In our rush to proclaim Greg Little the answer UNC's running woes last season I think most of us forgot that his is relatively inexperienced in the role. Heading into the Virginia Tech game, Little will have started four games at tailback for the Heels and is obviously still adjusting to the college game at that position.
From the N&O:
"You can't hit a home run on every play," he said. "But if you just try to get a base hit, then another base hit, then another, the home run will eventually come."
It has been a somewhat frustrating lesson to learn through the season's first two games. The Tar Heels are 2-0 entering Saturday's game against Virginia Tech, but Little -- who made the transition from wideout to tailback during the second half of last season -- has gained only 108 yards on 32 carries.
It's not the start the sophomore imagined after gaining 247 yards in the final two games of last season, but he still thinks he can reach 1,000 this year.
"If you look at a 1,000-yard back, they're consistent throughout the whole season,'' he said. "That's what I need to be."
To that end, he has been working on hitting holes faster, making stronger moves and finishing runs. He says he feels physically good and thinks his early-game 2- and 3-yard gains have helped pave the way for longer runs by backup Shaun Draughn (15 carries, 74 yards) in the games' later stages.
"I feel like we can outman teams in the fourth quarter because we're mentally and physically conditioned to do that,'' he said.
Coach Butch Davis said he thought Little was more physical in the second game, against Rutgers, and expects him to improve as he gains more experience in the backfield.
"Last year, the last two games were really an experiment to see, did he have the potential to invest [at tailback], or would it be better for us to leave him at wide receiver?" Davis said. "And what we saw the last two games of the season gave us some hope that maybe that might be the best position for him. ... But there's no way you could say he has arrived at running back."
Although he may get closer as he looks for better "base hits."
"That's what's just in me, to make so many moves and just try to get a home run off one play,'' Little said. "And that's not how a running back is; you've got to take the 1- or 2-yard gains sometimes. ... And then once you break that long one, it's all about rejoicing."
Based on the observation of a few folks, Little really needs to focus on (1) hitting the holes the blockers create and (2) making good decisions on how to get the yards when he encounters resistance. Little admits that he is perhaps too focused on popping off the big run for a TD instead of being patient. There are times when you simply need to take what is there instead of attempting to do too much. Little also confesses that he tends depend heavily of "moves" in an effort to shake defenders and get more yards. In some of those situations Little simply needs to put his head down and knock the daylights out of the tackler. The problem is Little tends to be a bit of finesse runner looking to outmanuveur the defenders than running through or over them. It really has to be a little of both. Using moves to fake defenders is fine but you also have to be willing to make them suffer for trying to tackle you and not stand there dancing which gives help defenders a chance to catch up.
Like I said, Little needs experience and also a good rushing game to build confidence. Getting that game against Virginia Tech will be a challenge but if the can make some big plays, the sky could be the limit going forward.