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Tudor Calls Davis and Shoop Out Plus Other Thoughts On The Offense

As it pertains to T.J. Yates and their continual commitment to him.

Yates said that he didn't think Davis and offensive coordinator John Shoop would turn to a reliever. Yates was right.

"We're in the situation where you sometimes have to play your way through some bad performances," Davis said. "[Yates] didn't play as well as we'd have liked for him to last week at Georgia Tech. He hit some throws today, but he was under duress ... They blitzed or pressured something in the neighborhood of 10 of the first 19 plays."

Yates, an experienced junior, threw for 135 yards and was intercepted twice, running his season total in that department to seven. That he's a bright, tough, determined youngster who's dedicated to the program isn't in doubt. But it's equally clear that Yates, in three of the five games, has floundered. Whether it's his fault or not, the rest of the offense has followed suit.

The overriding story of North Carolina football, dating to the early 1950s, has been an eternal search for quality quarterbacking. It's a problem that's befuddled every coach from Jim Tatum to Davis and led directly to the eventual release of some.

Davis is beginning to track in a dangerous direction on that front, too. The economy is tight and his contract is a big, long one. But at a time when the school is planning yet another multi-million stadium expansion, nothing can undercut program interest more than a sterile offense.

Davis and Shoop obviously are committed to Yates. That much was apparent a year ago when they benched hot-handed Cam Sexton for Yates, who was returning from injury, going into a game at Kenan against N.C. State. The result was a 41-10 disaster that left both camps howling -- one in protest, the other in delight -- and opened the door for Sexton to transfer out of the program.

Tudor goes for the full throat here bringing up the less than ideal manner in which Butch Davis handled the return of Yates from injury last season which was done with enough disrespect for Cam Sexton that the latter is now at Division II Catawba despite having another season of eligibility.

The salient point that Tudor actually misses is Davis' own words concerning depth charts and playing time.  During the first two seasons, Davis often talked about how no one was secure in their starting job, even the QB. If the QB does not do the job or his backup is outperforming him in practice then a change is prone to be made.  Given that is the standing policy as articulated by Davis, then you would think we would have seen a change at QB unless the other options are that bad.  That being said, can either Mike Paulus or Branden Hansen really be that bad? The fact neither saw the field on Saturday must mean they really are.

The other side of the issue is the number of problems facing this offense and how much of it can you really pin on Yates or any one individual, John Shoop included.  The guaranteed  bet in a situation like this is that half the fan base will call for the head of the quarterback, the offensive coordinator and the head coach, usually in that order.  At this point we are at stage two of that sequence with the possibility of stage three so remote I am not able to calculate odds.  Folks are unhappy and some Butch Davis grumbling is out there but he is still seen as a big time college coach.  Faith in Davis to produce a solid football team in Chapel Hill is very much intact even if the natives are restless.

Because the offense is struggling the high profile targets are always the QB and the OC.  Some of the criticism that has been leveled in the direction of both is justified.  As I alluded to earlier this week in my quasi-defense of Yates UNC has multiple facets of the offense which are not working.  The offensive line is at the center of it all and that is partially to blame for the issues in both the passing and running games. The OL issues also means John Shoop might be running an offensive game plan to account for poor blocking and in the end it is simply not working.  However the OL is only part of the problem.  The passing game is inconsistent with young wide receivers and a quarterback who quite possibly had his reputation enhanced by being with stellar WRs for two years. The rushing attack could use better blocking but the truth is UNC lacks a quality running back. I think most folks forget Shaun Draughn was converted from defense after the Greg Little experiment when horribly awry.   The problem is with the OL compromised and neither half of the offense working at it should it is impossible to compensate for anything.  For example, if the running game stinks but your can pass the ball, the passing attack can help the running game by forcing defense to worry about the pass. This was the case last season and perhaps why Draughn looked a lot better than he does right now.   The opposite is also true.  If you can run the football you can chew clock which minimizes the need to pass the ball but also helps going to the air by forcing defense to stuff the box to stop the run.  For UNC, since neither the running or passing game appears to be working, opposing defenses apparently do not need to do much to stop the Heels other than show up on the field. One thing is for sure, UNC has no serious threat from either facet of the offense so a nice balanced defense will do the trick every time starting by whipping the offensive line.

Of course this is where the criticism of Shoop really takes flight.  If there are noted deficiencies in terms of personnel or play production then it falls back on the coaches to figure out the best way to use said personnel.  Davis pointed this out after the loss to Georgia Tech and now that UNC has laid a second straight egg on offense, some demands for explanations come pretty quick. Whatever the case, it is clear what ever UNC has been doing it ain't working so doing something else is preferred in hopes it produces points.  Part of that is what the scheme looks like and the other part is whether UNC should switch QBs or hand the ball off to someone else more often. We know Davis is loathe to make personnel changes because he thinks such moves are not a magical fix nor does he believe in creating that level of disruption.  Valid points all but if have nothing, then you have nothing to lose.  In other words, we have quickly reached the "see what sticks to the wall" stage where various changes get made simply because there is no choice given the desperation of the moment.

The key, if changes are forthcoming, is doing it in such a way as to identify and resolve whatever the heck has been troubling the unit.  In my world of systems administration, you troubleshoot using one fix at a time.  You never want to employ two fixes at the same time since you might never know which fix is the one that resolves the issue.  In this case, I am not a fan of wholesale changes but I agree there must be some kind of shakeup.  In my opinion the first, best move would be to get Ryan Houston into the lineup for most of the carries and modify the offense for him.  With Houston you can at least get some tough yardage despite the OL issues.  Getting the running game established might be sufficient to make cause other good things to happen such as a decent passing game.  I am not sure replacing Yates gets you much given the options behind him and I am fairly certain Bryn Renner's redshirt will be continue to be nice and snug on him.  Changing the QB is a huge undertaking because the whole offense needs to adjust, especially the OL which already has too much to worry about.  While Yates has been bad in the past two games, it might do more harm than good, especially where the offensive line is concerned.

As for playcalling, yes Shoop probably should do something different.  Exactly what that is, I have not a clue since I am woefully short of intricate football knowledge.  I do know whatever UNC has been doing has not worked so as Jerry Seinfeld once told George Constanza, "if every instinct you have is wrong then the opposite must be right." There have been fan complaints about predictability in Shoops playcalling as well as the use of certain sets that can be telegraphed five miles away based on the personnel that shows up on the field.  If the play of your players is not creating enough issues for the opposing defense in terms of causing them to react then the playcalling needs to be extra special in the way it frightens and confuses the other team.

The bottom line is UNC has the 113th ranked offense in the country out of 120 teams. That means there is plenty of things wrong, maybe more than can reasonably be fixed on short notice this season.  Still, Davis and Co. are getting paid serious coin to try and try they should.  According to the stats it honestly cannot get much worse or worse in a way that really matters. The upside is UNC can experiment all they want against Georgia Southern then use the bye week to get injured players back and make anymore tweaks needed to get the offense rolling before FSU shows up on October 22nd.  Absent that, the noise from the fan base stands to only get louder and more unhappy the longer the product on the field looks like crap.