UNC cornerbacks preparing for Old Dominion's spread offense

When North Carolina’s defensive backs take the field to face off against Old Dominion Saturday, odds are they’ll be tested.

Early and often.

The Monarchs run a fast-paced offense, with quarterback Taylor Heinicke slinging the ball all over the field. They have four receivers who’ve caught 40 or more passes and two that have scored nine touchdowns each. Last season, Heinicke set the Division I record for passing yards in a single game with 730.

So how can it be stopped?

That’s the question that UNC’s secondary has to answer, or fall victim again to a high-powered offense.

“We’re gonna have to cover,” coach Larry Fedora said, “Try to make (Heinicke) hold the ball a little bit so our defensive front can get to him.”

Easier said than done. The last time a high-powered spread offense came to town, the result wasn’t pretty, and East Carolina sailed out of Chapel Hill with a 55-31 victory. That memory still lingers in the mind of senior defensive back Jabari Price. A memory he hopes not to repeat Saturday.

In order to do that, he and fellow defensive back junior Tim Scott will have to play lockdown coverage.

Heinicke’s two favorite targets are Larry Pinkard and Antonio Vaughan, who are at the top of team statistics in catches, yards and touchdowns. The likely candidates to be charged with the task of covering them are Price and Scott.

Scott says he’s going to play his game, sticking to what he knows.

“We’re not gonna switch it up just for them,” Scott said, “So when we get into the game we’re just gonna play the way we play and know our assignments.”

Price is taking a different approach. Pinkard and Vaughan don’t boast a lot of size — neither of them are taller than six feet — but their speed and quickness, paired with their quarterback’s pinpoint accuracy, are what have led them to the end zone often this season. Price says after looking at film of Old Dominion’s game against Maryland, his strategy is to be physical at the line.

“We want to take the approach to get in their face and put our hands on them,” Price said. “We saw it on tape where some teams like Maryland were physical with them, and they struggled with Maryland. We saw that, so I think that’s an approach we want to mimic.”

Maryland held the Monarchs to a season-low 10 points, and beat them in blowout fashion. And if the Tar Heel defensive backs can put the same sort of coverage on Old Dominion’s stars, it would be a key first step in passing the test that’s coming their way.

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