The UNC Tar Heels finished the 2018 season 2-9 and that record cost Larry Fedora his head coaching position. Mack Brown will take over the Heels, once again, and try to resurrect UNC from an 88th ranking per the S&P+. The offense and defense will both need vast improvements for the Tar Heels to compete for the ACC Coastal in 2019.
The offense finished 2018 ranked 58th overall in the S&P+, however, new offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s offense at Ole Miss was ranked 6th at season’s end. New defensive coordinator Jay Bateman comes from Army West Point where his defense was 70th which is not bad at all for a service academy squad.
The Tar Heels are projected to be the 61st overall squad per the S&P+ in 2019, but I personally think they’re going to finish around 50th with Longo and Bateman’s immediate impacts.
Phil Longo’s Offense
I’ve been following Coach Longo’s offense for some time now and had the pleasure of seeing him speak at the Mack Brown clinic at UNC in the spring. Longo actually improved the Ole Miss offense once Shea Patterson transferred and does not need a star at the quarterback position to make his offense work.
Longo will have his choice between Sam Howell, Jace Ruder, and Cade Fortin. Howell is the highly rated freshman early enrollee that was flipped from FSU. Ruder is a three-star redshirt out of Kansas and Fortin seems to be the third option based on the spring game.
Again, Longo’s offense doesn’t require a star player behind center but the QB has to be someone with a quick release, and mobility is a plus quality as well. Coach Longo values accuracy saying stuff that if Tom Brady makes $1,000 per completion that’s how his quarterbacks should value every throw, too.
Longo’s offense likes 11 personnel packages and 20 personnel packages. In 11 personnel (image above), that means there’s one running back, one tight end (or h-back type) and three receivers. In 20 personnel, you’re seeing two true running backs and no tight end with three receivers.
What does Coach Longo like to call? Inside zone, speed option, split zone, play-action passes, gift routes and RPO’s as well as screens. It’s basically a mixture of Air Raid and a typical NCAA offense. Below, you can see the GIF of stick-draw from Ole Miss (learn more about stick-draw from my piece “Get your eye back on the football”).
Of course, being an Air Raid guy means Longo likes a good crossing route. In the GIF below while #3 (the most inside receiver on the top of the screen) runs a pivot, the #2 (middle receiver) runs a crossing route which is a legal pick of the inside linebacker and flat defender.
What about the true run game?
Longo’s offense really likes zone blocking schemes and here the Rebels offensive line blocked zone to the left, away from the h-back, while the h-back picked up the back side defensive end. The running back plowed his way into the end zone. At UNC that back will be Javonte Williams out of Wallace-Rose Hill High School. Williams flashed brilliance during both the open scrimmage in their IPF and the spring game.
Of course a mobile quarterback helps every offense, as long as the passer is still accurate. Jordan Ta’amu makes a fantastic play after the defense gave him a false key read. The defensive end was designed to squeeze or play the running back because the inside linebacker was designed to play the c-gap or outside of the tackle instead of the b-gap (between the tackle and guard). This is called “scrape exchange” (you can read more from my blog here) and when there’s no lead blocker for the QB it usually ends poorly for the Q but Ta’amu breaks away using angles more than even speed.
On offense, UNC is in a similar situation to Miami with a weak offensive line, some good skill players and no starting quarterback separating himself from the pack heading into the summer. Both schools have really good offensive coordinators, too. The difference is that Miami has a much superior defense to UNC’s and should win this ball game handily.
The Tar Heels are going to be much better in November than they are in September so Miami is playing UNC at the right time of the season. Hopefully Mack Brown has learned his lesson on dealing with young coordinators and Manny Diaz has residual beef with Brown from his time at Texas.