Injury free season at QB right?
When a team returns a red shirt junior that has been adequate to good in his two prior seasons, that is generally considered a major hurdle out of the way heading into a new season. Certainly that should be the case in Chapel Hill except T.J. Yates has been the very definition of injury prone so far. His freshman season was followed by shoulder surgery which caused him to miss spring practice. His sophomore season was gutted, for the most part, by a broken bone in the foot which was then followed by a hand injury after spring practice in 2009. At some point you have to believe Yates is due to spend all season under center and not be required to spend some time in the care of ortho surgeons at UNC hospitals after the fact.
Heading into 2009, UNC does not enjoy the buffer it had over the past two seasons in the form of a talented group of experienced receivers. Gone are Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster who were perhaps the most dynamic set of wideouts UNC has had on the field at one time. That trio has been replaced by talented but unproven Greg Little along with inexperienced Dwight Jones and Joshua Adams. With three new receivers, the onus is on Yates to perform at a high level. With guys like Nicks and Tate, you could almost throw the ball up and someone would go get it. That luxury no longer exists. Breaking in new receivers means the premium will be on accuracy and the quarterback putting the ball exactly where the receivers expect it to be. The dependency on Yates will be fairly substantial in terms of passing ability but possibly more so for leadership.
Therein is the real balancing point on which the offense rests. The Heels need a consistent voice calling plays in the huddle. What UNC cannot afford is a revolving door behind center. Yates's health has more riding on it than simply the quarterback executing. The offense needs leadership, experience and a steady hand. Despite the youth in the receiving corps, Yates has a chance to excel this season. It is merely a question of being durable through the balance of the season, something I am sure will be discussed at length with the offensive line.
If injuries do strike again, Mike Paulus will have to step in and if he remains implosive-like in nature, redshirt freshman Branden Hansen could see the field. At that point I have no idea what we are dealing with though I have a pretty good guess what will happen if you have a redshirt freshman throwing balls to Little and two players who have very little meaningful college experience.
In other words, stay healthy T.J.