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Summer Scheming ‘23: North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels have had Miami’s number since the 2019 season. Manny Diaz finished winless against his old boss, and Mario Cristobal is 0-1 against Mack Brown so far.

NCAA Football: ACC Football Championship-Clemson at North Carolina USA TODAY NETWORK

The Miami Hurricanes and the UNC Tar Heels will face off on Saturday, October 14th at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC. The ‘Canes will be coming off of their home contest against Georgia Tech. UNC hold a 13-11 lead over Miami all-time, including a four game win streak over the ‘Canes (and six of the last eight matchups).

Mack is back. The seventy-one year old head coach of the Tar Heels returns for another season, his 50th anniversary of his first year as a coach back in ‘73 at Florida State. At that time, Brown was a student assistant wide receiver coach after having played running back at Vanderbilt and FSU.

Brown’s overall head coaching record is 274-144-1, with 99 wins coming from his two tenures in Chapel Hill. During this tenure in The Triangle, Brown has only finished the season ranked once, in 2020 the Heels were 17/18 in the polls.

Per Bill Connelly’s SP+, the Tar Heels are the 28th overall team in FBS heading into the 2023 season. UNC is ranked 15th on offense and 55th on defense.

Summer Scheming SWOT Analysis

This year’s Summer Scheming will look different than in years past by featuring a SWOT Analysis on each opponent the Hurricanes will face in the 2023 season. SWOT in this iteration will stand for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Traditions* (not Threats). We’ll discuss one cool tradition from each of the football programs on the ‘23 schedule.

Strengths: QB

Drake Maye should be the second quarterback (behind USC’s Caleb Williams) taken in the 2024 NFL Draft. He’s the clear strength of the UNC Tar Heels entire program, and will have a new offensive coordinator in 2023, Chip Lindsey. Maye is an accurate passer with an NFL arm and mobility.

In ‘22, Maye completed 66.2% of his passes, on 8.4 yards per attempt. Maye also threw 38 TD’s with seven INT’s. Maybe also logged a team high 698 rushing yards (sacks included) and seven TD’s on the ground.

Maye is clearly the best player on the Tar Heels, giving Brown two very good QB’s (Sam Howell) during his second run in Chapel Hill. However, so far, Mack has failed to UNC to the next level as a double-digit win team, or even a New Years Six Bowl team. Can Maye’s second year as a starter be that year?

Weaknesses: Defense, Run Game

Storm Duck and Tony Grimes combined for 16 PBU’s and they’re both off the roster. DeAndre Boykins returns with his seven PBU’s and an INT from 2022. UNC has been bad all around on defense, although Gene Chizik helped improve the Heels from one of the nation’s worst to a middle of the road group in only one year. Brown and Co have to hope that another season brings even more improvement on that side of the ball.

The biggest concern is the back seven where linebacker play and defensive back play have both been weak for 2-3 seasons. Cedric Gray has big numbers with 145 tackles and 12 TFL’s but the LB group has been lacking. The defensive line was a huge get in recruiting and went underdeveloped under former DC Jay Bateman.

They have four-star talent, and a reall experienced O-Line, but for some reason the run game hasn’t been effective for the Heels since the 2020 season. UNC has a four-headed monster at running back, plus Maye. A year ago the foursome of Maye, Elijah Green, Caleb Hood and Omarion Hampton rushed for a combined 1900 yards and 21 touchdowns. But do you really want your star QB as your leading rusher?

Opportunities: New OC, DL, WR

New UNC OC Chip Lindsey has put together an interesting career path having served as a high school coach, a college assistant, a coordinator and a head coach. Lindsey is tied to Gus Malzahn from their time at Auburn and UCF.

He’ll now have the chance to use his gap and zone scheme with RPO’s and QB run game on his own, without Gus’s intervention, at UNC. Expect a heavier focus on the run game, now the OL just has to step up.

The defensive line is an opportunity because they’re loaded with blue chip talent in their meeting room. The other Myles Murphy and Kaimon Rucker (Edge) are two of the four starters. Rucker and Murphy combined for 8.5 TFL’s and 4.5 sacks in ‘22.

Wide receiver is an interesting position at UNC. The Heels lose Josh Downs to the NFL, but brought GT’s Nate McCollum in as a transfer. They also return deep threat J.J. Jones and landed Kent State transfer Devontez Walker via the portal.

Traditions: The Victory Walk

From the 247 Sports article titled, “Top Five UNC Football Game Day Traditions.”

The Victory Walk, previously known as the Old Well Walk, now begins in the Bell Tower Park. This gives fans an intimate opportunity to see the coaching staff and players as they walk to the stadium, led by the Marching Tar Heels and cheerleaders. This tradition mixes Carolina’s past with its present and builds up anticipation for the game even more.

UNC Offensive Scheme

Phil Longo is out, headed up north to Wisconsin, and Chip Lindsey is in. Lindsey also heads north, coming to Chapel Hill from UCF in Orlando, FL. I don’t think you’ll see a drastic change in scheme.

The Heels are still going to move fast, run split zone and counter, and tag RPO’s. The Air Raid concepts will be the pass focus. I think it’s the emphasis that will change- Longo was more pass happy, Lindsey will be more run focused.

