Tar Heels' Hood aims to fix mistakes, build off huge season
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Elijah Hood ran the ball with a tackler-punishing ferocity to put together one of the best statistical seasons in North Carolina history and make him one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's elite runners.
Yet Hood is thinking as much about all the little mistakes he saw on his game film, the ones he's determined to correct this fall to have an even bigger season.
''I know for a fact I could've done more,'' Hood said in an interview with The Associated Press. ''I've looked at it on film. There were runs I left out there. Particularly, I counted like six touchdowns that I left on my own where I should have just stuck my foot in the ground . instead of getting tackled sideways and getting stopped at the 3 or something.''
The 6-foot, 220-pound tailback from Charlotte ranked third in the ACC with 1,463 yards rushing and second with 17 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore, and he averaged 6.7 yards on his roughly 16 carries per game. Those season totals ranked in the top three of UNC's single-season history, too.
Yet Hood has spent the offseason preparing to fix mistakes that include misreading a running lane, missing a block or being a bit too impatient to let the play develop more fully. The first chance comes Sept. 3 against Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.
''It's kind of like, `All right, that was good, but you still can do more,''' Hood said. ''Never cut yourself short. Live to the fullest ability that you possibly can. And if you don't, you're not putting your best foot forward, you're not truly showing what kind of football player you can be.
''If you rush for 150 yards but you should've had 250 yards, that's an OK day for you, but you should've had a great day.''
Hood's mother, Melica, said it's an approach her son takes throughout his life, whether on the field or in the classroom as a two-time all-ACC academic pick and Eagle Scout. UNC running backs coach Larry Porter sees it, too, describing Hood as ''a very cerebral, very detail-oriented guy.''
''Elijah's always the type of person who will go back over everything he does,'' Melica Hood said. ''He's hard on himself. He will pick apart everything and is always striving to do better. He's probably going to be that way pretty much about everything no matter what he does. He's meticulous.''
Hood had eight 100-yard games that included a career-high 220 yards and two touchdowns against rival North Carolina State. That helped the Tar Heels match a program record with 11 wins while winning the league's Coastal Division title to reach the ACC championship game, losing to then-No. 1 and eventual College Football Playoff runner-up Clemson.
Just as importantly, he provided an edge to a high-scoring offense with a physical style rooted in his early years in football. Nicknamed ''Big Hot'' as a baby because of his size - and the fact his parents carried a fan with them nearly everywhere to keep him from crying - Hood played first on the defensive line and then at linebacker while sometimes matching up against older kids before moving to running back by high school.
Years later, Hood still loves delivering hits.
''He can wear down guys because he really doesn't like to get tackled,'' head coach Larry Fedora said. ''He runs violently - it's the best term I've come up with - so when he is being tackled, he's trying to punish the tackler. That's something he is very aware of: He's going to make sure that guy knows that he tackled Elijah Hood.''
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