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And Now, UNC Football Stories That Don't Involve Cheating

I'm officially taking the rest of the week off from commenting on UNC academics. Hit up Andrew Sharp at the mother ship if that's what you're looking for. No, this evening I want to point out a pair of articles on this year's football team.

Writing about a new coaching staff prevents plenty of opportunities for really bad journalism. A lot of times writers err to far on the beat-sweetening side of things, and the result is mindless optimism about the upcoming season. The other way these things can go is for surly writers that have been on the beat for years to start complaining about changes; they're almost always petty complaints that vaguely disguise the writer's own hurt feelings. Neither type of article does anything for the reader outside of raise their blood pressure.

Which is why two particularly good articles caught my eye this weekend. The first, by Andrew Carter at the N&O, gives us the most detailed preview of Larry Fedora's defensive plans to date. I'm still trying to digest the details about the defense, which the Carolina coaching staff are reluctant to go into detail about, but the takeaways are these. The defense is built for speed, and designed to counteract the spread offenses of teams like Missouri and Clemson that tore up the Tar Heels last season. As such, it scales back to three linemen and installs two hybrid positions, a linebacker/defensive end and a linebacker/defensive back while deemphasizing the traditional linebacker roles somewhat. Carter is clear on the ways this could fail — UNC will only install about half the defense in time for the start of the season, and Carolina has not recruited the ideal players for these hybrid positions. (Currently the job goes to Dion Guy and James Robinson.) Fedora has yet to decide which defensive staff member will be calling plays in the booth, and both the defensive coordinator and associate head coach for defense would prefer to be on the sidelines. And no mention is made on how the defense stacks up to more traditional offenses. Still, it's the best look into what will be going on when the other team has the ball I've seen to date.

The second, part of the hilariously named Tar Heel Monthly Daily blog, is just a scene-setter of football camp under Larry Fedora. But the great this is how it delineates the changes of the new staff without complaint or fawning. Yes, the soundtrack has changed, and yes, Fedora is going to be less forthcoming on a lot of things than Butch Davis was. But this is a portrait of a program in transition, with a light bit of self-depracation at the end. It's good writing, in under a 1000 words. I hope to read more like it.