As if preparing for Georgia Tech's triple-option offense wasn't enough, North Carolina defenders now have to worry about a new formation the Yellow Jackets unveiled last week in a rout of Duke.
Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson calls it the "diamond" formation: The quarterback lines up in the shotgun, with running backs on each side and a fullback behind him. Tech's coaching staff had been working on the formation since spring practice and sprung it on Duke.
"With the diamond, just switching back and forth from the diamond to going under center and stuff like that, it really makes you [a defensive player] have to focus in and make sure that you know your assignments, know your keys," Tech fullback David Sims told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "That's some of the confusion that we want caused with it."
UNC coach Larry Fedora said Tech ran "probably 25 snaps" out of the formation against Duke.
"I feel like they did it just because they could, honestly," UNC defensive tackle Tim Jackson told The Associated Press. "Another wrinkle for you to prepare for. I'm not sure if they're even going to run that against us, but it just gives you another reason to prepare for them, another 30 minutes that you have to spend watching film on their formations."
UNC obviously didn't do enough film prep last season, when the Yellow Jackets won 68-50 in the highest-scoring game in ACC history.
"I think we recall on Georgia Tech every day, every week," Tar Heels free safety Tre Boston told reporters in August. "It's just one of those things where we will never let that happen again."
Tech is third nationally in rushing offense (356.0 yards per game), and that has to worry the Heels. UNC has given up 386 rushing yards to South Carolina and Middle Tennessee, teams not nearly as proficient as Tech in running the ball.
A constant refrain when a team is readying to play an opponent that uses the triple option is that defenders can't freelance. Fedora said there is a delicate balance between taking chances and playing a read-and-react style against the triple option.
"You always want your defense to play aggressively, there's no doubt about it," Fedora said at his Monday news conference. "But at the same time, you've got to be responsible for your option responsibilities. . . . So it boils down to being disciplined. You can still play hard and be very disciplined, so if we play hard and we've got a lot of guys running to the football, we have a chance."
Georgia Tech has won seven of the past eight and 13 of the past 15 meetings between the teams and haven't lost at home to UNC since 1997, when Mack Brown was the Heels' coach.