CHARLOTTE – Mack Brown isn’t particularly fond of saying his first team back in Chapel Hill will run the “air raid” offense. But he believes an emphasis on passing is the best way to put points on the board.
In his return to UNC after departing for Texas after the 1997 season, Brown hired Phil Longo as offensive coordinator. At Ole Miss, Longo’s 2018 offense was ninth in total offense (510.5 yards per game), fifth in passing offense (346.4) and finished the year sixth on the SEC’s all-time list for passing yards per game.
At the ACC Kickoff event in uptown July 18, Brown said installing a pass-heavy approach means more receivers will be involved in the offense. And that means West Meck grads Dyami and Khafre Brown could be key components to the game plan this fall.
“There's a lot of people that we need,” Brown said. “We were short on numbers at wide receiver, and we still are.”
Dyami Brown, a sophomore, was sixth on the team with 173 yards and a touchdown as a freshman under coach Larry Fedora. His younger brother Khafre joins the Heels’ offense in 2019 after leading West Meck to the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history, catching 51 passes for 860 yards and nine touchdowns last year for the Hawks.
Both represented North Carolina in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in their respective senior seasons.
The Heel’s top returning reliever is junior Dazz Newsome, who recorded 44 receptions for 506 yards a year ago. And the new/old coach thinks because of the nature of the position, inexperienced players are more likely to play sooner.
“We have some voids in sophomores and juniors, because the young ones coming in we think have a chance to play,” Mack Brown said. “One of the things in this offense, playing wide receiver is very simple. So a young guy can play mentally. He has to make sure he plays physically.”
Who will get the ball to the receivers is still up in the air. Coach Brown said there are three players vying for the starting quarterback position.
“It's an offense that the quarterback has to make a lot of decisions at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “The biggest decision we have to make in the next month-and-a-half is who starts at quarterback against South Carolina.”
And despite the new offense’s tendencies, Mack Brown doesn’t like using the term “air raid” that describes the style championed by former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. It’s now widely used among teams in the Big 12 conference, as well as Syracuse.
“What I want is a team that can throw the ball as well as anyone in the country,” Coach Brown said. “The thing that was missing with them, in my estimation, was the power running game. What happened with Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, what happened with Phil Longo at Ole Miss is they're taking the air raid concepts, spreading people out, but they're running the football. They have two backs in a lot of cases or a tight end. It's still the old power running game. I love the combination of both.”
UNC opens the season against the Gamecocks in Charlotte on Aug. 31.