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UNC's new scheme prepares for GT with same approach

Posted November 6, 2012

— While Larry Fedora and his 4-2-5 defense will encounter Paul Johnson’s multifaceted offense for the first time on Saturday, don’t expect many schematic changes from what the Tar Heels have applied in the past.

Let’s get one misconception cleared up before proceeding any further – it would be incorrect to label Johnson’s ground-heavy scheme as a basic triple-option look.
"[The triple option] is one play,” Johnson said early in his tenure at Georgia Tech. “We run that play maybe twenty percent of the time. Depending on the game, sometimes less than that. It would be just like calling the I-formation a sprint draw offense."

Johnson started implementing option concepts during his time at Georgia Southern and as teams slowly caught on to his schemes, he would add different variations of other offenses to supplement his playbook. Georgia Tech employs a variety of reads, pitches and traps, as well as taking advantage of stacked boxes with play-action passes, to confuse defenses.

Butch Davis’s 4-3 pro-style defense struggled to contain Johnson’s offense outside of a decisive 28-7 victory in 2008, prompting questions as to whether or not Fedora’s new 4-2-5 look would provide a better method of attack.

According to UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, the differences in the defensive scheme are negated by the sole focus in defending Georgia Tech – discipline.

“I don’t think there’s a difference because at the end of the day, everybody has an assignment,” Williams said on Monday. “If one guy misses an assignment, it’s a touchdown.” North Carolina Logo More UNC Stories

Even the comments by Fedora and his predecessor are eerily similar. Compare this quotes from Fedora on Monday and Davis in 2009:

Fedora: "It‘s assignment discipline.”

Davis: “You better be disciplined.”

Fedora: “You have got to know your job and you've got to do your job and you don't worry about doing somebody else's job. You just do your job.”

Davis: “Guys have to read their keys and have to know exactly what their responsibilities are, because they will make you pay big time if you’re out of position.”

Fedora: “It sounds easier than it is, I can assure you, because it's hard to duplicate the speed of a game in practice.”

Davis: “One of the things that you have to caution your own team about is the speed at which we’re going to be able to execute it in practice will nowhere near match the speed at which they execute it.”

Fedora, however, has experience on his side, at least in terms of exposure to a similar style of offense. The first-year UNC head coach spent two years at Air Force coaching wide receivers in Fisher DeBerry’s triple-option offense.

That knowledge is not easily transferred to players, though, as evidenced by Navy – Johnson’s former team – churning out 421 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns against Fedora’s Southern Miss squad last season. The Golden Eagles won 63-35, thanks in part to holding Navy scoreless on its first two trips into the red zone.

The triple-option aspect of Johnson’s offense gets the bulk of attention due to its uniqueness and complexity through three potential run options on any given play. Defenses must first stop the dive play, followed by the quarterback, then the pitch.

Toss in some play-action and UNC’s miscue-ridden secondary will have to play flawless to prevent easy touchdowns. Last season in Atlanta, UNC safety Brian Gupton was late rolling over the top to cover Yellow Jacket wide receiver Stephen Hill, who strolled into the end zone for a 59-yard score. Hill dropped a wide-open touchdown pass in the same exact scenario later in the fourth quarter.

That doesn’t bode well for a Tar Heel secondary that allowed a pair of N.C. State touchdown passes – including one for 83 yards on 3rd-and-23 – after glaring busted coverages.

“They have to be very disciplined with their assignments,” Fedora said of his defense. “You just can’t totally commit to the run, because the next thing you know, you do that and they play-action you and they throw it over your head.”

North Carolina has been effective this season in defending the run (111.0 ypg, 19th nationally), while Georgia Tech hasn’t been as explosive as it has in recent years. The Yellow Jackets still rank fourth nationally in rushing offense (318.2 ypg) and 33rd in scoring offense (34.9 ppg).

“If you do your assignment, if everybody does their job, you can stop this offense,” Williams said. “If everybody is aggressive, does their job and plays physical and smart, I feel like you can stop this offense because this offense has a lot of flaws in it.”

Those flaws, of course, arrive in the form of fumbles due to a variety of pitches the quarterback is required to make. The Yellow Jackets have 21 fumbles through nine games, losing 10.

26 Comments

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  • Gunnstigator Nov 8, 1:36 p.m.

    Totally agree about the UNC secondary. I think Carolina's defense - which has had to practice... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    I think that you're right about the defense being toned for GT's Offense. It takes patience... View More

    — Posted by Hokies94

    I don't blame you for being frustrated with VT this season. I don't think I've ever seen... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    Thanks JGunn. We had more offense yardage than Clemson and Miami. TO's ruined most of our... View More

    — Posted by Hokies94

    Hokie,I knew VT had better numbers against Miami, but I didn't know that was the case against CLemson as well until you posted them in another thread. I hope Thomas brings it against FSU, because he has the skills and talent.

