CHAPEL HILL — Nick Weiler feels confident kicking field goals for North Carolina. Now he’s got some success to back him up.
A year after the Tar Heels struggled to make anything beyond the shortest of kicks, Weiler has made all three of his field goals — including two approaching 50 yards — in the first two games.
“You trust your holder, you trust your snapper, you trust your blockers, the team trusts you — it’s a full cycle,” Weiler said. “I think it’s all been a good help for this year.”
Weiler’s start is a welcome development for the Tar Heels (1-1), who face Illinois on Saturday. Last year they made fewer than half their field-goal attempts and none longer than 30 yards. But Weiler connected from 38 and 47 yards in the opening loss to South Carolina, then hit a 48-yarder last weekend against North Carolina A&T.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised because he did the same thing all camp,” coach Larry Fedora said. “In camp you’re like, ‘Ooh, OK, is this for real?’ And then he just does it every day in camp and gets to be so consistent that you kind of quit thinking about it.”
It was an adventure just about every time the Tar Heels lined up a field goal last year.
Weiler made 5 of 8 kicks, though none longer than 23 yards and missing all three of his attempts of at least 30 yards. As a team, North Carolina made 6 of 13 attempts with a long of 30 yards.
Weiler, who beat redshirt freshman Freeman Jones for the starting job in the preseason, said he shortened his steps before the kick after reviewing film from last season. He said “things were just sort of clicking” in the spring, and that carried over through preseason camp and the first two games.
“That’s kind of demoralizing to a team when you have a good drive and you stall out and you send your field-goal unit on and they can’t finish the job,” receiver Ryan Switzer said. “Knowing we have that option and knowing Nick has that confidence in himself is going to pay dividends from here on out.”