CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — T.J. Logan spent North Carolina’s first two games making big runs, catching passes and breaking off long kickoff returns.
And the backup tailback has been the Tar Heels’ most impressive player to start the season heading into Saturday’s home opener against James Madison.
“I just feel like every time I step on the field, I’m trying to make plays,” Logan said. “No matter if that’s four or five carries, no matter what it is. I’m just trying to finish runs.
“And if I can hit a home run and get the offense off the field, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”
Logan ranks fifth nationally in all-purpose yards (207 per game), starting with a huge performance in the opener against Georgia in Atlanta. He ran for a team-high 80 yards on just six carries with a touchdown and also had a 95-yard kickoff return for a score in the 33-24 loss to the Bulldogs.
In last week’s win at Illinois, Logan had a 58-yard kickoff return to set up a field goal, scored on a 24-yard screen pass and ran for 54 yards.
Coach Larry Fedora said Logan — a speedster who has had occasional blow-up performances in his career — looks “like he’s at a different speed than the other players on the field.”
He also sees a player who is finishing runs through contact to be a tougher runner. And when it comes to kickoffs, Fedora points to Logan’s vision to find a hole and go.
“He understands what we’re doing scheme wise,” Fedora said. “That one he hit (against Illinois), there wasn’t a whole lot there. He just hit it and he hit it hard. He broke some tackles.
“There’s not much tiptoeing and looking for something to happen. He sticks his foot in the ground, he makes one cut and he goes.”
Logan, a native of Greensboro, never had more than 119 carries in any of his first three seasons, and finds himself as a complimentary runner to all-ACC tailback Elijah Hood. But he’s shown big-play potential before, particularly late last season.
He had a huge performance against North Carolina State in the regular-season finale, running for two touchdowns of at least 40 yards in a dominating first quarter. He followed with a 46-yard touchdown catch against then-No. 1 Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
Still, UNC offensive coordinator and line coach Chris Kapilovic remembers watching put on “probably the greatest performance that I’ve seen as a coach in my life.” It came in 2012 when Logan, a senior at Northern Guilford High, set single-game records of 510 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in the Class 3-AA state championship game.
“That’s what he’s capable of,” Kapilovic said. “Sometimes there’s an adjustment when you get to college and all of a sudden you’re sharing a role with some guys. … And really he’s been great for us, but last year it really clicked for him. And he just took off.
“Really he’s just grown since then. He’s playing tremendous, and I expect it all year.”