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Summer Scheming ‘22: UNC Tar Heels, Oct. 8

UNC will have to adjust to life without QB Sam Howell and DC Jay Bateman heading into a must-win ‘22 season.

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes will host the UNC Tar Heels on Saturday, October 8th at Hard Rock Stadium. Mack Brown finished off Manny Diaz’s tenure in Coral Gables with a 3-0 record against his former D.C.

Info: N. Carolina @ Miami (Miami Gardens, FL)

Day/Time/Channel: Oct., 8, 2022 / TBD / TBD

Mario Cristobal will get his shot at Mack Brown’s UNC Tar Heels after Diaz’s putrid run against Sam Howell. The Heels will be heading to Hard Rock coming off of home games against Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. UNC leads the series 12-11 over the ‘Canes.

2021 Record: 6-7 (3-5 in ACC)

Bowl Game: Lost the Duke’s Mayo Bowl 38-21 to South Carolina.

“I remember that guy!”

The Tar Heels flashback player is Natrone Means. Means put together a fantastic thee-year run at UNC under Mack Brown in the early 90’s. Means rushed for 3,074 yards and 34 TD’s from 1990-1992. After college, Means was a 2nd round NFL Draft choice of the San Diego Chargers. Means best NFL season was in 1994 with the Chargers when he rushed for 1,350 and 12 TD’s. Through eight seasons in the NFL, Means ran for 45 touchdowns.

Since 2005, Means has been coaching college football. Starting at Livingstone College in ‘05, and working his way to the high school ranks, before Winston Salem State and Fayetteville State before being hired on Brown’s staff at UNC as an analyst in 2021.

Data & Personnel

North Carolina heads into the 2022 season as the SP+ projected as the 34th team in the country.

SP+ Projection Overall: 34 (Miami 14)

SP+ Proj. Offense: 11 (Miami 21)

SP+ Proj. Defense: 70 (Miami 23)

Quarterback Sam Howell has departed for the NFL leaving the Tar Heels in search for a QB for the first time since Howell flipped from FSU to UNC back in early 2019. Howell scored 111 TD’s in Carolina Blue and will be greatly missed.

Only one Tar Heel made the Athlon preseason All-Conference ACC first team and that’s WR Josh Downs. In ‘21, Downs caught 101 balls for 1,335 yards and eight scores as Howell’s go-to target.

Defensive lineman Myles Murphy made the second team defense, proving in a way that UNC is down on obvious developed talent heading into ‘22. Murphy logged nine TFL’s and four sacks a year ago.

No Tar Heels made the third team, but the fourth team has RB British Brooks and OL Asim Richards on the offense; and DL Ray Vohasek, linebackers Noah Taylor and Cedric Gray, as well as defensive backs Tony Grimes and Cam’Ron Kelly on the defense. Downs also made the fourth teams specialists as a punt returner.

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Last year Brooks averaged 9.5 yards per carry with four scores in limited duty. Vohasek picked up four TFL’s, Gray was good for 99 tackles and three PBU’s. Grimes had nine PBU’s while Kelly made 68 stops with four picks in ‘21.

As a punt returner, Downs averaged only 9.8 yards per return but should improve in ‘22 with experience.

UNC scheme on O

OC Phil Longo is Brown’s lone coordinator to return after the disappointing ‘21 season. Longo shouldn’t be blamed for the lack of success, though, as UNC was a top 20 offense in the country in most categories, including points per game and SP+ offense.

Coach Longo is gonna run his 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) base until the end of time. You’ll get motions into and pictures of- two-backs, empty, 2x2 and 3x1 open but it’s predominantly 11p in an 11p picture. Imagine the O-Line being greatly improved from Stacy Searles leaving Chapel Hill and Jack Bicknell Jr. coming in to replace him.

Drake Maye will most likely get the nod at QB. Maye is a former four-star prospect out of Charlotte, NC. Due to COVID, Maye didn’t play his senior season of football and instead opted to early enroll during the spring season in NC (2021). At six-foot-five, 210 pounds, Maye has been compared to Mac Jones by 247, but only threw 10 passes in 2021.

