‘Boning Up on the Heels

Today’s the day, folks!

We’ve waited for months, scoured every source, and strained for every tidbit for the better part of 2015.  And all of that anticipation culminates with tonight’s kickoff against our powder blue neighbors to the north, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

Don’t feel prepared?  Don’t know what to expect from the 2015 Edition of the Heels?

Well, its time to get ‘Boned Up.

Remember, these are actual colleges with actual students:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a coeducational public university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  “Carolina” (so-called) claims to be a “Public Ivy” as it purports to provide an Ivy League experience for public school prices admission standards eh, they get some public tax dollars.  The university was founded in 1795, which makes it one of the few in the United States older than our own.   The school’s endowment is north of $2.7 billion (that’s with a “B”) which compares to our own endowment of [redacted to save embarrassment – let’s just say we have a certain percentage of theirs and leave it at that].   The two schools have a similar enrollment, hovering in each case around 30,000 students.

Thought this was a furious sailor conch shell until I was ten years old

Thought this was a furious sailor sea shell until I was ten years old

The school’s official motto is Lux libertas, which roughly translated means something about light and liberty but doesn’t really qualify as a complete thought or establish causation or anything.  It also reminds me of the underappreciated 2010 movie Electra Luxx starring Carla Gugino and I’m sorry I just lost interest in latin phrases, universities, or even football for that matter.

Traditions

The university sports a tree that the founder, William Richardson Davie, planted that’s appropriately called the “Davie Poplar.”   He’s long dead, and the tree is apparently near death, so the Tarheels are cloning them.  Well, the tree anyway.   They also have a gazebo that they call the “Old Well” which is based on a copy of a structure at Versailles that is itself a loose copy of an ancient Temple to Aphrodite, who didn’t exist.  They have a statue of a soldier they call Silent Sam (since he’s a statue, he doesn’t talk – get it?)  Silent Sam doesn’t have any ammunition on his belt for the rifle he is carrying.  Because he’s a pacifist.  Seriously, that’s what they claim.

The weirdest thing about them:

They cheat.  A ton.  I mean they take cheating to a level that almost has to be admired.  For a school that purports to hold the highest academic standards, and loves to tout its own intellectual superiority, this pattern is particularly galling and ironic.   Their own internal investigation found that UNC systematically kept student athletes eligible for over twenty year by enrolling them in classes that lacked textbooks, assignments, exams, and in some cases, even teachers.   The NCAA has an open investigation into the matter, and serious penalties appear imminent.  They better be serious anyway, given that these violations go to the very heart of the definition of student-athlete.

For comparison, we’ve been placed on probation by the NCAA during the recent past for such abominable crimes as tutoring a student too early, and having a private landlord work with some students who were behind on rent.

Moving on:

There’s no whitewashing the truth about UNC football – it plays second fiddle to the basketball program.  And we take advantage of this lack of emphasis by recruiting the heck out of the state – the Charlotte area particularly.  Occasionally we engage in heated recruiting battles with the Tar Heels, and once in a while we actually lose a common football recruit to them.   Their starting left tackle, sophomore Bentley Spain, is one example as he spurned the Gamecocks (and others) to sign with North Carolina in 2013.   Wide receiver Quinshad Davis is another example, and a South Carolina native at that, but I don’t think we pushed hard for his services for some reason.

The talent  on the North Carolina roster appears to balance on the offensive side of the ball, and they return a ton of experience.  Only their tight end, Kendrick Singleton, is new from last year’s starting eleven, and he’s a senior.  Being a Larry Fedora coached group, their offense likes to stress opposing defenses with up-tempo, pass-happy attacks.  When they’re clicking, the Tar Heels can score a ton of points.

Defensively, UNC was statistically even worse than our Gamecocks last year, and that’s no mean feat.  Gene Chizik, late of the Finest Football Players and Championships That Money Can Buy University (also known as Auburn) took over the defense in the offseason, and his addition was a instant upgrade over former coordinator Vic Keonning.

In the end, we both have suspect defenses, with the ‘Heels having the more established offense.

One wrinkle to watch for this year:

Our new defensive approach, the much-ballyhooed ‘Tampa 2’ defense, usually asks the cornerbacks to jam wide receivers at the line, and then sink into zone coverage aimed at the short throws.   The intermediate to long routes are then left to the linebackers and safeties.  The Fedora Offense, on the other hand, emphasizes quick, high-percentage passes over longer patterns.

In other words, our cornerbacks are gonna be sore on Friday morning.  The soundness of their tackling, both of the aforementioned quick passes and the UNC perimeter run game, will go a long way toward establishing the outcome of the contest.

But anyway. . . .

That player you are going to hate:

Junior Wide Receiver Ryan Switzer.  He’s short, quick, and tough as nails.  Last year he torched opposing defenses for 61 receptions and almost 700 yards.   He is also an accomplished punt return man, and can lay the wood on a downfield block.  He almost single-handedly beat Georgia Tech into submission last year.  You’re gonna hate him.

The Enigma:

Cornerback Malik Simmons.  After two off-season arrests, and one summer-long suspension, the senior defensive back lost a ton of credibility among the Tarheel fanbase.  The coaching staff still loves the guy, however, as they were more than willing to reinstate him to the team just in time to start preseason practice.  Whether his off-season troubles impact his on-the-field performance remains to be seen.

The Ingenue:

Freshman running back Ty’son Williams.  If the ‘Heels have an offensive weakness, its their pedestrian running back corps.  The former four-star recruit from SUMTER, SOUTH CAROLINA HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN looks to move up the depth chart quickly.    Let’s hope his emergence is still a couple of weeks away.

The thing that will tell the tale:

It’s an old saw, of course, but first games usually come down to turnovers and penalties.   While that may favor the Tarheels (given their offensive experience), I’m going to take the advice of the HBC, and adopt a wait-and-see approach.  After all, he says our guys are gonna “play their asses off.”

William Carlos Williams explains further:

so much depends
upon

our fresh new

players

starting for the first

time

leading the game

roosters

Oh, I forgot to mention:

Marquise Williams, their 6’2″ dual threat senior quarterback.  Last year he led the ‘Heels in passing AND rushing.  How on earth did I forget this guy?

OK, consider yourself all ‘bonzed up on North Carolina!

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