Tar Heels' offense waiting for playmakers to emerge
North Carolina was counting on a record-setting offense to pick up where it left off in Larry Fedora's first year. Instead, the Tar Heels just aren't putting up big numbers through the first month of the season.
"I don't know if there's an aspect of what we're doing offensively that we feel good about yet," Fedora said Monday.
The Tar Heels (1-2) have failed to reach 400 yards — an every-week occurrence in 2012 — in two of three games. They lost those games at South Carolina and Georgia Tech, scoring a total of 30 points.
"We're just not playing as well. It's as simple as that," Fedora said. "It would be easy if it was just one thing. If it was one thing, we'd get that one thing corrected. But there's a lot of things involved in it. We're still just not gelling as an offense yet."
Fedora brought a no-huddle spread offense with him from Southern Mississippi when he took over last year. Quarterback Bryn Renner thrived and led the Tar Heels to single-season records for scoring (40.6 points) and total offense (485.6 yards) in the scheme.
But Renner was also playing behind an offensive line that featured three NFL draft picks and in front of second-round selection Gio Bernard in the backfield.
Heading into Saturday's home game against East Carolina, the Tar Heels are still adjusting to the changes and waiting for new playmakers to emerge.
North Carolina scored at least 30 points in nine of 12 games last year, including two 60-point performances. That team gained at least 410 yards in every game.
This year's group started with just 10 points, the lowest total in 13 games under Fedora, and 292 yards in the loss to South Carolina. At least some of that reduced production could be attributed to a conservative game plan with plenty of screens and quick throws to account for star Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
The Tar Heels finished with 511 yards in a 40-20 home win against Middle Tennessee, and looked sharp in building a 20-7 lead late in the first half against Georgia Tech on Saturday.
But the Yellow Jackets controlled the clock and the UNC offense after halftime, holding the Tar Heels to 62 total yards after the break in a 28-20 loss.
Renner, who completed nearly 71 percent of his passes in the last four games of 2012, finished just 14-for-29 for 318 yards and an interception. It was the first time he had failed to complete at least half his throws under Fedora.
"I think at times we made it look easy (in 2012) just because of the caliber of players that we have," Renner said. "And every team's different. No one went in with the expectation that we were going to score 40 a game."