Shoop, Part I: No Excuses

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- It is clearly the goal of every offense to improve from season to season, particularly in the beginning years of a new coaching regime.

As a coach begins to put his players in place and mesh them with his preferred mode of attack, offensive numbers are supposed to improve, not decline.

The decline in UNC's offense in 2009 almost visibly causes John Shoop distress.

"We've got to play better at all positions," said the Tar Heel offensive coordinator, following his third season in Chapel Hill. "It's not fair to point out just one spot, but all spots have got to play better in the passing game. We take pride in our efficiency and to go from where T.J. (Yates) was the most efficient passer in the ACC by about 20 points as a sophomore, then as a junior for him to throw 15 interceptions – not all his fault – but for 15 interceptions, that's got to be corrected."

In a year when Yates' image was booed inside the Dean Dome during an "I'm a Tar Heel" promotional video, the ire of many UNC fans was unquestionably directed at the junior quarterback.

What went wrong? Why did Yates appear to take a "step back," as he himself said after the season?

There were problems surrounding Yates' supporting cast all season, a struggling and battered offensive line, a new corps of receivers: lots of possible explanations for a decline in the passing game, but when it comes to turnovers, Shoop's not buying it.

"We started out the season a little bit behind the eight ball," Shoop acknowledged. "We had three true freshmen playing wide out – Josh Adams, [Erik] Mookie Highsmith, Jhay Boyd. We were stung a little bit in the O-line, and then Zach getting hurt didn't help. Those things don't help, but let me make it very clear, those things are no excuse for interceptions. Period. The end."

"Nobody has ever said, ‘We're going to go out for 5,000 yards.' Our goal is to win the game and throwing interceptions ain't going to win the game for you. I don't care if it is me and you playing wideout, we can't throw the ball to the other team. We're going to get that corrected."

Did Yates suffer a crisis of confidence because of the combination of factors impacting his surrounding cast? Shoop would not go that far.

"I think that T.J. may have tried to do too much at times, and may have been too cautious at times," he said. "There were certainly times during the season where you couldn't play carefree as a quarterback, and there were times during the season where you couldn't go into your shell and we had a tough time maybe distinguishing between those as the year went."

Shoop doesn't absolve anyone from responsibility for the offensive production of 2009, including himself.

"Sometimes it is as simple as you called the play right and the guy went left, sometimes the error is mine -- everybody has a part in this. It is not fair to just pin it on one guy. There were some unforced errors, there is no doubt. The good news is that those are the things that we can control and the better we become, the more experienced we become, the less and less those are going to happen."

As will be documented later in the week, Shoop is confident that the 2010 offense can get corrected much of what went wrong last season. For next season to be all that it can be, that's hugely important.

Check back tomorrow for Part II from Inside Carolina's one-on-one interview with John Shoop …

Get additional tidbits from this interview as well as perspective from the interviewer, Buck Sanders, in his daily column "Buck Stops Here," that can be found exclusively on Inside Carolina's Tar Pit Premium Forum.

And for even more insider analysis, stay tuned for the comprehensive "Offseason Report" in the March Issue of the Inside Carolina Magazine, due out next month, featuring interviews with offensive coordinator John Shoop and defensive coordinator Everett Withers.

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