Expectations high for UNC football

With a new head coach leading the way last year, the North Carolina football team went 8-4, topped the Coastal Division and earned its best record since 1997.

Now, with a year of experience already behind coach Larry Fedora, the Tar Heels know their coach’s expectations and system even better this time around.

“It’s not even close, knowledge-wise,” Fedora said at the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro Saturday.

“They understand the scheme now. They understand what’s expected. Now what you get to see is guys aren’t thinking all the time.”

Because football players, Fedora said, perform best when they don’t have to concentrate on plays. Now that the Tar Heels have had a year to get comfortable with his system, they have a chance to thrive, he said.

“(Players) that have to think about what to do with their feet aren’t moving fast. They don’t look athletic,” Fedora said.

“Now you’re getting to see guys turn it loose and just play football.”

But it’s not like the Tar Heels weren’t playing football last year.

With averages of 40.6 points and 485.6 yards per game, UNC set several Tar Heel records offensively — but quarterback Bryn Renner admitted the team didn’t fully understand the pace with which Fedora wanted them to play.

“I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, not knowing where everybody was,” Renner said.

“It’s tough to play with confidence like that. The role is reversed this year.”

Renner — who currently boasts a career 154.59 efficiency rating — added he didn’t feel like the team had a solid grasp on Fedora’s system until its week six matchup against Virginia Tech, even though the Tar Heels scored at least 27 points in each of their first five games.

This year, after hard work by individual players in the offseason and small adjustments made to the offensive scheme, Renner said he thinks the offense has a chance to do better than they did in 2012, despite losing second-team All-American Giovani Bernard.

“Last year was a good stepping stone,” Renner said. “But I think we want to build off that.”

Second-team All-ACC defensive end Kareem Martin and members of the Tar Heel defense are also looking to improve on a season — one in which they ranked third nationally in tackles for a loss, with 8.1 per game.

And going into his senior season, Martin said he is expecting to help young players learn UNC’s complicated defense in the easiest way possible.

“For some guys it’s definitely difficult to learn,” Martin said. “I don’t think that’ll be a big problem after being with (Fedora) one year. (Veterans) are able to teach it to guys and maybe simplify it for them.” Martin said the familiarity between players and coaches will help UNC be even more successful this year.

“Last year we were still trying to learn (about) each other as players and coaches,” he said.

“Now that that’s over with I think we can definitely (perform better), because we know what they expect from us.”

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