1. Did the Spring Game make the question of who starts at quarterback next fall a closer call?
Greg Barnes - Not really. Bryn Renner outplayed T.J. Yates on Saturday, but as Butch Davis has said several times over the past couple of weeks, it’s hard for a red-shirt freshman to overcome the experience deficit that he faces standing next to UNC’s three-year starter. Fans need to understand that the Spring Game was nothing more than a glorified scrimmage – there’s no need to make it into a bigger deal than it really is.
Don Callahan - In the Spring Game, T.J. Yates looked like the T.J. Yates of last season – inaccurate, uncomfortable, and mistake prone. Although he displayed his experience at times, Renner was nearly the opposite of Yates – accurate, fearless, and a playmaker.
The Spring Game just added fuel to the fans who are calling for Renner to replace Yates. Additionally, Butch Davis saying Renner will see snaps against LSU says a lot for the situation.
Buck Sanders – The Spring Game, regardless of what the coaching staff says, definitely provided them with a lot more to think about between now and the start of fall camp. One of the worries every staff has is how a quarterback will respond in front of a crowd – with 30,000 on hand on Saturday, Renner definitely didn’t go into a shell.
Experience is Yates’ big advantage, but Renner generated more offense. I don’t know about starting, but I think Renner may have earned himself at least a series or two even against LSU in Atlanta. At that point, it is all up to him.
2. Were the number of sacks and interceptions in the Spring Game more the result of the way the teams were split up, or should UNC fans be worried about the offensive line (again)?
Don Callahan - The number of sacks had to do with two factors: match-ups (potential first-round draft pick Robert Quinn versus walk-on Peyton Jenest) and injuries (starters Alan Pelc and Carl Gaskins missed the game).
We can’t draw any conclusions about the offensive line from the Spring Game. Thus, it’s still a question mark.
Buck Sanders – The one-on-one match-ups definitely favored the defense this past Saturday. In some ways, I am little surprised the sack totals weren’t higher. That doesn’t mean that the offensive line isn’t a concern, it is going to be a concern until we see an effective unit on the field.
I think there is a good chance for a significantly improved offensive line, but a lot will have to go right for the line during fall camp.
Greg Barnes - The offensive line is far from a finished product, but with three linemen out, two walk-ons starting and four scholarships starters in their first spring practice, Saturday’s performance was to be expected. If anything, the results simply show that the defensive front seven has more experienced depth, which is no surprise to anyone.
3. Everyone seems to be waiting for a receiver besides Greg Little to really take a step forward. Erik Highsmith looks to be the starter, but is he ready to be an every down threat at this point? Doesn’t UNC need a couple of wide receivers to really step up their game before September?
Buck Sanders – It is not a positive for UNC to be headed into fall camp this August without more known quantities at wide receiver than just Greg Little. I believe there is room for at least a couple more receivers to kick their games up a notch and carve out big chunks of playing time for themselves.
I keep waiting for Dwight Jones to really light it up, and it is frustrating that someone with that much physical ability hasn’t blown up at this point of his career, though he had a nice catch on Saturday. Both Erik Highsmith and Jhay Boyd have shown flashes, but haven’t yet come into their own yet. Josh Adams and Todd Harrelson came to UNC with good expectations, but have been languishing behind the other receivers up to this point.
It is time for a couple of players to step up here.
Greg Barnes - I completely agree. Yates has known quantities in Little and tight end Zack Pianalto, but part of the offense’s problem last year was that the quarterback didn’t trust his other options enough to create a consistent No. 3 option. I really expected Dwight Jones and Todd Harrelson to step up on Saturday, but other than Jones’ 55-yard catch, both were incognito. If that song remains the same, then the true sophomores must amp up their consistency and earn their quarterback’s respect over the summer.
Don Callahan - UNC’s offense under John Shoop uses a lot of three-wide receiver sets. Thus, for it to be as efficient as possible, two wide receivers need to emerge.
The good news is there is plenty of potential throughout the receiving corps, including Dwight Jones, Joshua Adams, Jheranie Boyd, and Todd Harrelson. And the incoming freshmen will provide some unique playmaking ability and more speed.
4. There still seem to be some question marks about the offensive line. Will James Hurst win the battle at left tackle when Carl Gaskins comes back? Is Brennan Williams a threat to Mike Ingersoll at right tackle? Does Jon Cooper stay at center, or does Cam Holland’s progress at center allow Cooper to move to guard? Are these real battles, or do you see the starters pretty set coming out of spring?
Don Callahan - The starting offensive line is no more set now than it was before the spring. With Gaskins being limited throughout the spring, it’s tough to say Hurst has won the left tackle job. Another injury, Alan Pelc’s, affects how things shake out inside with Cooper and Holland. Additionally, the Brennan Williams-Mike Ingersoll battle might continue well into the season.
Buck Sanders – As highly-touted as James Hurst is, the staff has always been extremely high on Carl Gaskins. I have to believe that if Gaskins is 100 percent by the time fall camp starts and stays healthy, he’ll lock down the left tackle spot. I like Cooper to keep the center spot, with Bond and Pelc flanking him, and I also think his experience will help Ingersoll keep his right tackle spot.
Rather than worrying about the starters, the main concern ought to be keeping everyone healthy. If they can get through fall camp without getting dinged up, the Tar Heels will go into the season in much better shape along the offensive line than in 2009. I agree that the starters’ spots have yet to be nailed down, but I think we can at least pencil in Gaskins, Pelc, Cooper, Bond, and Ingersoll as the expected starters.
Greg Barnes - As of last week, Cooper had locked up the starting spot at center, so I doubt that will change. I also believe that Carl Gaskins – who is likely the most athletic offensive lineman at UNC – will finally earn his spot at left tackle. But I do believe that the right tackle position is headed for an intense battle in training camp. Ingersoll is the savvy veteran, while Williams is the young athletic type looking to make his mark.
5. The running back situation seems to be a strange one. Ryan Houston missed all of spring to concentrate on academics. Lack of depth caused Johnny White to be moved back to running back from wide receiver. Hunter Furr just doesn’t look like a natural tailback. Is this the one spot where a true freshman, like Gio Bernard, might come in and get significant carries?
Greg Barnes - Yes. Draughn is a solid every-down back, while Houston is a bruiser and White is a quality change-of-pace guy. But if Davis has missed on one thing on the recruiting trail during his time in Chapel Hill, it’s been in finding an elite-level running back. Davis’s teams in Miami were stocked full of guys like Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and Frank Gore, but this current group is nowhere close to that same level. That’s why Bernard will be given a legitimate chance at showing whether he’s that caliber of player or not.
Buck Sanders – While I like Draughn, he’s just not shown that he is a “playmaker” at tailback. Ryan Houston does what he does – get short yardage – as well as any back in the college game, but he’s also not a home-run hitter. If Johnny White stays healthy, I think he has the ability to break big runs, but I also think the door is open for someone like Gio Bernard to make a mark this fall, at least in certain situations.
It is that role, the back that is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, that has been missing in UNC’s backfield the past several years.
Don Callahan - Once the season rolls around, things should go back to last season’s form at running back – Draughn will be the main ‘back and provide the “lightning,” Houston will be the short-yardage guy and provide the “thunder,” and White and Furr will provide depth.
Since three of the four aforementioned ‘backs are seniors, I definitely can see Bernard receiving snaps next fall for the pure propose of giving him experience.