Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch discussed the Notre Dame game and looked ahead to this week's North Carolina matchup on Monday.
The Hurricanes (4-2, 3-0 in ACC) were plagued by drops against the Irish. Fisch agreed drops seem to be the only real negative that has affected his offense this season.
"It definitely has hampered us at times from really the Boston College game," Fisch said. "We kind of looked back and I think we had seven drops in that game and we had seven drops in this one. I think there are games where we are getting better at it. I don't think we were dropping it in the games that we had our bigger games in terms of production. We had less drops [in those]. This one got us. Against Kansas State we dropped a pretty good amount. It is one of those things that you have to work through and be able to find ways to catch the ball and execute the plan."
Fisch called Saturday's performance against the Irish "weird" because the offense performed well but only produced three points. "We look back on the game and we had two offensive penalties the whole game, we didn't turn the ball over, no interceptions, no fumbles," he said. "I thought Stephen Morris did have a good game, and we walked away with only three points. What do you tell them? How does that happen? Well it happens because we didn't execute. We didn't finish. You can throw a beautiful ball, but if you don't catch it then you don't finish."
> There weren't many changes on the Canes' depth chart on offense. But there was one notable new addition: freshman Robert Lockhart is now listed on the two-deep. Fisch said Monday he would "like to have a role for [Lockhart]" in Saturday's game against North Carolina.
"I'd like for him to have an opportunity," Fisch said. "He's done a great job competing each week and improving. He has a good understanding now. I think we can use him as one of our weapons. He has a better understanding now and I think we can use him as another one of our weapons."
> While freshman Duke Johnson continues to rank in the top five in the ACC in all-purpose yards (1st, 168.3), kick return average (3rd, 27.9), and rushing (5th, 63.5), his overall production rushing and receiving has begun to slow down a bit in the past three weeks. He's scored just one touchdown in the past three games and had 57 yards combined total offense versus the Irish. Fisch said Duke's drop in production Saturday was just a case of not being able to get things going on offense at all.
"Obviously, you would like to hit on some of those bigger plays because that would have given us more plays and not dropped the ball on the third down," Fisch said. "When you get more plays, you get more opportunities to run the football, you get more opportunities to get the ball in Duke's hands. I think in terms of our ratio to plays run and his touches, it was good, I just don't think he didn't have enough touches because we didn't run enough plays."
> Duke has had some drops during some games this year. Is that unlike him?
"It is certainly not like him in practice," Fisch said. "I don't even know if I could think of a play that Phillip dropped a ball in practice. It is not like him either. It's not like Duke. Duke didn't drop that slant against Kansas State all week long when we practiced it. It just happens to be sometimes that it happens. No, it is very unlike Duke to drop it and it is very unlike Phillip to drop it. I don't expect it to be an epidemic by any means."
> Fisch said the accuracy of quarterback Stephen Morris "has really improved."
"One of the things that we were talking about going into the season was that we all knew he had a very strong arm, but how was his accuracy going to be?," Fisch said. "That was an earlier knock maybe. I think it's A, hard work; and B, I think his ability to be accurate is due to how hard our wide receivers practice during the week. If you are always running full speed, then you are practicing that way and you become more accurate. When you have guys practicing at different tempos all the times -- and that is an issue we had until this season -- our guys practice full speed everyday. Phillip runs that route that fast Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Therefore were able to become more accurate throwing it on Saturdays.
"I think we have been able to convince Stephen to trust himself. Trusting yourself means that if you believe somebody is coming open, throw it then. You don't have to wait until you see them come open every time. That's part of it. Trusting yourself means that if we tell you that he is going to run by the safety 40 yards down the field, trust it and let your feet do the talking -- meaning throw it on one hitch, don't wait until three or four hitches and wait and wait and wait. That's a huge difference. I think that's why he is more accurate and more confident and our receivers are doing a great job running routes in practice."
> One player who continues to gain the trust of Morris and Fisch is fifth-year senior Davon Johnson, who is now fourth on the team with 16 catches for 262 yards.
"DJ's done a really great job," Fisch said. "He has made some of the tough catches and some of the easier catches that sometimes when you are wide open and thinking about it. You're thinking about 'I got to catch it.' He has been very mature. It think his age has shown up, his maturity. He has been around the program for a while and I think that's helped him and I think that's helped his consistency."
> North Carolina's defense isn't as highly touted as Notre Dame's, but they still present a good challenge, Fisch said. The Tar Heels rank 26th in scoring defense (17.83 ppg), 20th in total defense (312.33 ypg) and 11th against the run (86.33 ypg).
"They are very fast up front, their secondary is good," Fisch said. "Obviously, Butch [Davis] did a great job recruiting, so they are very talented players. They do a great job schematically -- really a great job. It is going to be a challenge for us. It's going to be an all day challenge for us.
"Their defensive line is excellent, they are very active. Their secondary does a great job of ball-hawking. I think they have a number of interceptions, a high number of takeaways and a high number of sacks. So our [offensive] line is going to have to do a great job. I think our line is giving up a sack once every 34 passes, which is double compared to last year when we're 1 for 17. It is going to be an all day event on Saturday. They're not a big man team. They play zone. They're very aggressive and their safeties are very good."
The Hurricanes Oct. 20 Homecoming showdown with Florida State will be televised live at 8 p.m. on ABC, the Atlantic Coast Conference office announced Monday.
Miami (4-2, 3-0 ACC) sits atop the ACC Coastal Division standings and hosts North Carolina at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU.
We got our newest depth chart this morning, two days after UM released another chart minutes before kickoff Saturday at Soldier Field.
Olsen Pierre is back as one of the starting tackles, opposite redshirt freshman Corey King, who made his first start against Notre Dame. Pierre was injured but Al Golden said he will play against North Carolina.
Gionni Paul is starting again at weak-side.
At cornerback, Ladarius Gunter is now listed as the starter, with freshman Tracy Howard and sophomore Thomas Finnie co-backups.
Mike James and Duke Johnson still have an "AND" between their names as co-first-teamers at running back -- as they did when UM released the depth chart before the game.
Seantrel Henderson started at right tackle Saturday. The depth chart says: Ereck Flowers OR Henderson, as it did before the Notre Dame game.
Clive Walford, who had a nice 28-yard catch Saturday on that unforgettable opening drive, is now the starting TE.
DEPTH CHART, courtesy UM
|RT||74||Ereck Flowers -OR-
|RB||5||Mike James -AND-
|83||Kendal Thompkins -OR-
|6||Robert Lockhart Jr.
|93||Luther Robinson -OR-
|56||Raphael Kirby -OR-
|31||Tyrone Cornileus -OR-||6-2||210||Jr.|
|3||Tracy Howard -OR-
|22||Kacy Rodgers II
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN