Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 9, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 35 of 55

36 OCT. 9, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED field as he is on it, and according to Jones, Surratt has the work ethic teams want in their signal-caller. "He's a very smart young man, studies film religiously," Jones said. "He embraces mistakes so he can learn from them and is extremely competi- tive. He has the potential to be as good as any quarterback North Carolina has produced, including its recent string of excellent quarterbacks." Surratt won't be able to reach his potential until the UNC offensive line performs better. Despite losing three veteran players, the Tar Heels are actually a group with a great deal of experience. The issue has been the unit hasn't come together, at least not yet. "Banged up, little chemistry, lack toughness and a grinder," Jones said when asked to explain the line strug- gles. "They actually start two seniors and two grad transfers, so you'd think they would be better. … Injuries are a part of the game, so with that said, it's safe to say the offensive line has been the biggest disappointment as a posi- tion group on the team thus far." The return of seven starters on de- fense — including nine of the team's top 10 tacklers from a season ago — was expected to result in improve- ments for a unit that gave up 24.9 points, 227.3 rushing yards and 408.1 total yards per game a season ago. Those expectations and the experi- ence returning to the lineup made the 1,174 yards and 82 points allowed in the first two games even more disap- pointing. "They were awful the first two weeks," Jones stated. "They were passive, always in zone, never blitzed and were employing a system that required constant communication, and not just in pre-snap." After giving up 47 points and 705 yards to Louisville, defensive coor- dinator John Papuchis was forced to make changes. Over the next two tilts, North Carolina yielded 352.0 yards per outing. Still, the Tar Heels were surrendering an average of 33.0 points and 469.5 total yards per game through four weeks. "It was a disaster, so after the Louisville game some of that was scrapped," Jones explained. "They went more to the basics and picked up the pressure. Lots of nickel pack- ages with man coverage on the cor- ners, blitzing from multiple spots and the use of more players to stay fresher has helped, too." Like the offense, the Tar Heel de- fense has also been ravaged by inju- ries. Junior linebacker Andre Smith (113 tackles in 2016) is out for the year, veteran defensive end Tyler Powell is another that is done for the season and junior defensive tackle Jalen Dalton is out indefinitely. One healthy player that has lived up to high expectations through four games is senior cornerback M.J. Stewart. Rated this year by Pro Foot- ball Focus as one of the seven fast- est draft risers following week four, Stewart has been disruptive in every facet of the game. "He's a football player who is sculpted to play the corner," Jones said. "He's physically tough, like a strong safety, but covers exception- ally well. "He's smart, has a knack for step- ping up in big situations, and he's become a terrific leader. He's an NFL player, no doubt about it." Through four games, Stewart had made 16 tackles. His four tackles for loss ranked third on the team, plus he led the squad in sacks (two) and passes broken up (four). In addition, junior linebacker Cole Holcomb had notched a team-high 31 tackles (one for loss) through four contests. Despite the improvement on de- fense against Old Dominion and Duke, Jones is concerned about the unit's ability to handle Notre Dame junior quarterback Brandon Wim- bush, who ranked third in the nation with seven rushing touchdowns and 26th in rushing yards (366) through four weeks. "Even though he's struggled pass- ing the ball some, North Carolina was embarrassed by Jackson, and that is going to happen sometimes," Jones noted. "But the Tar Heels actu- ally struggled some with the third quarterback Old Dominion used, and he was a dual-threat kid as well. "The Heels have had trouble in re- cent years dealing with a quarterback that passes well enough and can run it really well. … It would not surprise me to see Wimbush post some really nice numbers against the Tar Heels." ✦ GAME PREVIEW: NORTH CAROLINA 2017 NORTH CAROLINA SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 2 California L, 35-30 Sept. 9 Louisville L, 47-35 Sept. 16 at Old Dominion W, 53-23 Sept. 23 Duke L, 27-17 Sept. 30 at Georgia Tech L, 33-7 Oct. 7 Notre Dame (ABC) 3:30 p.m. Oct. 14 Virginia TBA Oct. 21 at Virginia Tech TBA Oct. 28 Miami (Fla.) TBA Nov. 9 at Pittsburgh (ESPN) 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 Western Carolina TBA Nov. 25 at NC State TBA Junior linebacker Cole Holcomb notched a team- high 31 tackles through four games, but North Carolina allowed 33.0 points and 469.5 total yards per contest during its 1-3 start. PHOTO BY JEFFREY A. CAMARATI/COURTESY UNC 2017 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 2 Temple W, 49-16 Sept. 9 Georgia L, 20-19 Sept. 16 at Boston College W, 49-20 Sept. 23 at Michigan State W, 38-18 Sept. 30 Miami (Ohio) W, 52-17 Oct. 7 North Carolina (ABC) 3:30 p.m. Oct. 21 USC (NBC) 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 NC State (NBC) 3:30 p.m. Nov. 4 Wake Forest (NBC) 3:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at Miami (Fla.) TBA Nov. 18 Navy (NBC) 3:30 p.m. Nov. 25 at Stanford TBA

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Oct. 9, 2017