'Deep' Thoughts: Reese Talks Carolina Offense

The basketball school that launched Air Jordan is airing it out these days on the gridiron, and it's North Carolina's deep ball threat that's got Texas defensive coordinator <B>Carl Reese's </b>attention as the Horns prepared Wednesday for Saturday's 7 p.m. contest in Chapel Hill.

After two ballgames, the 1-1 Tar Heels are averaging 441.5 yards, with most of it through the air (318.5 yards passing). Carolina QB Darian Durant and favorite target WR Sam Aiken are generating nearly all of the offensive fireworks.

Aiken is contributing 132.5 yards per game and has 13 grabs on the young season, on pace to become one of the top three reception leaders in North Carolina history. The senior paced the Heels last season with 789 yards on 46 catches.

That's why Reese said his strategy starts with Aiken.

"He is as good as we'll play against any time," said Reese, who projects Aiken as a high 2003 NFL draft pick. "He's an athletic guy, works hard, and catches the ball well. He's got everything a receiver needs to have. But the other four or five (receivers) they throw in there are good, too."

But what makes Carolina dangerous, Reese said, is Durant (that is, when he is not self-destructing).

Durant had more turnovers than Betty Crocker in the rain soaked season-opening loss to the other Miami (the one from Ohio). But Durant rallied his troops to a stirring, come-from-behind 30-22 win at Syracuse Saturday and is now completing nearly 61 percent of his passes.

"The guy can throw the deep ball real well," Reese said. "They have thrown the ball 29 times deep down the field in two games, and that's a problem for us. Sometimes you go four or five games and a team will throw the deep ball two or three times. They're going to challenge the field; they're going to throw the deep ball particularly against the bump-and-run. They've had success in connecting on the deep passing game but, other than that, they're like most football teams."

The secondary will drop into a zone defense more than it has in the past to keep Durant off balance and guessing, Reese said.

"If he knows what you're doing, he's pretty darn good," Reese said.

(Earlier this season, cornerback Rod Babers said Reese wants to play more zone this year to keep Texas' D-backs facing the ball. While maintaining his preference for man-to-man coverage, Babers recanted his long-held stance that "real men don't play zone".)

Reese actually compared Durant to former Texas QB Major Applewhite.

"He's a lot like ‘ol Major Applewhite in that he throws a nice ball to catch," Reese said.

Does he scramble like Major?

"A little better," Reese laughed.

Road Warriors

Not counting neutral sites, Texas has won its last eight road games and is 13-5 under Mack Brown away from Royal-Memorial Stadium. Texas has won 12 of its past 14 road games, but will be hard pressed to equal the mark of 13-straight road wins set in 1981-84. Should Texas make it safely past North Carolina and Tulane, the team faces the daunting task of trying to become the first squad to win at both Kansas State and Nebraska since Oklahoma turned the trick in 1987. Still, the current pace is a significant improvement from the decade prior to Brown's arrival, when Texas went 23-25 (not counting neutral sites) from 1988-1997.

[Editor's note: See Hot News for info on Kalen Thornton's UNC game injury status.]

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