Above- Maye throwing a nice ball on the run to the left. He’s going to work outside of the pocket if the OL is as bad as they were a year ago. Understanding your boot responsibilities vs the QB, and playing the boot properly in coverage will be huge.

Above- Walker the transfer on the comeback. He flashes size and route running ability. The Miami CB’s will be pressured by Maye and Co.

Above- Maye to Walker with a beautiful fade touchdown. Maye is clearly a top-5 NFL Draft pick right now. Just needs to stay healthy and keep progressing. Unlike the Josh Heupel offense, Longo and Lindsey are at least slightly closer to some pro reads.

Above- His read route off the rush hitch is the tight end Morales. Morales will be a nice second read for Maye this season and someone that could be hard to defend if the ILB’s are shorter guys (5’11 to 6’1).

Above- Lindsey, a Malzahn discipline, dialing up counter here. Gus’s playbook loves counter, power, inside zone and buck sweep.

Above- Maye’s ability to scramble for a 1st down will be tough to defend for Miami. It’s that mix of staying in your pass rush lanes (the UNC DE dips inside, allowing Maye to escape outside) and knowing when to come off your coverage.

Above- Something that plagued Longo was red zone play calling. 20-20 he was great, then inside the 20 and especially the 5- it’s like he froze up. The Heels were 94th in red zone scoring in 2022. UNC tried the run game, Maye missed on an open glance, and then here he’s sacked.

UNC Defensive Scheme

Gene Chizik has had his work cut out for him on his return to coaching. The UNC defense fell apart under Jay Bateman, and it wasn’t because Longo “moved too fast.” That’s propaganda. Bateman lost focus on overall scheme- marrying the playbook to practice drills, to tackling, personnel, etc.

What worked for UNC against Miami in ‘22? Let’s find out:

Above- Nickel pressure focusing on the left tackle is a great idea. Jalen Rivers was at LT in the spring and looked lost. Rivers is a guard and will need to bump back inside to be effective. Miami hasn’t had a dominant LT in years. John Campbell hit the transfer portal and Zion Nelson hasn’t been healthy in over a year.

Above- The type of thing Miami needed out of Van Dyke and Jaylan Knighton (now at SMU). A guy like Knighton isn’t going to pound out 4-yard carries. He needs to flex out and work wheel routes, Texas routes, etc. Get an average LB corp on your speedy RB.

Above- Tight ends were invented to reach over ILB’s and to box out safeties. Miami has two great ones in Arroyo and Skinner. It’s time to use them effectively over the middle. UNC hasn’t gotten any better at either position via the transfer portal.

Above- The only way to defend someone like Skinner is to constantly put hands on him. Make a tall, thin guy uncomfortable and be really physical with them. But, that doesn’t work here as the UNC defender is shook and thrown off. GAME PLAN SKINNER OPEN.

Glance RPO

The Glance RPO read is going to work against every single team. If their DC is going to roll to cover 1, it works. The boundary S here walks down and shows early, perfect guy to read on the glance RPO. The WR will run a 5-yard slant (glance) and if the S continues to come down, Van Dyke pulls and fires in there like he does.

Above- Here it is for a TD. Make the CB who doesn’t want to tackle miss and it’s 6.

Above- Crossing route meshy stuff here from Miami. Van Dyke to Mallory for an explosive play on 4th and 2. If they want to play man, you run mesh. They drop 8 it’s not a good call unless the Q can pick up the 2 yards with his legs.

Above- I don’t mind the red zone fade on 1st down (works later, too) but 2nd and on hit the middle of the field. You still had some of the 2021 Van Dyke as he moves and throws while in contact for a TD.

Above- The post is too slow for the rhythm and there’s not rush route here. The RB is on a wheel instead of a swing nothing can come out fast. RT took the right defender, the most inside, QB has to move but he shows no presence front side.

Above- Now you’re running an orbit motion to the same side the TE is going to kick out to for split zone... the WR ‘play side’ doesn’t block the guy inside of him and chases up to a safety. The box is stacked and they stay in the run... just bad stuff.

Chizik brought the heat multiple times that day and Miami rarely had the answer.

Above- Colbie Young should be this weapon. He’s not a 50-yard burner but a red zone fade he’s got you. He’s tall, can jump, has soft hands- give him that FIRST DOWN RZ Fade.

Canyonero Keys to Victory

Clearly this is a tough game for Miami every time out. This time it’s back in Chapel Hill in mid-October. The weather should be perfect, not one of those freezing games like up at Boston College in November.

1- Don’t let Maye win the Heisman. Miami’s had a penchant for making bad QB’s look good and average QB’s look like future Pro Bowlers. Don’t let Drake Maye look like he’s the Heisman Trophy winner. Put pressure on him, don’t die by 1,000 cuts.

2- Run the ball, effectively. UNC is weak on defense and one way to grind them up and keep Maye off the field is to have a legit run game. Miami brought in Cohen, Lee and Mauigoa to grind the ball. If that’s what Mario wants, he needs to utilize it against UNC.

3- Hit on explosives. Miami needs to find an explosive play threat. Is it a healthy Don Chaney? Can Tyler Van Dyke overcome his yippish, injury prone ‘22 with a real OC in Shannon Dawson? You have to get the ball downfield to scores TD’s in the modern era.

Prediction: UNC by 7.