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March 28, 2013
Tar Heel Running Backs Stepping Up
Romar Morris on Wednesday afternoon to get a sense of where he is through a couple weeks of spring practice and how the backfield will have to pick up in this high-octane offense.Tar Heel Illustrated spoke with
Everyone will remember Giovanni Bernard of course, but North Carolina could possibly be working with another great tandem running backfield in 2013 with Morris and rising senior A.J. Blue.
Larry Fedora knows that Bernard will be a huge loss, but the Tar Heel coach is optimistic that there will be enough bodies between Blue, Morris, Khris Francis, Charles Brunson, and then the arrival this summer of Rivals 100 talent T.J. Logan, to get through the 2013 season at this vital position.
Morris commented Wednesday about what the running backs have been doing throughout the offseason to prepare for their increased role in the post-Bernard UNC offense.
"We all just need to work together, all the running backs. One of our best running backs (Bernard) left, so we all just need to work together, get the play book down, and if we keep working hard, it shouldn't make a big difference (that he's gone)."
Morris commented on the potential of having a tandem backfield between himself and Blue. Blue is currently running with the first team offense at tailback, but Morris is rotating in with the 'ones' while also getting heavy repetitions with the second offensive unit.
In what could essentially be a backfield such as the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, North Carolina could have a backfield with a bruiser and speedster, rotating in and out to change the tempo.
"You have to think of it like a thunder and lightning package. Blue comes in and bruises them up, while I come in and hit them with speed. It's just a great tandem and we should be good this year."
Last year Blue had 82 carries for 433 yards to go along with his nine touchdowns, and showed his potential with a 100-plus yard rushing outing at Wake Forest when Bernard was sidelined.
Blue will be looked upon this year to carry a heavier load, especially in short yardage and red zone carries.
Morris will be looked upon more catching the ball out of the backfield and as the speedster of the group.
Fedora knows what he has in the backfield coming into Spring practice and it certainly helped both players playing last year in the absence of Bernard, getting some experience for the coming season.
Morris was a key player coming behind Bernard last year, as he had 69 carries for 386 yards and two touchdowns, while catching the ball out in the backfield 12 times for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Morris explained what he has been working on in the offseason, and some of the goals he hopes to accomplish in 2013.
"I've been working on my craft," Morris replied. I've been trying to work on my footwork, my ball handling, my ball protection, and my pass blocking. I've been working hard on my pass blocking because last year, I wasn't as skilled but I have been working hard on pass blocking."
Later, Morris explained his expectations on special teams, as he will be looked upon more in that area as well.
"I'll be doing some kick returns, punt returns, and try to at least block three punts this year. Trying to get more punt blocks this year, my goal is to try to block three this year."
We wanted to get a sense of the team's urgency this year, since the Tar Heels weren't able to compete in the bowl game last year and now will be eligible again.
When asked if there was a greater sense of urgency in the team this year, trying to show that last year wasn't a fluke and they're going to have a chance to win the Coastal Division again, this is what Morris had to say.
"I think there's an urgency because last year we didn't have a bowl game, everybody was kind of down, but this year, were up and jumping. We should be hype for the bowl game, so we'll be ready for it."
No doubt about it though, the Tar Heels will have a dynamic backfield with Blue, Morris, Francis and with the addition of Logan.
The future should be bright for the Tar Heels at running back.