The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, June 17, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

SpoSat: Wildcat offense wields weapon with QB Blue

Coordinator anticipates production

... on Saturday, September 26, 2009 at Grant Field at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.
... on Saturday, September 26, 2009 at Grant Field at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.

When asked what he wanted to do more on the field, quarterback A.J. Blue gave an answer befitting of a freshman quarterback.

“I definitely want to throw more,” Blue said. “But Coach Davis doesn’t want to put more on me than I can handle right now, so I guess he’s just taking it slow.”

Talk about an understatement. The young signal-caller has appeared in all four of North Carolina’s games as a quarterback, but has thrown only a single pass — a 24-yard completion to Erik Highsmith.

But to say all Blue does is hand the ball off would be misleading.

He’s taken the reins of UNC’s version of the Wildcat offense, a trendy formation that has been sweeping through football at all levels since Darren McFadden and Felix Jones found success with it at Arkansas.

Offensive coordinator John Shoop said he began toying with the idea of adding this package to the offensive playbook when UNC started to recruit Blue a year and a half ago. With a logjam at the quarterback position, Shoop knew he would have to be creative to get the ball in Blue’s hands.

“He can throw the ball, run the ball, catch the ball, do all kinds of things. He’s kind of a throwback athlete,” Shoop said. “I think the defensive coaches are fighting for him, too.”

Still, UNC’s Wildcat experiment has only produced up-and-down results during its first trial.

Blue has completed the aforementioned one pass and gained a modest 17 yards on nine carries, but Shoop said the package was instrumental in providing a spark during North Carolina’s wins against Connecticut and East Carolina.

Shoop said he thinks the production from the Wildcat should improve once Blue begins to get more comfortable coming off the bench cold.

Blue shared similar sentiments with Shoop. He said that finding a rhythm when he only gets into the game for a couple plays is difficult, especially with the added pressure of reduced playing time if the offense makes a mistake.

“I know that they’re looking for big plays out of it — that’s why we’re running it,” Blue said. “But if not, then we’re not going to run it again.”

As for throwing the ball, Blue said Shoop and the rest of the offensive coaches are playing it close to the chest.

He personally has “no clue” when he’ll be called on to throw the ball again, but added that he throws the ball regularly when the offense practices the Wildcat.

Shoop simply unfurled a coy smile and declined to comment  on  when Blue would throw the ball again.

But he did hint at a few tricks UNC has up its sleeves when discussing Blue’s potential.

“I think A.J. Blue’s going to have more production throughout the season, whether it’s at quarterback, running back, receiver or different spots,” Shoop said.

“He’s a weapon, and we want to use him.”

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.