The ACC had a teleconference on Wednesday with all of the league coaches talking about spring practice. Yes, practice. We are talking about practice.
Davis discussed a variety of topics. You can read the full quotes at Inside Carolina. Here are some of the highlights:
- Offensive line injuries continue to haunt UNC like bad indigestion from Chinese food. Far too many linemen did not get the full benefit of the full spring practice. Freshman T.J. Leifheit ended up on the operating table for an arthroscopic procedure on his ankle. Leifheit is looking at six to eight weeks of rehab before he is cleared.
- Ryan Houston sat out most of the spring practice due to academic issues. When asked if it was precautionary or legitimate, Davis indicated the latter and Houston needed to spend extra time with the tutors to ensure he was still making progress on his degree.
- Davis said he does not pick a number of wins to determine success or failure since circumstances(such as injuries) could impact that. Speaking for myself, that might be true but I am pretty sure the number of wins this season should be something more than eight right?
And the part everyone wants to talk about is the offense and T.J. Yates which I will not quote in full(emphasis mine):
"I’m not sure that any quarterback in America would have had the opportunity to play as well as they were capable of playing, given the set of circumstances… We had three freshmen wide receivers, three freshmen offensive linemen, we had lost some unbelievable talented wide receivers that had started here for three years. Zack Pianalto, our starting tight end, missed a significant amount of time and we lost three running backs, so you want to talk about a patchwork offense. Regardless if it was T.J. or any other quarterback, it was always going to be a work in progress every week last year to try to be as productive as we possibly could.
"I will tell you this – I think that T.J. had probably his best spring since he’s been here and since I’ve been the head coach at Carolina. He’s really worked. He understands that the quarterback position, it is absolutely necessary for that person to go out and to play well. Play smart and the get the ball in the hands of the right guys, get us in and out of the right plays, change the protections and certainly, he enjoys a little bit of an advantage over all of the other quarterbacks in the program because he’s got a lot of experience. But having said that, he knows that he’s got to produce and he’s got to go out and play well.
Translation? T.J. Yates struggled last season because the offense had far too many issues. According to Davis, any QB put in Yates' place would have struggled given the OL issues, inexperience of the receiving corps and the fact the running game took half a season to find itself. Davis basically confirms Yates as the starter saying he performed well in the spring. Experience also gives him an edge of Bryn Renner. Then comes the caveat: Yates needs to put up or shut up...essentially. Davis is making it clear that if Yates does not "go out and play well" then Renner is going to get his shot..
In terms of addressing the issues of last season, some of that makes sense. However, there are various doubts about Yates' ability, especially in terms of passing. The argument can certainly be made that some of Yates' issue had less to do with the OL or young receivers and more to do with making a simply pass to the open man. Or not making an ill advised pass into coverage which results in a 99 yard INT return for a TD. For all of the problems UNC had on offense, stupid decisions and poor throws is the part of it Yates owns regardless of whatever else might be happening.
All that being said, I have trouble arguing with Davis' logic here. Yes, there issues on offense last season were troubling enough that Yates should be afforded the initial opportunity to see if he can improve himself. The experience factor is also huge and at present is probably the primary reason Yates has a leg up on Renner. I am basically taking Davis' statement to mean this: Yates, with his experience, should get the chance to prove he can run the offense assuming all the other issues with that unit are largely improved. If Yates continues to struggle with a healthy OL, experienced receivers and a consistent running game then it will fall to Renner. And honestly, as long as they win, I am not sure I much care. It would be nice for Yates, after his struggles to pull his act together. He is easily the most maligned UNC athlete among the fans right now. Ultimately I want the team to succeed and if Yates is the QB who can make that happen then it will make for a great story. He will be happy. We will be happy. Everyone will be happy! Is that too much to ask?