The Tar Heels had one of the best football seasons in school history this past year. This coming season will be all about proving that they belong in the conversation as a top 15 team going forward. Fans will get their first look at the team to try to do this on Saturday in the annual inter-squad Blue vs White scrimmage.
Players to Watch:
The biggest thing everyone will be watching is how well Trubisky steps in as the starting quarterback. After a seemingly endless platoon system two years ago, Trubisky will now see his first reps as the undisputed number one quarterback. This past season saw him play very well in his spot minutes and it will be important to see him maintain that level of work over the course of a game. A key to offensive success in this year's offense will be how well Trubisky can navigate the pocket while also making multiple reads. Another key feature of the offense will be Trubisky running from the pocket when plays break down, although he will not be as physical a runner as Marquise Williams, Trubisky is just as fast and should be able to force teams to have to spy him in certain situations. While this scrimmage will not give many answers on how effective a runner he will be, it will be important to note how willing he is to run rather than just stick in the pocket.
Bug Howard seems to be the likely Quinshad Davis replacement in the offense as the big, physical receiver who can not only play the position but also block down field. Howard will most likely line up on one side of the field with Mack Hollins on the other while Ryan Switzer occupies the slot. Howard is the only one of these three to see his role increase significantly and as such he is the key receiver to watch. Howard's route running and chemistry with Trubisky will be very important this season and the spring game will hopefully shed light on to how this evolution is coming along.
Hood will be a workhorse for Carolina this year but most of his touches came out of backfield as a runner rather than a receiver. Hood will not get a ton of carries Saturday since his powerful running style is not a good thing to inflict upon your own defenders but it will be interesting to see how he does in pass protection as well as how many times he is targeted on screens and other short throws out of the backfield.
Des Lawrence and M.J. Stewart:
The Tar Heel corners will be hard pressed to keep up with their wide receiver teammates on Saturday but Lawrence and Stewart are one of the best cornerback pairs that the offense will see all year. How they guard Hollins on the outside will be particularly interesting. As its a scrimmage, it would not be surprising to play one on one giving no help for a decent part of the game, this will test each man to see if they can track top end speed. The other of the two will probably get Howard a compelling contest of its own as Howard has 4-6 inches on each of them.
Goals for the Game:
Synergy On Offense:
Not only are the Heels breaking in a new starting quarterback, but they are also breaking in a new offensive coordinator and a new number one receiver. Saturday is a great opportunity for all three new pieces to practice working at game speed together. A powerful strength of the Larry Fedora offense is how quickly they can call the plays and tire defenses out of the course of 60 minutes. Seth Littrell and Marquise Williams had this down to a science last season and its now up to the new guys to play at the same speed if the Heels are to be as effective as they were last year.
Defensive Line Generates Some Push:
After the treatment the defensive line received at the hands of Baylor, it would ease the minds of everyone around the program--fans, coaches, players--if the Heels could generate some push against their own. The Carolina offensive line is deep, seasoned and full of talent which makes it a decent test for the Tar Heel defense. Jalen Dalton will be a full time starter this fall and stands out as a potential star for the unit that was roughed up in the Russell Athletic Bowl. It would also be good for the offense, and particularly Trubisky, to get some game speed reps with real effort from the defensive line.
Everyone Stays Healthy:
The number one priority of all scrimmages is for everyone to stay healthy over the course of the game. This game is designed as an exhibition to show off all the work the team has put in during the offseason and even to showcase some new freshmen if the coaches think they can play. No matter what happens, the game is a success if no one gets hurt and everyone has fun.