2007 North Carolina Preview - Offense

Posted Apr 25, 2007

Preview 2007 North Carolina Tar Heels Offense

North Carolina Tar Heels

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 North Carolina Preview | 2007 UNC Defense Preview
2007 UNC Depth Chart | 2006 CFN UNC Preview 

What you need to know: The offense only cranked out 293 yards and 18 points per game with fits of wild inconsistency. Expect a bit more of the same with a young team still trying to figure out who the starters are going to be, but the overall production should be better. Step one is to determine who the quarterback will be to handle the passing game that'll run three and four wide sets. T.J. Yates was the star of spring ball, but he'll have to hold off star freshman Mike Paulus. There are plenty of good, inexperienced running backs to work with, and Hakeem Nicks is a potential star number one receiver. However, there aren't any certainties in the depth chart quite yet. The line will be serviceable, but nothing special.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Joe Dailey (now a WR)
112-195, 1,316 yds, 7 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Joe Dailey
50 carries, 123 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Hakeem Nicks
39 catches, 660 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore WR Hakeem Nicks
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman QB T.J. Yates
Unsung star on the rise: Yates
Best pro prospect: Nicks
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Nicks, 2) OT Garrett Reynolds, 3) OG Calvin Darity
Strength of the offense: Experienced offensive line, tight end prospects
Weakness of the offense:
Experienced skill players


Projected Starter: Coming out of spring ball, North Carolina wasn't even close to being ready to name a starting quarterback. However, if the season had to start right now, redshirt freshman T.J. Yates would probably get the nod. Coming out of nowhere to become a potentially major player in the offense, Yates rocketed up the depth chart after running the scout team last season, and he appeared to have the best grasp of the offense with a good, accurate arm. While not a runner, he's not a statue and will take the openings given to him. The big question is experience needing to start from scratch if he gets the opening day call. 

Projected Top Reserves: On experience alone, and there's not much of it, sophomore Cam Sexton was expected to take over the full-time starting job without much of a problem. Yates turned out to be better in spring practices, and now there's a battle for the job. The 6-1, 190-pound Sexton only completed 42% of his passes last season for 840 yards and four touchdowns with eight interceptions, but he showed a few flashes of ability with good mobility and a decent arm.

Yates and Sexton might just be keeping the seat warm for freshman Mike Paulus, a 6-5, 220-pound star recruit who was considered among the top prep quarterbacks in America. Not able to join in for spring ball, he'll have to shine throughout the summer to start, but he might turn out to be too good to not get the job.

Redshirt freshman B.J. Phillips will strictly be the emergency option, but he has a good understanding of the offense and could shine on the scout team.
Watch Out For ... Yates to hold off Paulus for the job. The coaching staff appears to be doing everything possible not to do the obvious after spring ball and give Yates the gig, but he's definitely the main man until the hot-shot can show what he can do.
Strength: Competition. There are options to play around with, and it's not necessarily a bad thing when your most experienced quarterback is the third stringer. Without seeing Paulus, all the quarterbacks have shown they can play ... in practices.
Weakness: Experience. Sexton has it, but he stunk last year. Yates and Paulus don't have any. There will be several hundred mistakes made until the eventual starter is polished.
Outlook: Unless Paulus is lights out, Yates will get the call against James Madison. He has the best grasp of the offense, is a smart enough player to know how not to panic when things aren't there, and he has a surprisingly strong arm. Sexton will get his shot at the job, but his practice time with the ones will quickly get squeezed. In a dream world, Yates is great, Sexton solidifies himself as an option, and Paulus can redshirt.
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: While a starter hasn't been named, at the moment, the likely number one back is sophomore Richie Rich, who was tremendous in spring ball showing the best all-around skills of all the tailback options. He only ran one time last season with two catches for 24 yards, but that doesn't seem to matter going into the year considering his productivity in practices. With a motor that's always running and with a great work ethic, he's the type of back everyone wants to see succeed. The big question is ball security.

