“Lord have mercy, I don’t know how many times they threw the ball deep,” Williams told reporters at the ACC Kickoff on Sunday. “It was impressive.”
Last week, sophomore A-back Ryan Switzer highlighted an increased emphasis on the vertical passing game.
“Our offense is the same, but our play calling is a little different,” Switzer said. “We’re took a lot more shots in the spring and we’ve got a lot more double moves in place. It’s exciting for a guy like me as a receiver to maybe have a chance for a home run and get the crowd involved.”
Williams agreed, saying the primary difference between Littrell and former offensive coordinator Blake Anderson is “going deep a little bit more.”
Under Littrell, Indiana ranked 17th nationally in passing offense last season with 306.7 yards per game with 36 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The Hoosiers ranked 30th in yards per attempt (7.8), which was actually four spots behind UNC (8.0).
The difference, however, resides in UNC’s higher completion percentage (62.5-59.4) and its ability to generate yards after the catch. The Tar Heels relied more on screens and quick hits while the Hoosiers were more willing to test defenses down the field.
“Yeah, I like to take shots,” Littrell told InsideCarolina.com earlier this summer. “I think that’s how you score points. The biggest thing is that I want to make sure I stretch the field vertically and horizontally. I want to make the guys on the other side of the football defend the entire field. And when I say that, I want them to defend sideline-to-sideline and end-zone-to-end-zone.
“Especially over the past couple of years, I’ve really gotten a lot more into the vertical passing game just because early on we were dinking and dunking so much that people would just start sitting so much.”
Despite those personal tendencies, Larry Fedora insisted on Monday that adding more of a vertical passing game wasn’t one of the reasons he hired Littrell in January.
The third-year UNC head coach stressed that within his offense the goal is to take whatever the defense gives you.
“I’ve done it pushing the ball down the field and I’ve done it with short passes,” Fedora said. “It’s really about taking advantage of the skills that your quarterback has. I’ve done it without throwing it a whole lot; I’ve done it without running it much. The thing I want to pride ourselves on is making sure we can do both because a team can take one away from you.”
Fedora, not one to give up offensive trade secrets, deflected questions about an offseason emphasis on the vertical passing game. He also dismissed the notion that coordinator personalities and tendencies come into play in the coaches box on Saturdays.
“If Blake felt like we could throw the ball down the field and be successful with it, he would have done it more,” Fedora said. “That’s all game plan, week-to-week. We’re not going to force anything. If coverage dictates to throw it down the field, we’ll throw it down the field. If coverage dictates throw it underneath, we’re going to throw it underneath.
“I would like to move the chains, so whatever that means, however we have to do it. If we’re moving the chains, eventually we’re going to run out of those white lines. And usually when you run out of white lines, that’s a good thing.’’
Fedora, of course, is right. His offense is the antithesis of what John Shoop ran in Chapel Hill from ’07-11. There is no desire to match strengths with the opposing defense – it's about finding a weakness and exploit it, on every snap.
The only difference this fall is that Littrell may be willing to throw deep more often when the coverage numbers work in his favor.