North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson spoke with reporters following Tuesday afternoon's practice. He answered several questions about multiple components of the Tar Heel offense, and where the team stands just days before Saturday's season opener in Kenan Stadium against Elon.
How does the team look now that they're in game week?
Steady progress. We look like a bunch of guys who are ready to play somebody else.
(We're still having issues with) the usual things, a few 'lack of focus' things here at the end (of practice) where you can tell the nervous energy of getting ready to play has kind of set in. They did a good job at the end of cleaning it up, had a good two-minute drive.
I just think they're really ready to challenge themselves and play somebody else and just really find out what we are and who we're going to be and what we need to fix.
In terms of timing, do you feel that you're where you want to be at this point?
You know, it's hard to say. It's a new group. I guess the best thing for me just measuring, we have made continuous, steady progress. I think it's still really hard to tell until you get a couple of games into the season.
You hope that when you're not going with an early whistle, and guys are having the ability to break tackles and things you hope to create more explosive plays than in practice. Right now it's hard to tell because it's a quick whistle. And you just really don't know.
Our guys have just not been in the transition of the officials, ball being set, moving with the chains, enough to really understand just how fast they can play. And I think all that is going to come from making corrections from game tape.
But we're making less mistakes than we started with. And some guys are starting to step up and help us a little bit. We're getting a little bit more depth that maybe we didn't have before. So I feel that we're moving in the right direction.
Talk about your familiarity with tight ends coach Walt Bell......
Walt played for me in college, and so he played in this type of system. And so really we've been doing it for the last 15 years or so. He's coached with me in a couple of places. He's played in it, so he knows as a player and as a quarterback and as a receiver. It's just a good mix. He just has the comfort level (with the spread offense) because he's been in it so long, as have I.
With the speed that you run at, do you have to have 25, 30 plays scripted in advance?
Typically like any offense, huddle or spread no-huddle, you're going to script some things early, and then the game is going to dictate kind of where you go from there.
We always script some things to help get us in a comfort level of what we want to get to or who you want to get the ball to like you would in any offense. And then from there the flow and the rhythm of the game is going to kind to take you where you want to go.
How quickly are the officials setting the ball? How well are you running the ball and are you throwing or catching well that day? Does somebody have a hot hand or not? All that takes you in the direction of what you're going to be on Saturday.
So you try to get yourself in position to be there by scripting some things ahead of time.
With the running backs, how confident do you feel about all three of those main guys?
I've been really pleased with all three. You knew coming in that Gio (Bernard) had a good spring and had a good season last year, but (A.J.) Blue and Romar (Morris) have been really pleasant surprises and have given us depth that we didn't really know we had. You hoped we had it but you didn't know how they would come back after the summer.
They've come back ready to play and it's going to help us tremendously. It's going to take all three to win games.
What have you seen out of Sean Tapley to give you confidence to put him in there with the starters?
I thought he did a great job in the spring earning his way up the ladder. He was one of our better guys, if you talk to the strength guys, he was a great leader over the summer.
He came back in great shape. He had a good spring. He knows what to do. He doesn't have 'busts', and he gives great effort. So he's been steady.
I think the benefit of being able to break tackles and play out in open space with a live football will help him as well. I don't know that we've really seen him enough in live situations to know what his ceiling is going to be.
UNC only has two healthy guys currently playing receiver that have caught a pass in a college game going into Saturday. Does that kind of weigh you on at all, or is that overrated?
Thanks for reminding me (laughing). We use a lot of guys. We always have. We spread it around to everybody on the field. It's part of what I think makes us difficult to defend.
I guess I take the approach that somebody is going to step up. I don't lose a lot of sleep wondering who it's going to be. I just kind of feel like we create an environment where everybody thinks they're going to get a chance to make a play.
We welcome guys that can step up. Obviously we know at some point a playmaker is going to stand above everybody else, but I just feel like there's some other guys who are going to step in and make plays.
We're going to play with the eleven out there and run what we run and try to execute as best we can.
Have you seen flashes of potential with guys to give you faith that some of them can step up?
Absolutely. Roy Smith has been a surprise to be able to help give depth at the 'A,' and Quinshad Davis has been a pleasant surprise as well, and Mark McNeill. These guys, we didn't know anything about in the spring.
We knew Quinshad would be a good player coming in, but how early? For him to be stepping in like he is and making plays, that's huge. In terms of depth, that creates opportunity. It keeps guys fresh. It lets you keep fresh legs on the field.
We'll play eight or nine different wideouts and try to play as fast and as fresh as we can. And those three guys give you the depth to do it.
WIth the depth at tight end how does it help you not only in the passing game, but also versatility with formations and things like that?
It's a luxury that we haven't always had. Those guys being able to do as many things, does create, I would think, some difficulties for the defense.
It will allow us to be in a lot of formations that maybe typically we haven't been able to with two or three tight ends on the field, which I would think as a coordinator on defense would present some issues for them. So we'll definitely use that as best we can.
How much right now are you looking at Elon, or are you still looking at what you have to get right?
We're definitely looking at Elon. They present a lot of problems for us. But in any opening game, you're your own worst enemy. No matter who you play the first game of the season, you can't make mistakes. You can't turn the ball over.
So it is a lot about who we are, and us not creating mistakes.
We've got to take care of us but you've always got to respect your opponent. Which we do. And we've got to attack the things that they do or that they don't do in certain areas to have a chance to take advantage of it.