T.J. Logan led the North Carolina running backs with 582 yards last season, but his rushing touchdowns and yards per carry dropped from his freshman year. Logan is eager to change all that. In the middle of a productive spring, he has his sights set on a 1,000-yard season and getting the entire running back unit back on track.
He had plenty more to say in a recent phone conversation.
Your offensive coordinator, Seth Littrell, wants to get the backs more involved in the run game this year. Does that put pressure on your group?
Logan: I definitely do feel like there’s a lot of pressure. A lot of the games we won last season, we ran the ball well, and it gave us a better chance of winning the game. We see that as a group, we talk about it all the time. If we go out there and run hard, it’s going to work out for us.
You have been running with the starters all spring. What do you think you are capable of this season?
Logan: I definitely want to rush for over 1,000 yards and help my team get to an ACC championship. If I do that and we play well as an offense and limit the penalties and things like that, I feel it will happen.
Your offensive line was banged up last year, and you had to play some inexperienced guys. How is that group coming along this spring?
Logan: I feel like last season during this time, we were trying to feel it out. During the season it was shaky at times, just like the running backs were. This spring, I feel like they’re doing great. They’ve already gelled, and I can tell they’re playing off each other and holes are opening up. I feel we’ll be able to jump right into it with training camp and just keep it going.
Coach Littrell also mentioned he wanted everybody to improve their blocking, because it takes all 11 players to get the run game going. How much has that been emphasized this spring?
Logan: It’s been emphasized a lot. We’ve gone back to basic fundamentals, how to place your hands, staying low and shooting out of your hips, things like that. We’ve been focused on not just run blocking but pass blocking, too. (Marquise Williams) got hit a lot last season and we want to prevent that from happening again.
Your coaches want to limit his carries to limit the wear and tear. Are the running backs ready to handle a bigger role?
Logan: Any time you see your quarterback on the ground, that’s a problem. We already sat down and talked about it. We want to be the leaders. We want to be the guys running the ball, gaining hard yards for the team, even if it’s 3, 4 yards. We want to set the tone. We’re going to work hard and just try to keep 'Quise from running the ball if he doesn’t have to.
How much have coaches emphasized being more physical?
Logan: Coach (Larry) Porter, he’s been getting us prepared really well. Every time we’re running the ball, even if you’re close to out of bounds, you don’t run out of bounds, you have to stay in bounds and try to take punishment or hit somebody with some punishment. He wants us to keep playing hard and things like that.
Are practices more physical?
Logan: I feel like the practices are more physical. We have more 1-on-1 time with linebackers, where they’re coming right at us and we have to block them and keep them off the backs. In the scrimmages, guys are more ready, they’re out there jumping around, tackling each other. I feel like it’s way more physical than it was last spring, so that’s an improvement that’s helping us out.
What have you learned your first two years that will help you the most as you prepare for your junior year?
Logan: Patience. You can’t rush things. You might not break a run, and that was kind of my problem. I wanted to break every run, but I had to learn sometimes you have to get 5 and 4 yards.
Does that do something to your confidence?
Logan: It definitely does mess with your head any time you’re getting stoned a couple times by the defense. But I’ve tried to think positive. That’s what I’ve been doing this spring and it’s working out for me so I’m going to try to do that.