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August 28, 2012
Tar Heel trio
The spread offense is supposed to move quickly, which means that some of those 11 players are going to have to rotate with teammates in order to play for 60 minutes.
"It all started when Coach [Larry Fedora] first got here," running back Giovani Bernard said. "He told us that everything is about speed in this offense. Everything is about being a great tempo team.
"We've done a great job of handling ourselves in conditioning," Bernard said. "[Strength coach] Lou Hernandez has done a great job with strength and explosiveness.
"We're just ready. We're ready to show everyone what we've been working on. Once we get out there and they start marking the ball down, the fans are going to cheer and the next play is going to be up."
Fedora said running back is one of those spots in which multiple players will have to perform.
"I would imagine all three guys will be on the field at some point at the running back position," Fedora said. "And really, the way we've done it, it's all about production. So the first guy who is out there, if he is producing, he is going to have the majority of the reps.
"We're going to keep him out there and keep him going as long as he can go. Then the next guy will come in. We don't have it set: This guy is going to get this many reps. That guy going to get that many reps. All three of them are involved in special teams, and that is very important. So they are all going to be on the field quite a bit."
Those three are Giovani Bernard, Romar Morris and A.J. Blue.
"I think all of us will play a lot," Bernard said. "You look at Oregon, they had those three backs that did a great job. With this offense we have and the running corps that we have, we kind of need three guys.
"A.J. Blue and Romar have done a great job this entire camp. We won't miss a beat. We've all done a great job of meshing each other together and getting better."
"I've been really pleased with all three," added offensive coordinator Blake Anderson. "You knew coming in that Gio had a good spring and had a good season last year, but Blue and Romar have been really pleasant surprises and have given us depth that we didn't really know we had."
"You hoped we had it but you didn't know how they would come back after the summer. They've come back ready to play and it's going to help us tremendously. It's going to take all three to win games," Anderson added.
Bernard is obviously the starter. He set himself apart as one of the finest runners in the country last season, not just the ACC. He ran for 1,253 yards. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns.
Nonetheless, Bernard is far from satisfied.
"I'm trying to get better in every aspect of my game," Bernard said. "I want to be a better player. I'm just excited.
"I think with this offense, I have been able to adapt to it real well," Bernard said.
Another player who has adjusted is Blue, Bernard said.
Blue has changed his entire view of the game, Bernard said. For example, starting quarterback Bryn Renner said that Blue has the strongest arm of anyone on the team, and that is saying something with the arm strength Renner possesses.
But Bernard and Renner agreed that Blue no longer views himself or the field from the perspective of a quarterback.
"Mentally, he's smarter," Bernard said. "He's looked at it as a quarterback. Now he is looking at it as a running back. He sees those cut-back lanes a lot easier. As a quarterback, he didn't know the run game that well.
"But he's lost weight. He's able to make those cuts that many times he would not have been able to make with more pounds on him. He's changed physically and mentally. With this whole new Fedora era, he's been able to change with it."
Blue is going to make a huge impact on this team, in many different ways, Renner said.
"Last year he came in on third down and got us some crucial first downs," Renner said. "That is the type of guy he is. He has never complained once.
"He's had some bad cards dealt to him," Renner said. "He was the second-team running back and he blew his knee out. I can honestly say he is one of the best leaders on this team. When we look to someone for how to face adversity and bounce back, we look to A.J. Blue."