  • Hokies94 Nov 7, 4:44 p.m.

    GT getting beaten by Middle Tenn was a surprise. Their defense isn't the same as last season. ... View More

    — Posted by Hokies94

    Totally agree about the UNC secondary. I think Carolina's defense - which has had to practice... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    I think that you're right about the defense being toned for GT's Offense. It takes patience... View More

    — Posted by Hokies94

    I don't blame you for being frustrated with VT this season. I don't think I've ever seen... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    Thanks JGunn. We had more offense yardage than Clemson and Miami. TO's ruined most of our season. The Hokies go if Thomas plays well. He needs a strong start to build some confidence.

  • Obamacare lives on Nov 7, 11:47 a.m.

    I should also add I'm high as a kite right now. God Bless America!! What a glorious day!!

  • wjuliang Nov 7, 11:33 a.m.

    Hells yeah!!! I'm drunk and celebrating Obama's victory!! Woooohoooo!!!!

    — Posted by Obamacare lives on

    You'd have to be drunk to celebrate that.
    Please help Cali leave the US.

  • Obamacare lives on Nov 7, 11:08 a.m.

    Hells yeah!!! I'm drunk and celebrating Obama's victory!! Woooohoooo!!!!

  • carolinaprideamplified Nov 7, 9:27 a.m.

    Defensively I think the key for UNC will be the two inside linebackers. I think the defensive... View More

    — Posted by uBnice

    Yes..the linebackers will be key...plus in 4-2-5 they have the ability to morph from a 4-3 look to a 3-4 look with the same personnel. So that "rover" safety will in most cases be the free runner and has to be solid and make sure tackles if the guys up front can't shed blocks to make tackles. This was the problem we saw with the Duke game with gap responsibility on cutbacks/counters although GT runs a more downhill style on the dive and lead plays. Looks like they solved it against NCState but if not there will be big gains as stated earlier.

  • Gunnstigator Nov 7, 7:40 a.m.

    GT getting beaten by Middle Tenn was a surprise. Their defense isn't the same as last season. ... View More

    — Posted by Hokies94

    Totally agree about the UNC secondary. I think Carolina's defense - which has had to practice... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    I think that you're right about the defense being toned for GT's Offense. It takes patience... View More

    — Posted by Hokies94

    I don't blame you for being frustrated with VT this season. I don't think I've ever seen Beamer, and especially Foster as angry as they were during the Miami game. Foster was fuming. I believe VT has enough talent, and certainly coaching to give FSU a run for their money. Hope your guys pull out the win!

  • uBnice Nov 7, 6:54 a.m.

    Defensively I think the key for UNC will be the two inside linebackers. I think the defensive linemen will hold their own. The two inside linebackers have been the victims of bad coaching schemes and maybe athleticism. Much like in the NCSU game, they will have to blitz GT because the linebackers are much better when they are on the move (run blitz here).

  • Hokies94 Nov 6, 5:14 p.m.

    GT getting beaten by Middle Tenn was a surprise. Their defense isn't the same as last season. ... View More

    — Posted by Hokies94

    Totally agree about the UNC secondary. I think Carolina's defense - which has had to practice... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    I think that you're right about the defense being toned for GT's Offense. It takes patience and concentration to play defense like UNC in practice with the fast pace. The main thing is for the defense to stay at home and play their reads and keys to stop the option like GT runs it. When the QB pulls it...he can burn you with runs and passes.

    I haven't seen them play since VT. Johnson is the best in the land with his tri-option-spread. They don't have the talent like previous years. They will test UNC's secondary. Good luck.

    If Logan Thomas can have one (1) solid game without all of his huge azzz TO's, we could give FSU a test on Thursday night. VT doesn't have any leadership on the field like previous years. 7 TO's against Clemson and Miami. I wish that Frank had set Thomas on the bench about 4-5 weeks ago. Our back-up couldn't have done much worse. I'm ticked.

  • Gunnstigator Nov 6, 4:51 p.m.

    GT getting beaten by Middle Tenn was a surprise. Their defense isn't the same as last season. ... View More

    — Posted by Hokies94

    Totally agree about the UNC secondary. I think Carolina's defense - which has had to practice all season against the hurry up offense - will be more experienced and better equiped to defend GT's offense than Butch's teams. At least that's what I'm hoping!

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