If he can hang on to the ball, the job will likely be his. Paving the way at fullback will by 240-pound sophomore Bobby Rome, a decent blocker who made the biggest impact catching the ball with seven grabs for 80 yards. A beefed up former quarterback, he has the athleticism to play tailback for a time if needed.

Projected Top Reserves: Rich might be the main man going into the season, but redshirt freshman Anthony Elzy will at least be in the rotation enough to get ten-plus carries a game. While he's not going to make anyone miss, he's a powerful 210-pound inside runner who'll do more than his share of hitting. While considered a power back, he has a great burst through the line.

245-pound freshman Ryan Houston is the most intriguing option after running for 2,219 yards and 32 touchdowns as a high school senior. With his size and ability, he might be too good to keep on the bench for a year.

Also in the hunt is redshirt freshman Johnny White with the quickness and cutting ability the rest of the backs don't have. He was starting to grow into the number one back in spring ball before going down with an ankle injury.

Also in the hunt for playing time will be former quarterback Anthony Parker-Boyd, who played like a veteran this spring showing good moves. Backing up Rome at fullback will be 6-2, 240-pound freshman Devon Ramsay with the potential to be a dangerous short-yardage back.
Watch Out For ... a steady rotation of backs. Everyone offers a little something different. If you could combine Rich, Elzy, White and Houston into one back, you'd have a killer.
Strength: Hunger. Led by Rich, this is a hard-working group that'll try to get the most out of every carry and everyone opportunity. The starting job is there for the taking, and everyone knows it.
Weakness: Experience. There isn't any. Rome is the leading retuning rusher among the backs with 11 yards on five carries. Let's just say this group will have to grow into the job.
Outlook: The running back situation is just as up in the air as the quarterback pecking order after the dismissal of Barrington Edwards. There are good runners to get excited about, but they'll need room to move and they'll need the quarterbacks to loosen things up enough to take the focus off. There should be more than 113 yards per game (what UNC averaged last season) out of this group.
Rating: 6


Projected Starters: Sophomore Hakeem Nicks has all the talent to become a star in the new passing offense. After leading the team as a true freshman with 660 yards and four touchdowns on 39 catches, he will be the focal of the air attack and the new starting quarterback's best friend. At 6-1 and 210 pounds, he has the size to go along with good deep speed highlighted with an 83-yard scoring play against Duke. Talk about showing up with the lights on, he caught six passes for 171 yards and two scores against Notre Dame.

Junior Brandon Tate is a field-stretching type of receiver who hasn't stretched the field much in his career catching only five passes for 72 yards. An All-ACC caliber kick and punt returner, he has to bring his moves and quickness to bring more pop to the offense.

Tight end Richard Quinn is back after missing all of last year with a broken shoulder. The 6-4, 235-pound sophomore has ability to grow into a primary target, but he hasn't seen any time other than on special teams.

When the offense uses an H-Back, 6-3, 220-pound sophomore Ryan Taylor will step in after seeing time last year on special teams making four tackles. He's a great receiver who should make plenty of big plays when he gets the ball on the move.

Projected Top Reserves: The most interesting receiver prospect is senior Joe Dailey, the former Nebraska quarterback who held the starting job last year for the Tar Heels before getting bumped by Cam Sexton late in the year. He threw seven touchdown passes with ten interceptions and failed to get the offense moving. Now he'll be in three-wide sets to get his smarts and mobility on the field.

Junior Brooks Foster will start out behind Tate, but he could end up starting after finishing second on the team with 38 catches for 486 yards and two touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman Vince Jacobs will backup Quinn at tight end. With a 6-6, 235-pound frame, the former star prospect should be devastating after a little bit of experience with tremendous athleticism and skills.

