Monday, October 17, 2011

New AD and the direction of the football program

Well, Carolina just hired itself a new athletic director:  Bubba Cunningham.

This was a critical hire because the new AD will be responsible for hiring a new football coach ASAP, and, in all likelihood, he'll have to replace Roy before too long.  So, UNC needed someone who could get the job done.

Bubba sounds like a guy who could do that.  He doesn't have much experience hiring big-name basketball coaches, but the UNC name should be able to attract great coaches in basketball.  In football, he hired Brady Hoke and Todd Graham to Ball State and Tulsa respectively, and those coaches have both moved onto better gigs.  He also has connections with other rising coaching stars like Chris Petersen and Gus Malzahn.  So, this guy knows good football coaches, which is something UNC desperately needs out of an AD.

Before this past weekend, I wanted to convince myself that maybe UNC didn't need a new football coach.  I thought Everett Withers might have a chance to win the permanent job.  Judging from some of Bubba's comments, that seems highly unlikely.  It's even more unlikely after the big egg UNC laid on Saturday against Miami.  They came out flat and fell behind 27-3 at one point before battling back to a respectable final score.  Still, I feel like this coaching staff "left some meat on the bone" - to steal a line from Coach Withers.

On offense, OC John Shoop continues to out-think himself with slow-developing plays that lead to sacks.  Nevermind that Gio Bernard gashed Miami the entire game.  Instead of feeding the beast, Shoop wrecked drive after drive with play-action fakes, reverses, fake reverses, etc. that often ended with Bryn Renner being sacked from his blind side.  Then, when UNC was down 3 scores in the 4th quarter, Shoop called Bernard's number so often I had to keep looking at the scoreboard to make sure I didn't have the score backwards.  There was no sense of urgency, all the way up until the final seconds when UNC tried to drive for the winning score.  They never ran any semblance of a no-huddle offense.  Unfortunately, I don't think that's in Shoop's playbook.  He likes the ball-control, clock-eating, chess game mentality on offense - not the quick strike approach.  When the offense needs a sense of urgency, I'm not sure Shoop can flip the switch to that.  It's unfortunate because this offense has all the tools to be great.

Withers and DC Art Kaufman don't get a pass for the defense either.  They have a talented group, but the soft zone that they employ is entirely too conservative for the offense UNC runs.  The reasoning Withers continues to give is that he doesn't care so much about yards - he'll give up yards between the 20's if the defense can shut down the opposition in the red zone.  The problem with this philosophy is that it keeps the defense on the field way too long and it's no good if your offense can't score.  Plus, UNC didn't stop Miami much in the red zone Saturday.

At this point, I'm ready for a change in philosophy.  I'm assuming that will probably have to come in the form of a new coaching staff, and I'm fine with that.  I'd love to see a mentality that is more high-octane on offense and aggressive on defense.  If the offense can score points, it doesn't much matter if you get beat a couple of times being aggressive on defense.  At least if the other team scores quickly, you get another opportunity to score again on offense.  If your offense is proficient enough, that should be seen as a good thing.  In theory, you would want to maximize your number of offensive possessions, hoping that your defense is good enough to stop the opposition's offense more than their defense can stop yours.  If UNC had that philosophy this year, it could be a very dangerous team.  Unfortunately, we'll have to continue to watch this team try to grind out some wins, at least for another five games or so.