Letterman's Roundtable

Inside Carolina's weekly 'State of the Heels' discussion with former Tar Heels Scott Lenahan, Deems May and Mark Paschal ...

Last year UNC looked completely out of sync in Atlanta against the Yellow Jackets. With Georgia Tech coming off a loss to Kansas and the Tar Heels having a bye week to lick their wounds and perhaps get some starters back, does UNC have the momentum going into Saturday's game?

Scott: UNC no doubt has momentum heading into this game against Georgia Tech. Not only have we found that without many of the key starters we can still flourish defensively, but we will be playing in front of a home crowd which is always an advantage. Being able to add Shaun Draughn to the roster and possibly other players is also a big boost of confidence for the team and will only help improve the depth on special teams which was an area we struggled in against LSU.

Mark: Any time a team of Georgia Tech's caliber gets beaten by a weaker opponent the following week's performance is, more often than not, vastly improved. The Tar Heels got blessed with the bye week to study and learn how to defend the triple option and I like our chances with two weeks to prepare.

Deems: There is no way to have momentum with 12 players currently suspended (encouragement, yes, but not momentum). This whole thing has made it virtually impossible to prepare for opponents; making Carolina's effort against LSU even more remarkable.

I don't think I've ever been more proud to be a Tar Heel than I was last Saturday night.

This whole summer has opened my eyes so wide in terms of the anti-Carolina establishment. I really didn't comprehend how bad it was until the last few weeks, but it surely is us against the rest of the world. I have been amazed at the number of people who have come out of the woodwork, who I thought were genuinely agnostic towards Carolina who are absolutely giddy about this and can't hide it. They have taken every opportunity to hammer us, without all of the facts really being out. We certainly deserve criticism based on the facts that have been presented, but not on speculation.

I have also been extremely disappointed in the reaction of some of our own fans. This holier-than-thou attitude and "This stuff doesn't happen at Carolina" has to stop. We all know we went (or are attending) the best university in America, but by no means does that preclude us from having kids who make mistakes and certainly doesn't make us better than anyone else that didn't attend Carolina.

This is a time to support our program, not bash it. If we run Coach Davis off; I and a lot of people I know are done. I refuse to go back to the days of Utah and Louisville skull-dragging us up and down the field beating us by 80. We will identify the problems and correct them and emerge stronger, for those of you who aren't in, good riddance. For those of you who are in, let's band together and offer our support and do everything we can to keep our football program on the rise.

The Tar Heel offense was something of a mixed bag against LSU – T.J. Yates looked really good, the offensive line looked improved, and the wide receivers have taken a step forward, but UNC had almost no success on the ground. There are a lot of factors to look at there, but do you see that as an ongoing problem for the UNC offense this year?

Deems: I mentioned on the pregame show before the LSU game that at the end of last season; I would've given T.J. Yates no chance of being the starter for the LSU game. But after watching his camp practices, there was no doubt that he clearly outplayed Bryn Renner all summer. His hard work paid off. He looked sharp and as was as accurate as I've ever seen him. He was really poised and gave us two great shots at shocking the world at the end of the game.

I hate to state the obvious, but when two of your top three running backs are out, chances are you will struggle running the ball. I think many people are down on LSU and this may or may not be warranted, but I tell you this, that front seven could run and No. 92 (Drake Nevis) caused havoc. Good or not, they were athletic as hell and John Chavis is a well-respected defensive coordinator, always having Tennessee's defenses ready to play. We settled down some in the third quarter and established some sort of running game. I have to believe that it opened up the play action touchdown to Boyd, which got us back in the game. It is something to build on going into Saturday.

Mark: LSU is no slouch on defense. I saw us run the ball with authority at times, especially with Ryan Taylor motioning in to be the lead blocker with Anthony Elzy running behind him. It was great to see Taylor physically dominate those SEC linebackers. The run game takes time to develop and with Shaun back it will give us a spark. Not too concerned, especially if T.J. throws for 400 a game.

Scott: The first game of the season is always the hardest offensively speaking. Being able to get all of the timing right and trying to execute at game speed is something that is near impossible to replicate in practice. That's why usually you see so many offensive miscue's in the first few games of the season. After watching the offense against LSU I was pleasantly surprised at how well we played collectively and happy to see so many linemen in the rotation.

