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Pickeral: Logan Seeking End Zone

Pickeral: Logan Seeking End Zone

By Robbi Pickeral, GoHeels.com

CHAPEL HILL -- After missing the first four weeks of the season because of a knee injury, North Carolina tailback T.J. Logan says he is thankful to be back on the football field -- and appreciates that he's already had the opportunity to start a game (and is slated to start his second straight, against Boston College, on Saturday).

But there's one thing the freshman still covets: the end zone.

"I definitely miss it,'' Logan said Tuesday. "I want to get one [touchdown] so bad -- but I know it's about patience. It's going to come."

He is, after all, used to making it happen.

A year ago, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Greensboro product finished his high school career by scoring eight touchdowns, and rushing for a record 510 yards, to lead Northern Guilford High to the 3-AA state championship.

His shifty speed and ability to finish drives are among the reasons UNC is hopeful he can energize a struggling running attack that is averaging just 100.8 yards per game, last in the ACC.

"He's got the speed you want to be a breakaway [player] - a one-play, big play kind of guy,'' UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said. "He's got the hands to catch the ball out of the backfield and run routes. He's got a good feel for running routes. He showed, in the last couple of trips he's been out, he's willing to step up and take on a linebacker."

And the latter is particularly impressive to coaches.

Besides having to watch from the sideline for so long, Logan said blocking and learning the protections has been the most difficult aspect of his college transition, because he didn't have to do much of it in high school. Yet Thursday, during UNC's loss to Miami, "one of the biggest plays we had was a scramble type play when the ball got thrown to Quinshad [Davis] on a big third down, and he [Logan] had a backer barreling down the middle of him, and he stuck him in the chops and stayed with him and continued to play," Anderson said.

So while his first career start, against the Hurricanes, was somewhat of a surprise - "I learned about it that day, because there was a particular play they wanted to run,'' Logan said - his quick improvement, as well as his 61 yards on 16 carries during the Thursday night loss, has him perched atop the depth chart this week.

Head coach Larry Fedora said UNC will likely continue rotating Logan with fellow tailbacks A.J. Blue, Romar Morris and Khris Francis throughout the game, but he likes Logan's potential.

 "He did some really nice things, and he's coming on," Fedora said. "I still don't think we've seen him at where he's going to be. I think each week he feels a little bit more comfortable, gets his legs under him a little bit. He's starting to make a few moves, and I think he'll just get better every week."

That's the hope.

The Tar Heels haven't had a tailback rush for 100 yards in a game since Gio Bernard left for the NFL, and a healthier running attack would be key to jump-starting an offense that is averaging 17 fewer points per outing than last year.

UNC, to put it in perspective, scored 28 rushing touchdowns last season. Through six games in 2013, it has only managed four - half of what Logan tallied during his state championship performance all by himself.

"We've got to be able to run the ball into the end zone,'' said Anderson, whose Tar Heels are 10-for-19 on red zone touchdowns this season.

Logan, who said he's at about 95 percent after his injury, aims to be the guy to get them there.

"The sky's the limit for him, he's just got to learn more and mature more," Anderson said. "He's going to have some freshman mistakes, but he has a confidence about him, about what he can do and what he's willing to do, that allows him to be a pretty dang good player right now. And you would hope that each touch he gets, that will make him better."