Opponent Spotlight: Branden Ore

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina's defensive focus in practice this week is improving on its run stoppage after giving up 217 yards on the ground against Rutgers. It doesn't get any easier for the Tar Heels this Saturday when Virginia Tech will try to serve up a heavy dose of sophomore tailback Branden Ore.

Ore, who stands 5-11, 204 pounds, underwent shoulder surgery following the 2005 season and sat out the spring drills to recover. On Wednesday, Hokies coach Frank Beamer said Ore is 100 percent – and that means he's able to bring the versatility to the running game that his coach is so fond of.

"Brandon can do it all," Beamer said. "He can run it up inside tough, he can bounce it outside, he's a good pass receiver, he'll block for you. I really think he's a complete back, and those are the best backs to have."

A preseason second-team All-ACC selection by The Sporting News, Ore stepped up at the end of last season when injuries slowed seniors Mike Imoh and Cedric Humes, rushing for 478 yards in the last six contests, including three 100-yard games. Ore averaged 5.9 yards per carry and tied for second on the team with six touchdowns.

In last week's 38-0 blowout win over Division I-AA Northeastern, he carried the ball 11 times for 54 yards and a touchdown. He also hauled in a 55-yard scoring pass from quarterback Sean Glennon.

Ore was offered a scholarship by the Tar Heels when he was a prep All-American at Chesapeake (Va.) Indian River and he's likely to share some of the tailback duties with another former UNC prospect, George Bell out of Fayetteville (N.C.) Britt. Bell rushed eight times for 30 yards against the Huskies last week, scoring from one-yard out in the Hokies' 21- point first quarter.

Although it was a year ago, the memories of Ore and the Hokies' running game remain on the minds of the UNC coaches. In the 30-3 Virginia Tech win over the Tar Heels on Nov. 26, the Hokies erupted for three third quarter touchdowns to break open a close game on back-to-back-to-back rushing touchdowns by Humes and Ore.

Imoh, who rushed for 243 yards in Va. Tech's win over the Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium in ‘04, was a late scratch due to a sprained left ankle he suffered versus Boston College.

It didn't matter. The pre-game scouting report said the Hokies would try to run the ball down the throat of the Carolina defense and that's exactly what happened.

Humes (134 yards – career-high) and Ore (104) led Va. Tech to a 277 total yards on the ground.

"The team that steam rolled in the second half last year is coming to town," Tar Heel head man John Bunting said Saturday, after his team's season-opening loss. "So we're going to see what the defense is all about."

Bunting said he believes a great deal of the credit for Virginia Tech's successful running game goes to its offensive line.

"You prepare for what you've seen teams do in the past, and they were able to run the ball very effectively against us," Bunting said. "I think their offensive line was the best in the conference last year. Second was Miami, but Virginia Tech is very stout, and there's no reason to believe they won't be stout again."

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