“You always want to get the ball in your hands, but I just want to do what I can to help the offense score touchdowns,” the 6-foot-2, 245-pound sophomore said. “Whether it’s me taking the ball up the middle for two or three tough yards, or making a clearing block for Ronnie [McGill] or Barrington [Edwards] so they can take it to the house; I just want to help our team win.”
In high school, Starcevic would be in on as many as 70 plays per game at fullback and linebacker. He had a reputation for getting the short yardage necessary for a first down without fail.
Need one yard? He would get you one. Need three? Three it is.
This year he’ll will be expected to block on nearly every snap he’s in on.
“I ran the ball 200 times my senior year, so now I go to running the ball on five or six plays,” he said.
Starcevic enters the fall as the projected starter at fullback, though he did not practice this spring after an appendectomy in February. In 2005, he was one of seven true freshmen to get on the field, playing in 10 games at fullback and on special teams.
“Nick has come along way,” John Bunting said. “He’s assignment sound, he’s exhibited a lot of toughness and he’s becoming a real sound blocker. He’s got good hands, too.”
Since last season, Starcevic has added about 15 pounds of muscle, and he says his technique has improved along with his overall knowledge of the game.
“I won’t be as intimidated as much when I go out there this year. I’ll be able to play a little bit faster now that I know the tempo of the game. It’s not really an adjustment anymore from high school,” he said.
UNC running backs coach Andre’ Powell has spent time with Starcevic in the film room showing clips of former Tar Heel Madison Hedgecock, now with the NFL’s St. Louis Rams. Though Hedgecock flip-flopped from offense to defense throughout his college career, he settled back in at fullback for his senior campaign, at times carrying the rushing load in 2004.
Starcevic knows it all starts with the blocking in offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti’s plan of attack, but he’ll also be eager to tuck the ball under his arm when he gets the chance.
“I think we’re going to get in there a lot more this year,” he said. “Our ground game will accent our passing game a lot more. There will be a lot more outside zone plays, and I think we’ll catch a lot more passes on check down routes.
“The main difference from last season (under retired offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill) is the blocking schemes are a lot more outside zones and reading on the fly, picking up extra defensive players when you see them – helping everybody else out.”