6-4, 215-pound freshman Zach Pianalto is a good recruit who'll be in the starting H-Back mix right away.
Watch Out For ... Dailey to be better than expected. He's not going to lead the team in receiving, and he's not going to tear off any huge plays, but he'll find the seams and should become a reliable target who keeps the chains moving far better than he did as a quarterback.
Strength: Nicks. One of the ACC's best young receiver prospects, he's a big, physical receiver with excellent speed. He'll blow up when a good passing quarterback emerges.
Weakness: Scorers other than Nicks. The Tar Heels only caught 11 touchdown passes last season with four of them going to Nicks. Are there any proven red zone targets? Can the tight ends and H-Backs, for all their potential, make plays right away? They will eventually, but they need time.
Outlook: Over the next few years this corps will be very good. It needs a better, more consistent quarterback, and it needs the type of offense it's now running to shine. Nicks is a star in the making, while Tate, Foster and Dailey are all good enough to go to when needed. The real overall talent is at tight end and H-Back where Quinn, Taylor, Jacobs and Pianalto will all grow into producers.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The right side of the line is set with veterans starting with junior guard Calvin Darity, who started every game despite suffering a bit of an ankle problem. He's 6-3 and 295 pounds and good on the move.

Next to him will be 6-7, 300-pound junior Garrett Reynolds, who'll step in for Brian Lemming at right tackle. A big-time recruit when he first arrived, he has the frame and now he's starting to grow into it with a great work ethic to make him a potential star. The talent isn't a question, but he's had to work through three different blocking schemes and now should be a rock on the line.

Senior Scott Lenahan started 11 games last season and grew into the job turning into a good leader after suffering through major injuries problems two years ago. He's not the most athletic blocker, but he's solid.

The left side needs 6-6, 305-pound sophomore Kyle Jolly to emerge at left tackle in place of Brian Chacos. Originally a tight end, Jolly was going to start out his Tar Heel career as a guard but now will use his size and feet to try to be a steady pass protector. He doesn't have the job to himself yet and will have to battle, but he has the biggest upside.

Also fighting for a job will be Bryon Bishop, a 6-3, 300-pound junior who got in better shape losing 30 pounds and now should be more mobile. If he can't pull on a consistent basis, he'll be a backup. 

Projected Top Reserves: The biggest job battles will be on the left side where sophomore Aaron Stahl will get every shot to beat out Bishop at guard and sophomore Andre Barbour will combine with Jolly at tackle. The 6-6, 298-pound Barbour spent time at tight end last season catching one pass for one yard and a touchdown against Wake Forest. He needs more work, but he has the potential to grow into a great starter. Stahl was originally considered for the defensive line, but moved over to see practice time at center before moving to guard.

Junior Ben Lemming could be a starter at one of the tackle spots once he gets back healthy from a shoulder problem. That might take a while, but with his experience and versatility, able to play either center or tackle, he'll find a spot.

The line's biggest player is 6-6, 320-pound Alan Pelc, a promising redshirt freshman who'll see plenty of time behind Darity on the right side.
Watch Out For ... the line to quietly grow into one of the team's strengths. There aren't any all-stars and it might take a while for some of the backups to figure out what they're doing in the new system, but the overall production should be there.
Strength: Work ethic. This group has been through a lot, and they appear to have embraced the new coaching staff and the changes. It'll be an overall work in progress, and everyone should be up for it.
Weakness: Sure-thing stars. There might not be one guy the offense can know it can get a big run behind in the clutch. There are plenty of good options and lots of experience, but if Reynolds doesn't develop into the All-ACC talent he has the potential to be, there won't be anyone who scares defensive coordinators.
Outlook: New offensive line coach Sam Pittman is trying to get his line to pull, run, and make plays on the move. The potential and ability is there to do it, but they'll also have to hit defenses in the mouth from time to time. There's good experience, emerging depth, and enough talent to be better than last year. Pass protection hasn't been a problem, but they'll need to start opening up more holes.
Rating: 6.5


Related Stories
2007 North Carolina Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 24, 2007
2007 North Carolina Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 24, 2007
2007 North Carolina Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 24, 2007

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