against Duke helped UNC to get a step closer to that goal. Given that it was a team that is vastly improved, well-coached, and was on a roll offensively, the manner in which UNC dominated defensively makes it that much more impressive,

Buck: Mark, the Tar Heels broke out the "Cover 1" with a vengeance last weekend, completely smothering the Duke passing attack. It was reminiscent of the days when Dre' Bly and Robert Williams roamed the UNC secondary. With the success they had with it against Duke, do you see the Tar Heels using it more and more, specifically against Miami and Jacory Harris this Saturday?

Mark: I loved the game plan by Coach Withers. From the opening kickoff, that defensive staff said, "We are better than you, we are going to lock you up, physically dominate you and there is nothing you are going to do about it.' And the best part was that it worked for four quarters. Surviving a blocked punt, giving up only three points was huge. I liked how they had Searcy playing a nickel role and utilized his man coverage skills and let Melvin roam as a free safety. In Cover 1 they were able to dial up some pressures from the linebackers as well that made this even more effective. Great game plan, and even better execution.

Buck: Deems, the loss of Shaun Draughn is huge, even though Ryan Houston came up big against Duke. The running game may not suffer with Draughn out because of Houston 's presence, but as you noted last week, UNC is going to miss the other things that Draughn did so well, like blocking in the passing game. How do you think the Tar Heels will try to compensate for losing those aspects of Draughn's game?

Deems: Losing Draughn really hurts given that the Heels lost Womble a few weeks ago. I hope Houston has recovered from the 37 carries - that was a Natrone Means-like carry number. Draughn gave the offense a good receiving threat out of the backfield and a great third down protector and screener. Houston has to know who to pick up on the blitz and then execute. I'd look for Elzy and maybe even Johnny White to spell Houston and maybe incorporate Greg Little to the backfield via shifts and motions.

Buck: This weekend's game against Miami is another huge contest for the Tar Heels. A win makes them bowl eligible, a loss means they'll have to win on the road in the ACC in order to go bowling. Miami is playing well, just recently destroying Virginia 52-17. The Tar Heels will have a host of potential recruits on hand, the game is a 3:30 p.m. contest on ABC. In other words, this is another big game on a big stage for the Tar Heels this season. What does it mean to the UNC program to play this many "marquee" games in a season?

Deems: Miami is 7-2 and started the season really strong. They are extremely talented, but they also have struggled with injuries and didn't play well on the road at VPI or at Wake (even though they came out with win at Wake). Their coaches watch UNC's recruiting and they often follow the UNC staff's lead on who they offer scholarships. So not only is this game huge for UNC's bowl chances, but this is huge for recruiting. Miami is a Top 15 team, and many of these kids have UNC and Miami in their top two-three choices. It's a national stage once again and everybody will take a look at this outcome to judge where both programs are in terms of building their programs to national prominence. The fans need to get there early, show the recruits how much they want them and the team needs to respond with a total team performance.

Mark: Coach Davis has done a great job of pushing for the big time games, but this team has won enough to get chosen to play in the ABC 3:30 slot. This is huge for the program, for Chapel Hill and for the University. The key is to win these big marquee games as well and this football team has proven that it can win the "big ones". This Miami team is incredibly athletic and talented, but they are the front-runner types - we have to jump on them early and take away any momentum they try to build.

Great example: Two years ago, we were playing Miami at home, had taken them out of the game for the most part, then some smart guy put on some song that Miami players obviously all knew, and they starting dancing around - they had their "swag." A year prior to that, we were down there, outplaying them, they put on a song, dancing ensued, they made us go three and out then blocked a put - game was over right there. Fast forward to next year - we bring in Houston and they are flying downhill and we hit them with a reverse to Tate for a TD - we won the game on that play. When Miami is dancing around, building on their momentum and front running, they are as good if not better than anyone in the country. You beat Miami by not giving them anything to get going. No big plays, no dance music, no turnovers - just good old fashioned hit-them-in-the-mouth football.

Buck: It is funny how things change, as both of you noted last week. After the FSU game, many in the fan base and in the media were saying that this team was going nowhere fast, and that the Tar Heels had no chance of making a bowl game. Now some are thinking "9-3!" and a bowl win. Butch Davis is noted for promoting an even keel on his teams, not getting too up or too down, and treating every opponent the same. Do you favor that approach, and if so, how do you think it will help the UNC team, this season and beyond?

Mark: I believe you have to treat every opponent the same. In football it really is 80 percent you, 20 precent them - if you play your best football, don't beat yourself, and prepare to win and go out and execute, you usually win. You don't prepare extra hard for a team one week and not as hard the next, what sense does that make? You prepare extra hard every week, do the right things to make that week a success, no matter who the opponent.

Deems: Although a lot of UNC's fans don't like that approach, I love it. It's an NFL mentality that you play every game like it's your last and prepare for every game the same way. You are letting your kids and program down if you say, "You know what, this is the State game, we are going to watch more film this week, prepare a little harder and play even harder than we are against Georgia Tech or Miami." How does that sound?

Do these business leaders want their employees to work harder for some clients and less on others? Of course not, you want to maximize effort every week. That is not too much to ask for 12 weeks. Do we want to adopt the State mentality? "As long as we beat Carolina, I don't care if we go 1-11?" How would that look to national recruits? I know these kids are 18-22 years old and playing amateur football, but there is an accountability factor there. They are going to the best university in the country for free. Kids are dying to get in to Carolina that are over-qualified. They have a responsibility to every Ram's Club member and every university supporter to give it everything they have, every week, in preparation for and during these games, not just rivalry games.

Buck: Thanks again, guys, it was great to see you both last weekend, and I will look forward to talking to you again next week.

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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