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A.J. Blue Needs to Have a Big Spring for North Carolina

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach Larry Fedora has made it loud and clear that the success the North Carolina Tar Heels had in 2012 in his first season doesn’t mean anything.

Not… One… Thing…

Fedora wants to see his Tar Heels continue to improve every day. There is no such thing as a target goal they are shooting for. He wants North Carolina to learn being good isn’t simply not good enough.

And that is a message running back A.J. Blue seems to be getting loud and clear. Especially since he now is the senior leader for the Tar Heels and the main gun in their running arsenal.

“When I did find out he (Gio Bernard) was leaving, I told him congratulations and I looked at it as a positive for me and him,” Blue said. “I felt like his draft stock wasn’t going to get any higher than it already is this year, and I also felt like with him leaving and it being my last season, it was also an opportunity for me. I’m just concentrating on my weight. I lost like 20 pounds last summer. That was of course when we were doing heavy running and all of that kind of stuff. I went from about 235 to 215, 212, and I’ve come back up to 220 now. I plan on being around 210, and I just want to be durable. I want to be able to run the ball 10 or 15 times, just like Gio did. I think the thing I’m working on most is just my speed and agility.”

Carolina will no doubt need Blue to stay healthy and set the tone. And that starts right now as the Heels are preparing this spring.

Blue was second on the team in 2012 behind Bernard with 433 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.

No one is asking him to be Bernard. That is impossible. But with his talent and hard work setting the tone for all of the young backs Carolina has in the stable, Blue is one of the most important Tar Heels to watch this spring.


M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association.

Follow him @woodysmalls.

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Phantom Offsides Penalty Costs North Carolina



All season long, we’ve been hearing about how bad the officiating has been in the NFL. On Saturday night, we saw how much damage bad calls can do in college football as well.

During the ACC title game, the North Carolina Tar Heels were making one final push to steal the crown from the Clemson Tigers. After scoring a quick touchdown in the waning minutes of the game, the Tar Heels lined up for an onside kick — and recovered it after a few Tigers mishandled the ball. However, a flag came flying in for an offsides penalty. The only problem was that no Tar Heel was offsides.

Just look for yourself:

Am I missing something, or were there zero Tar Heels offsides on that play?

The closest player was still about two yards from the line. Obviously a recovery wouldn’t have guaranteed a North Carolina touchdown, but it certainly kept them from getting the opportunity they earned.

The Tigers recovered the next onside kick, and ran out the clock, securing the ACC crown and a spot in the 2015 College Football Playoff.

The ACC title came down to a phantom offsides call that cost North Carolina big.

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