Friday, October 28, 1977 Weekender 7
Gicauour positions don 9t determine victor
Special teams could make Heels a winner (or loser)
By LEE PACE
Assistant Sports Editor
The way Carolina football coaches and
players look at things, a football game is
composed of three smaller ones.
The card for this week's clash at
Maryland, for instance, .includes the Tar
Heel offense vs. the Terrapin defense, the
Tar Heel defense against the Terrapin
offense and the Tar Heel special teams
against the Maryland special teams.
The team winning two out of three of these
mini-contests, they'll tell you, is likely to win
That's why fans tuning their televisions to
Saturday's game shouldn't be solely
concerned with how many times Dee
Hardison sacks Larry Dick, or how many
passes Matt Rupee completes.
The performance of people such as Ken
Mack on the punt return team, Stan
Lancaster on the kickoff and punt coverage
teams and Mike Finn on the kickoff return
team could have a lot to do with whether the
Tar Heels return to Chapel Hill with a solid
grip on first place in the ACC or whether
they return as one of the several teams
bunched at the top.
"The special teams definitely play a big
part," said Mack, who captains the kickoff
and punt return teams. "They seem to get
more and more prominent. If, say the punt
return team can go out and do a good job
and get good field position, then that's a big
factor. But if something might go wrong and
we mess up, then we're in bad field position,
and that puts more pressure on the offense."
So far this season, the Heels have been less
than impressive returning punts. Mel
Collins, has returned 15 punts for 42 yards,
which averages 2.8 yards a return. And the
Heels as a team have, returned only 17 of 48
"It seems like the punter for every team
we've played has a great game against us,"
Mack said. "It's like they know we have Mel
Collins back there, and they know how
dangerous he can be and that he can do a
super job if he gets started.
"He's come real close just one or two
men away from breaking one several
times. 1 think the Lord is sort ofwaitingfora
big game when we really need it before we
break one. We know we can do it. It's like
we're saving it for a big game."
Mack explained that it's not a case of
Collins' fielding a punt and doing whatever
he wants. There's a set play for each return.
The return team knows each punt whether
Collins will try the left or right sideline or the
"If it's a sideline return, everybody holds
Friday and Saturday
WITH PAUL MILESI
up the man opposite him for a few seconds
and then gets downfield to set up a wall,"
Mack said. "If it's middle, you hold the man
as long as you can. If he gets away you chase
him down field."
No return is planned when Carolina has
an all-out block attempt pending. Ten men
rush on these occasions with either Ricky
Barden, Tyress Bratton or Mark Sturgis
two of whom line up as ends designated to
make the primary dive at the kick. They aim
their charge five to six yards in front of where
the punter lines up:
Kickoff returns are executed much
differently than punt returns, but the goal is
the same: get the offense good field position
from which to work.
"We haven't had much chance on kickoff
returns so far," Finn said. "We just haven't
given up many touchdowns."
And he'd just as soon keep it that way. But
on those occasions when Carolina does have
to return a kickoff, one can usually expect to
see Delbert Powell taking the kick straight
up the middle.
The offensive interior linemen position
themselves on the front line, near midfield.
Two ends and a fullback comprise the next
line, near the 30. Powell is positioned on the
goaline, flanked by two halfbacks. Finn
explained that each man on the kicking team
is numbered, with each Tar Heel assigned
one man. When the ball is kicked, the front
lines retreat about 15 yards before going for
"On the middle return everyone blocking
tries to get inside his man, pushing him out,"
Finn said. "You can't block below the waist,
so you try to hit him high and stay with him.
r Eft kv Lvrftt,. v n V-
One of the jobs of the special teams Is to try to biocx punt and field goal attempts, as
Francis Winters (48) attempted in UNC's loss to Texas Tech earlier this season.
Photo by Robert Willett.
The people running downfield have the
advantages over us, but then all we need is a
Finn said that most returns are to the
middle because it's extremely difficult to get
outside of a well-disciplined kicking team.
Lancaster and Mack are both members of
Carolina's kickoff team, one which prides
itself on keeping the opposition inside its 20
yard line. "If we can keep them inside the 20,
their offense will come out and say 'by gosh,
we've got 80 yards to go to score.' It helps the
defense," Lancaster said.
Carolina divides the field into eight lanes,
with eight players on the kicking team
responsible for one lane apiece. The two men
lined up closest to each sideline are to make
sure the runner doesn't get outside, while the
two on each side of kicker Tom Biddle are to
clog the middle of the field. Biddle acts as
safety man. The other two players are "spear
men," who go wherever the ball goes.
One of the big problems on covering
kickoffs as well as punts is keeping oneself
under control while sprinting downfield.
Covering punts is relatively simple. On the
snap to Johnny Elam, each Tar Heel hits his
assigned man once, then takes off downfield.
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