December 26, 2011

Football team needs fresh start

Two years of controversy and chaos in the Carolina football program ended in a train wreck at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., on Monday.

Missouri's offense moved at will, as UNC's collection of future National Football League players on defense made a joke of that distinction. The defense did not read plays, nor tackle well. On offense, Dwight Jones acted as if someone had chopped off his hands at times.

Time and again, he turned his head to run before he secured the ball.

Perhaps it is fitting the game went this way. The Tar Heels held it together admirably for the better part of two years, far longer than many of us would have thought possible.

But with a new head coach hired, the current assistants looking for jobs and too many players thinking ahead to the NFL draft, this bowl game became the perfect storm of all that can go wrong.

Ugly. There is no other way to describe the ending to a season in which the kids and fired Coach Butch Davis' former staff did a superb job of holding it together when the team and program could have unraveled from the beginning.

There is no way most Carolina fans are not going to be happy to see offensive coordinator John Shoop leave.

A prime example why Shoop drives Tar Heel fans nuts is when quarterback Bryn Renner hit Jones for a first down at the 2-yard line with around 1 minute and 10 seconds left in the first half against Missouri.

Anyone who has ever watched a football game knows the only sensible play from there is to put in senior running back Ryan Houston and let him carry the ball four times if necessary. It probably would only have taken one or two tries from the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Houston to score a touchdown.

Instead, Shoop had to show everyone how brilliant he is and UNC misfired on three pass attempts and settled for a field goal with UNC trailing 31-7. So the Tar Heels went to the locker room down 31-10 when it should have been 31-14.

This bowl game proved to be the perfect example why a program needed an overhaul in leadership. The coaching staff did not prepare this team to play its final game of the season.

Who knows, given the overall situation maybe few could have done a better job. There is no way we will ever know.

I just know this: The majority of players on this team have undergone far more misery than they deserved. A few players betrayed their teammates, as did an egomaniacal assistant coach in John Blake.

But a new regime is on its way. Coach Larry Fedora is now the coach, and he has already assembled most of his coaching staff.

That group will hit the road as soon as the recruiting dead period ends. Fedora has the kind of engaging personality that makes him a born recruiter. He is oozing with confidence, and he is coming off a 12-win season in which his Southern Mississippi team defeated previously unbeaten Houston in the Conference USA championship game.

Southern Miss then won its bowl game.

The Tar Heels need him; the program needs him; the school needs him; the fans need him.

There is far and away enough talent for Fedora to make an immediate impact by winning, too. He is inheriting more talent than any new coach at UNC since Dick Crum succeeded Bill Dooley.

His first big recruiting job will be to convince Kevin Reddick and some other good players with eligibility remaining to stay another year. Then his next biggest job will be to win this team's minds and hearts as much as possible before spring practice and beyond.

Then and only then can the Tar Heels avoid another horrible excuse of a performance that they gave in Shreveport, La., on Monday.



 

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