Above- UNC is going to use split zone as a base run for their run game. Split zone is an oft-talked about run concept on SOTU because 1- everyone runs it and 2- it’s one of my favorite run concepts.

While the O-Line blocks right, the TE blocks across the formation. This allows the RB to cut back beyond the back side A-Gap (left of the center) to the back side B-gap (off the guard. This is able to be done because of the TE “kicking out” (blocking) the defensive end out towards the sideline.

With split zone comes the “slide” route. As an OC, you can run that call as an RPO while reading the D-End you normally ‘kick out’ with the TE, or as a play-action pass / naked boot. Either way the same idea is there- the defense is so aggressive to stop the run they leave the TE unguarded.

Above- UNC doesn’t stop at split zone, obviously. Longo also likes guard wrap, guard/TE counter, and utilizing the QB in the run game on draws and read options. Maye won’t have to run like Johnny Manziel or Lamar Jackson, but he’ll need to be mobile as creating space is an important part of the Longo offense for a QB.

Above- In Longo’s offense, the RB’s are used a lot in pass protection on true passing plays. It’s a requirement in his version of the Air Raid offense, unlike say Mike Leach in the more classic Air Raid. In the tape above, Longo uses a RB rail route. Backs also ran the Texas (angle) route against ND.

Above- In the first clip, Longo dials up what looks like a drag from the slot across the field. #1 to the right runs a post, while the #2 to the left runs the drag. The TE (#3 threat) on the left shuffles in for pass pro (pretty cool wrinkle).

In the second clip, Longo runs the #1 and #2 to the right side on rubby concepts (slants? glances? skinny posts?) to collision anyone trying to run with #3 (most inside WR) who runs the wheel.

In the third clip, the left side twins are running an In and a post, while the right side twins both run outs. Does a good job of clearing space for the post.

Above- The screen game. A TV announce crew cliche that’s true, in order to slow down a pass rush you do need to install screens as an OC. Anything to get the D-Line’s OODA Loop to slow down while yours keeps on moving.

Two things: 1- I love the fake bubble into the screen from the slot. It pulls the overhang who is responsible for the slot outside before the slot cuts in and under the OL who are out in space to block the overhang LB. 2- The fake-screen-and-go play is an all-timer I’ve used in my offense since 2012, and it’s a must-have in the book.

UNC scheme on D

DC Jay Bateman is out. His teams failed to improve at tackling and were a liability every snap in coverage. UNC gave up over 30 PPG in ‘21. Bateman ran a 3-4 defense, while Gene Chizik is traditionally an even front coach. Expect Gene to run more of a 4-2 look with quarters and cover 6.

On D, we’ll use the spring game film with there being a new scheme and coordinator.

Above- UNC offense just grinding out yards here early. Heels will have to fix their tackling and that takes time. Maybe by August it’ll be worked out.

Above- I think Chizik just bailed his CB’s to 10 yards on 4th and 4 essentially giving up the 1st down throw without difficulty.

Above- in the spring game Longo took his shots but the DB’s played it safer than under Bateman and didn’t allow as many big plays.

Above- Corner routes are hard to cover. Tyler Van Dyke LOVED the corner route in ‘21 and it’s open here against UNC in their own spring game.

Above- If you have a solid run game the play-action game can be deadly. Mario Cristobal won’t rest until the run game at Miami is the pride and joy of Coral Gables. That’ll open up the play-action game for Van Dyke and his receivers.

Canyonero keys to victory

1- Shut down Josh Downs. Whoever the ‘Canes think their best cover corner is needs to be all over Downs and not let him go off like he did in ‘21 (96 yards, one TD).

2- Defensively- don’t get over aggressive and impatient. Longo’s offense is built around letting DB’s creep up, or DC’s blitzing LB’s and hitting you where you vacated at the right time. He does it with fades, wheels, and even in the run game.

3- On offense- take what they give you. UNC has a good cornerback in Grimes so avoid him and / or rub and pick him in order to get someone else free vs. their 3-4 other not as solid DB’s. UNC has missed a ton of tackles (pot/kettle I know), it’s time for Miami RB’s to run hard and tough like UNC’s backs did to Miami in ‘20.

Way too early prediction: Miami by 4.