Everyone is aware that the North Carolina Tarheels re-hired their old coach Mack Brown. Brown immediately retained excellent coordinators including Offensive Coordinator (OC) Phil Longo, formerly of Ole Miss. In last year’s game against the Rebels, Longo’s offense scored 44 points and accumulated 616 yards against the 2018 Gamecocks’ defense.
Philosophically, Longo employs the air raid spread style of offense. This is the high octane spread derived from Mike Leach or Hal Mumme offensive schemes. The receivers are taught to take what the defense gives them——to seek green grass. Quarterbacks and receivers read, react, and adjust to the defense on the fly.
Most assume the TarHeel air raid offense will be pass happy. However, Brown and Longo (quoted below) downplay expectations for 60-70 pass-attempt offense.
Brown has said the “Air Raid” description might be “overused” because he wants the Tar Heels to have a power running component to go with the ability to throw the ball downfield. And that’s where the trio of returning backs come in.
Brown, Tar Heels open camp with clear strength: running back
The philosophy is Air Raid – we throw the ball that way – but there’s going to be a downhill power run element to the offense that we think is very important
Rushing Attack in Play for Phil Longo’s Air Raid 247Rushing Attack in Play for Phil Longo’s Air Raid 247Rushing Attack in Play for Phil Longo’s Air Raid 247
The TarHeels announced that Sam Howell, a true freshman, is now QB1 for the TarHeels. The receivers are learning Longo’s new schemes and lack significant playing experience. Likewise, the first team offensive line lacks experience. Look at this first team offensive lineman chart.
The lack of experience on the OL must be a major concern for the Tarheel coaches. It is much more difficult to teach young offensive linemen to pass block. That would require communication and understanding perhaps beyond the capabilities of these young TarHeel lineman at this particular time, especially considering the multiple Gamecock defense. Pass blocking mistakes are inevitable.
The line’s inexperience coupled with inexperience at critical offensive position of quarterback and receiver suggest that undertaking a passing attack against the Gamecock defense would be a much riskier strategy than telling these big boys up front to cut loose and run bock. If Brown and Longo start pitching it all over the place on Saturday, interceptions and sacks seem probable.
Brown and Longo know that the strength of the TarHeel offense is the running backs. They have three excellent backs in Antonio Williams (5’11”, 210), an Ohio State transfer, speedy Michael Carter (5-9, 195), and Javonte Williams (5’10”, 205). The dual-threat, freshman quarterback Sam Howell (6’0″, 225) is build more like a running back than a prototypical NFL QB.
They know the 2018 Gamecocks defense yielded 195.3 yards per game rushing. In 2018, the Gamecocks ranked 95th overall in FCS against the rush.
There is no question the Tarheels will pass a good bit under Longo. However, I look for them to exploit their offensive strength, running back, and minimize risk. I would be very surprised if they exceed 30 pass attempts. They will test the Gamecocks with that big ole offensive line.