Fedora was using up-tempo attack in 1990s

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- When Andy McCollum was hired to guide Middle Tennessee State from a fledgling Division I-AA program to Division I-A in 1999, he knew the Blue Raiders had to find some sort of an advantage to compete with the sport’s heavyweights.

So McCollum hired Air Force assistant Larry Fedora, who had worked with him on Baylor’s staff in the mid-1990s.

“The first thing we thought was we were either going to run the option because of our personnel, or we were going to be wide open, because we didn’t think we had the linemen to knock people off the ball,” said McCollum, now Georgia Tech’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. “We had a couple of good wide receivers, and a quarterback who could throw the ball.”

Fedora and McCollum decided the Blue Raiders would play at an ultra-fast pace, wasting very little time between snaps, and would try to beat opponents with their tempo and conditioning.

Fedora and McCollum visited Tulane, where Tommy Bowden used a high-paced attack to lead the Green Wave to an 11-0 record in 1998. At the time, the Green Wave was about the only team in college football using a spread attack.

Fedora wanted the Blue Raiders to play even faster than Tulane. He added his own wrinkles to the offense, and has developed it even more over the years.

“Nobody was prepared for it,” McCollum said. “We practiced fast and had a lot of energy on our staff. We were looking for an edge, and it was to snap the ball before they were ready. We weren’t going to whip anybody off the ball.”

Fedora, who is set to begin his first season as North Carolina’s coach, hasn’t slowed down yet. He says his offense is different than the spread attacks run by Washington State’s Mike Leach and West Virginia’s Dana Holgerson.

“We still believe we’re going to be able to run the ball also,” Fedora said.

Fedora’s offense also utilizes the tight ends, which are sometimes overlooked in favor of more receivers in a spread offense. Tight end Ben Troupe excelled at Florida, and Brandon Pettigrew was an All-American at Oklahoma State.

“We’ve had some tight ends who have excelled in this offense,” Fedora said.

Now Fedora just has to find the right personnel at North Carolina.