With the exception of Maryland, spring football has wrapped up in the ACC. That means a long, long wait until summer camps crank back up in August.
In the meantime we’ve asked some of the top bloggers from around the league to weigh in with their unique perspectives on how spring football went at their favorite schools.
We start things today with Brian Barbour, who runs the popular UNC site Tar Heel Fan Blog
What key issue(s) did you learn about UNC during spring practice?
The secondary and quarterback are obvious areas of focus, mainly due to the lack of experience at both. There are plenty of known commodities at most of the other positions but uncertainty abounds when you get into the secondary in particular.
The hope was that with so many true freshman getting playing time amid the NCAA related attrition last season the expected hit the secondary was going to take anyway with mass graduations would not be so difficult. That is not really the case. Butch Davis pointed out that because these players were tossed into the fire the coaches really never got a chance to develop them on a normal learning curve, especially when it came to fundamentals. Davis said the coaches are really “rolling back the clock” on some players and ensuring they are up to speed on all aspects of the game.
The silver lining is Charles Brown will return after sitting out last season with honor court violations. That will give the Heels some additional experience once Brown sits out his NCAA mandated one-game suspension for having lunch with someone and not paying for it.
At quarterback, we know Bryn Renner is good but he lacks experience and in that case you just never know. It’s funny how the life of the fan works. Last year at this time we were all clamoring for Renner and thought T.J. Yates was awful. Now we wish we had another year of Yates and there is some pause concerning Renner.
What key issue(s) remains a mystery heading into the summer?
I think the secondary will iron themselves out though I do think it will be the weakest part of the defense. Renner is talented enough to mask some of the experience issues.
As we head into the summer, the biggest mystery is if Ryan Houston can effectively return from a broken scapula. Houston suffered the injury on his second carry during the spring game. He is the third UNC running back in the past 18 months to break either the scapula or the clavicle. Consider this the UNC football equivalent to foot/shin injuries on the basketball team. Houston had surgery with a probable return by the open of training camp. To what degree Houston can keep his conditioning up and his weight down might have a major impact on the season.
I would also add Dwight Jones to the list simply because UNC needs a dominant receiver and to this point Jones has not necessarily been that. He has had huge games but then has been prone to disappear.That may have more to do with the other receivers like Erik Highsmith and Jheraine Boyd not quite being up to snuff or Yates’ predilection to bail out to the tight end every other play. Still, UNC will need a big season from Jones and the receivers in general to take some of the heat off Renner.
What makes you feel good about the Tar Heels’ post-spring practice?
The defensive line and linebacker corps looked solid. Unlike the secondary, when UNC lost key players on the defensive line the Tar Heels were able to plug the holes with talented linemen who had been in the program more than a few months. Quinton Coples stepped in and was All-ACC. Donte Paige-Moss and Tydreke Powell were also very good stepping into more prominent role. UNC returns these three, a host of others and adds JUCO standout Sylvester Williams, who was the talk of spring practice. If Brandon Willis can receive a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately after transferring from UCLA, the Heels will be stocked on the defensive line. The linebacking corps has less depth, but Kevin Reddick and Zach Brown led UNC in tackles last season and that was with Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant playing most of the season.
What’s freaking you out?
There is not much to really freak out with this team. Butch Davis is an outstanding talent scout and he brings really good players into the program. You can knock his sideline work as being Les Miles-esque, but his work on the recruiting trail is pretty darned good. When you evaluate spring, you are looking more at the personnel and whether they can get the job done. In that respect I don’t necessarily see anything that has me looking for a rope, a cinder block and a bridge. Inexperience is what it is but in terms of talent I feel good about the personnel.
That being said, the real freak out comes when the games start and I scream at the TV:
“WHY ARE WE IN A FREAKING PREVENT!!!!!”
“WHY DID HE CALL A RUNNING PLAY WITH 16 SECONDS LEFT AND NO TIMEOUTS!!!!!”
“HEY WITHERS … IT’S CALLED A BLITZ, CHECK IT OUT!”
For now, things are low key. which is nice.
Who’s the fantasy sleeper I should consider drafting off your team next fall?
I would think that one of receivers opposite Dwight Jones might get some nice touches. The spring depth chart had Jheranie Boyd listed on that side. When Yates was the QB, the tight end was a good pick but now with a more mobile Renner in the pocket and unknown commodities like Nelson Hurst at TE, that may not be a good bet. Renner might run rather than dump it off the way Yates did. Still, John Shoop likes the short underneath passes so grabbing a UNC TE might be a good choice.