Every fall, college football fans around the country spend the entire month of August reading training camp stories about their favorite team, and every fall, we find ourselves completely buying into the hype.
UNC fans, of course, are no different. We read the post-practice interviews, catch a few scrimmage highlights, and suddenly we’re all in. I mean, did you hear what [star player] said? We are BACK, baby!
While it’s partially just the nature of sports fans to be irrationally optimistic until proven wrong, I think there is one primarily culprit behind the nationwide training camp hype machine: Buzzwords.
If you read a handful of training camp stories from teams around the country, you’ll start to see the same few quotes popping up again and again. I examined a few of my favorites here, and explained what they actually mean, especially as they pertain to the 2016 Tar Heels.
“Guys are flying around, having fun”
I really want to track down the origin of this statement, because everyone is saying it. Really, all it means is, “Our defense is running very quickly towards the person with the football, and they’re having a good time doing it!” Regardless, I love hearing it.
At this point, if your defense isn’t flying around and/or having fun, you’re in big trouble. Good news, though, Tar Heel fans: For the 4th straight year, UNC’s defense is both flying around AND having fun this fall. Buckle up.
“We’re not thinking anymore, we’re just playing”
Another common statement from defensive players, this one means one of two things: 1. Last year, we had no clue what was going on. 2. Our coaches gave up on trying to teach us complicated things, so now our defense is really basic.
Fortunately, I think they fall more into the first bucket this year. Gene Chizik is starting to trust his guys to quickly process information, and thus has been able to de-simplify the defensive scheme.
“It’s night and day compared to last year” / “Light-years ahead of last year”
These phrases are used interchangeably, and are good backhanded reminders of last year’s struggles. “Listen, last year was really bad for this team/player/position group. Things are definitely looking up, but I want to be clear about how bad last year was.”
While this could apply to UNC’s defense as a whole, I think we’re seeing it most often in reference to the defensive line. After getting steamrolled a few times in 2015, there is some serious buzz around the 2016 defensive line.
“We have a chip on our shoulder”
Ahh, the ol’ chip on the shoulder. The implication, of course, is that now that the team has a little something extra to prove, they’re working extra hard. Typically this comes from some bulletin board material in the local paper, a low preseason ranking, or a lack of representation on the completely meaningless preseason all-conference teams.
UNC has actually garnered some solid preseason accolades, but there are still plenty of folks who believe last year’s 11-win season was a fluke. That doubt alone serves as a solid chip for a lot of the team.
“We have a bad taste in our mouth”
This essentially applies to any team that lost the last game of their previous season. Even so, we love hearing that our team is as upset about last season’s bowl loss as we are, and that they’re using it as motivation.
For the Tar Heels, this one is easy: Baylor and Clemson ran all over that young defense, and the boys have not forgotten.
“I’m leading by example”
I am a relatively quiet person who is now a senior.
Plenty of Tar Heel players — Mikey Bart comes to mind right away — have referenced their new role as a “leader by example.” Truly, all this one means is that [player] practices hard, and is now a senior.
“[Freshman] is turning some heads”
This one really gets fans juiced up, as it tends to be said in reference to a less-heralded recruit (a real diamond in the rough, to use a recruiting buzzword) who is better than the recruiting websites expected him to be.
For the Tar Heels, this probably applies most closely to true freshman defensive tackle Marlon Dunlap. Not quite as highly rated as some of his classmates, Dunlap has been “turning heads” throughout camp. He’ll be an important part of a suddenly-deep interior line.
“It’ll be tough to keep [Freshman] off the field”
A first cousin of the freshman head-turner, it’s always great to hear about the guy that will be tough to keep off the field. Taken literally, it simply means that [freshman] will likely get playing time; however, we always find ourselves assuming that [freshman] is ready to dominate.
In addition to the aforementioned Dunlap, cornerback Patrice Rene and wide receiver Rontavious Groves are Tar Heel freshmen that will evidently be tough to keep off the field this fall.
“We’re ready to hit somebody else”
As we inch closer and closer to the start of the season, we’ll start seeing this one pop up more frequently. It seems to invoke in fans’ heads the image of caged animals ready to attack, which is exactly what we want heading into the season opener.
So, consider this advance warning, Georgia: The Tar Heels are tired of hitting each other, and they’re ready to take it out on you.