On the northern boundary of the ACC footprint, senior running back Andre Williams is turning in an all-conference performance under first-year head coach Steve Addazio. The 6-foot, 227-pounder is averaging 139.7 yards per game on a 5.3 yards-per-carry clip.
“He’s built like you want a running back,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said following Wednesday’s practice. “He’s got some legs and hips on him and he is a big physical runner, but he can still make you miss.”
It helps having an imposing and experienced offensive line – Boston College starts five upperclassmen and averages 6-foot-4, 302 pounds upfront – as well as a former offensive line coach and coordinator running the program. Addazio served as Florida’s offensive line coach during its national championship season in 2006 before being elevated to offensive coordinator in 2009-10 under Urban Meyer.
“They’ve got good size, so I feel like we’ve got to be the most aggressive team on the field and the most physical team on the field,” UNC strong safety Dominique Green said.
While size is an issue for a North Carolina defensive front that averages 271 pounds, a likely bigger concern this weekend is the complexity of Boston College’s offensive package.
“Schematically, what they do with their tight end packages is really hard to defend,” UNC associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning said. “They run what Wisconsin used to do. They get three big bodies to the point of attack and it’s just really hard to schematically get enough guys there. And then they shift them around and move them.”
When Koenning and his staff broke down the Eagles’ basic formations on film, they counted 104 different looks. A normal total is typically 15 or so, according to Koenning.
So if the Tar Heels played just one defensive set against the Eagles, they would have to account for 104 variations. Play two sets and that number potentially doubles.
“This is not going to be a normal deal,” Koenning said. “There’s a whole bunch of different looks. And then they’ve had an extra week to put some new ones in there.”
Koenning acknowledged Boston College’s schemes are effective and difficult to defend, which puts the onus on the Tar Heel defense to continue its improved play in the two games since the East Carolina collapse.
In fact, Koenning indicated that he’s been pleased with his defense’s effort level in every game this season outside of the ECU loss.
“We’ve going to have to play with that same intensity, that same fire and that same strength, emotionally and mentally and in every way, to be effective against Boston College,” Koenning said.
There has been reason for optimism in that regard during practice this week.
“Guys are playing really hard and you can’t fault that,” Koenning said. “And I think this week we’ve practiced like we enjoy football a little bit, which has been fun and which has been better. It’s a lot better from a coaching standpoint having guys that are trying and acting like they’re having fun out here instead of it being like pulling teeth.”
UNC ranks 106th nationally in total defense (456.0 ypg), 101st in run defense (203.3 ypg) and T-92nd in scoring defense (30.7 ppg). A combination of talent deficiencies, schematic breakdowns and a low body count has proven to be a sizeable hurdle to overcome this fall.
“Honestly, we have a lot of guys that are playing really far over their heads right now,” Koenning said. “And that’s what we’ve got to continue to get them to do as coaches and not go back and have a game where we play average. Because if we play average, we’ll give up 55.”