No pressure right?
When Mike Paulus came into the game for TJ Yates, he took the snap and made the handoff to Greg Little who used gaping holes created by the offensive line to pop off a 50 yard run for a TD. As it turns out, that was the only thing that would really go right for Paulus the rest of the game. In Paulus' defense he was thrown right in the middle of a tough game though since he is the backup QB, it is sort of expected he be able to handle matters. At any rate, what's done is done and we can only look forward to five games in the next six weeks with either Paulus or Cam Sexton running the offense.
Butch Davis said on Monday they will prep both Paulus and Sexton to start not willing to reveal yet who he has in mind to start against the Hurricanes. Davis seems to weighing Sexton's experience versus Paulus' talent to see which one would be the better fit. Sexton played so badly two years ago, it is hard to imagine him gettin another stab at it. Paulus was highly rated out of high school and thought to have incredible potential for that elite QB status. None of that was seen on Saturday and apparently not in practice since this decision is up in the air.
At this point Davis is basically back to "square one" with "square one" being August, 2007 when he named TJ Yates the started for the James Madison game. The logic employed then by the Tar Heel head coach was the offense needed a QB who would not make mistakes. Obviously it was nice that Yates ended up being more than that but the original first step was a QB who could work within the offense and make use of the talented wide receivers with a minimum of giveaways. Yates did that and then some despite the fact the running game never materialized. Now, UNC faces a replay of last season with either Paulus or Sexton stepping in and hopefully blossoming like Yates did.
Whether it is Paulus or Sexton under center, either player will be under pressure to make plays, especially in the passing game since it is the strength of the offense. In addition to that, I would argue the Tar Heel offensive line is under even greater pressure to keep offense viable with the QB change. On one hand, the offensive line bears some responsibility for the Yates injury. The pass protection deteriorated over the course of the game and Yates ends up being sacked on the run injuring the ankle. In this respect the players on the offensive line probably feel the need to prove something. In terms of the offense going forward, so much depends on getting stellar blocking. First of all, the running game has to be more productive. Obviously some of that is still on Little and Shaun Draughan to produce as well as getting yards from Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster on special plays. The offensive line though needs to be able to give the running game a fighting chance in the trenches. UNC ran the ball so many times into the middle of the line and got nothing versus Virginia Tech. This is an area UNC has to get better production to balance the offense and make it less dependent on the arm of either Paulus or Sexton since they are unproven. Also, given the fact Sexton or Paulus are unproven means good pass blocking is an imperative. Life will be tough enough for either of these guys, the last thing they need is pressure from the defense rushing them into bad decisions. If the line can give them time it will give them a chance to make plays and build that all important confidence.
Make no mistake, this takes a position UNC had great stability at and tosses it into a state of flux with a variety of unknown factors. And since it is the QB is throws UNC's greatest strength on offense, the passing game, into chaos. This simply means UNC will need the running game to produce as well as the defense to maintain the same level of play they have shown in the past two games. Granted it came against struggling offenses but the defense is very capable. The wild card as always is Brandon Tate who will need to continue his all purpose yards assault on the opposition to give UNC points and field position.
The silver lining in all of this lies in the fact UNC still has plenty of weapons on offense, the defense is strong and you never know what Tate will do once he has the football. Yes, for at least five games UNC will look to either an inexerienced QB or one that simply has never been very good on the field. Last winter we watched Quentin Thomas who had struggled for three years step in and hold down the fort when Ty Lawson went out. Though this is not really analagous given the differences in the two games but the basic concept holds. UNC needs whoever the starter ends up being to step up and fill the role much the same way Thomas did in basketball. It will not be easy but there is little choice. If Paulus or Sexton(and for the record I think it will end up being Paulus) can play the position without making stupid mistakes while getting the ball into the hands of Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate, UNC will be fine. Granted this is the worst part of the schedule but in football injuires do not discriminate based on the schedule.
Whether Yates played or not, it was clear after Saturday that UNC was probably still a year away. And the nature of the schedule over the next six weeks is tough but if the QB play can pan out with the new starter there is no reason to think the Heels won't win the ones they are supposed to win.
I think we can all live with that.