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Tuesday, May 8, 2012
North Carolina spring wrap

By Mark Schlabach

2011 overall record: 7-6
2011 conference record: 3-5 (T-8th)
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 5; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Bryn Renner, RB Giovani Bernard, G Jonathan Cooper, G James Hurst, K Casey Barth, KR T.J. Thorpe, DT Sylvester Williams, LB Kevin Reddick, S Tre Boston

Key losses
LB Zach Brown, DE Quinton Coples, T Carl Gaskins, WR Dwight Jones, CB Charles Brown

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Giovani Bernard* (1,253 yards)
Passing: Bryn Renner* (3,086 yards)
Receiving: Dwight Jones (1,196 yards)
Tackles: Zach Brown (105)
Sacks: Quinton Coples (7.5)
Interceptions: Two players (3)

Spring answers

1. Renner fits spread: New North Carolina coach Larry Fedora’s spread offense might not be the perfect fit for quarterback Renner. But Renner ran a spread offense while playing high school football for his father and has adjusted well. Renner set a UNC single-season record with 26 touchdown passes last season while working in a pro-style offense. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns in the spring game.

2. Hurry up: Fedora and his staff spent most of the spring teaching their new players how to run a hurry-up offense. The Tar Heels huddled under former coach Butch Davis. Fedora wants the Tar Heels to run about 80 plays per game, meaning they’ll have to be lined up for the next play as soon as an official spots the ball. It will be a big adjustment for the offense, especially for the linemen, but they adapted pretty well in the spring.

3. Barth is back: Senior kicker Casey Barth is a big weapon for the Tar Heels and showed good leg strength after missing most of last season with a groin injury. He was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Barth, who made 41 of 48 field goal attempts over the past three seasons, kicked two field goals in the spring game.

Fall questions

1. Defensive overhaul: The UNC offense isn’t the only thing undergoing a makeover in Chapel Hill. Co-defensive coordinators Dan Disch and Vic Koenning are installing a 4-2-5 scheme, which employs two hybrid positions (bandit and ram). The defense will allow the Tar Heels to have five defensive backs on the field most of the time, which should help them against pass-happy offenses.

2. Wide receiver depth: UNC lost leading receiver Dwight Jones and had only five scholarship receivers during spring practice. Fedora likes to have about 10-12 receivers at his disposal to run in and out of games. There’s some help coming in the incoming freshman class, but the Tar Heels will have to develop some receivers quickly. Senior Erik Highsmith and sophomore T.J. Thorpe are both big playmakers and seniors Jheranie Boyd and Todd Harrelson showed signs of being able to help during the spring.

3. Motivation: The Tar Heels are ineligible to play in a bowl game this coming season because of probation for violations committed during Davis’ tenure. How will Fedora and his staff keep the players motivated this fall? The Tar Heels are saying all the right things, but how will they react when they face adversity this coming season? This team has been through so much the past two seasons, they’ll have plenty of experience in dealing with problems.