This will certainly only help with our running game and once again adding depth to what last year was an oft injured line. Having Shaun Draughn, who is a two-year starter for UNC, will certainly add to a more productive ground game. Although, if they were to have Houston back as well I believe they would really be cooking with gas. I see the offense getting stronger as the year progresses and the players get more comfortable and confidant in the man playing next to him. T.J. Yates had a phenomenal game against LSU and I'm proud of how well he played and can't wait to watch him the rest of the year.

I don't think there were many UNC fans that thought the defense would perform as well as they did, down seven starters. Whose play on the defensive side of the ball impressed you the most?

Scott: I'd have to say that I was extremely impressed with the play of Quinton Coples. He looked like a machine out there and is not only a great pass rusher but good at holding the point against run blocking. I think that kid is going to have a big year and I can't wait to see big things come from him.

Deems: I have to start with the true freshman cornerbacks. Tre Boston and Jabari Price…wow, two stars in the making, getting thrown out there on a big stage and stepping up. Coples and Donte Paige-Moss were all over the field and left everything out there. We knew Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter were good, but to get cleared less than 24 hours and stepping up and making big plays has to excite us all with them getting the first team reps now. Again, we scared a lot of teams Saturday night with our second and third stringers shutting out LSU in the second half. If we could get some depth back, the sky is the limit for our defense this year. Our coaches made some nice adjustments at halftime and those kids played hard until the end.

Mark: Fellas, we are deep on defense, no question. Obviously, LSU is no offensive juggernaut, but it was a great game for those young guys. I loved the passion they all played with and I truly believe that at the end of the day, if you play with that passion, heart, intensity and an understanding of the game you can field a solid defense. If I had to pick a favorite I couldn't - but my top three are Coples, Matt Merletti, and Boston. Merletti pretty much coached the secondary out there and it was fun to watch.

After the losses by Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech last weekend, does the Coastal Division race look even more wide open? Does the team you saw against LSU have a shot at still competing for that title?

Scott: Certainly it's not wide open but do I think that UNC has a better chance at winning the division now, yes. The team I saw play against LSU wasn't sound in all facets of the game, but I believe that with the addition of a few key players back in our starting lineup they no doubt have a shot at winning the title.

Mark: I am not sure how to view the Coastal Division, much less the ACC after those week two performances. There are good football teams in this division and this conference and I think UNC has as good of a chance as anyone to compete for that title.

Deems: If we have 12 players out for any extended period of time, I don't think we have a shot. Seven starters out on defense on a team, picked by all of the great sportswriters around to finish fourth in our division, is tough to overcome. We'll have too little depth on defense and special teams and we'll get worn down throughout the year. I really don't think people realize how crippling this is for our special teams. With the exception of a couple of linemen missing (who don't play special teams) our depth has been killed and it was obvious Saturday night. It's hard to run down on kicks and punts and then go straight to defense against team speed like LSU had. I do think we'll get better every week on special teams as these freshmen get experience, but not enough to overcome 12 people being suspended. Again, if this thing continually drags out and there is no closure, mentally it will be just as draining.

What is your key to the game against Georgia Tech this weekend?

Mark: Stop the dive play, contain the quarterback and tackle the pitch. Oh, and defend the deep ball Hail Mary they throw eight times a game. Heels do that, we win. Oh, and how about my boy T.J. - hope the rest of you had as much fun as I did watching him in week one.

Scott: Stop Nesbitt and establish the run early.

Deems: Every week the key will be the same thing and it is whomever is making the decisions on who can and can't play. Be it our honor court/administration or the NCAA, somebody or some entity is holding our season in their hands. Show your hand, rule and let's move on. It's the fair thing to do.

If we have 12 players out, I think the weather will be a big factor. If it is real hot, it will make it very tough on us regardless of how good of shape we are in. Last week we had the indoor environment and we were still extremely gassed at the end of the game on defense and special teams due to the suspensions. This will be exacerbated for a noon game and the temperature rising throughout the game.

Scott Lenahan manned the center position in Chapel Hill from 2003-07, overlapping two coaching regimes. Nicknamed 'Tank' for his weight room exploits, he earned the top senior honor on the '07 Tar Heel team.
Deems May excelled at tight end for UNC and was drafted in 1992, playing eight seasons in the NFL. He's since become a fan favorite for his candid commentary on the Tar Heel Sports Network.
Mark Paschal was a team captain for the Tar Heels in 2008. As a middle linebacker, he led the team in tackles prior to a career-ending injury and didn't miss a game in his career up until that point.

Inside Carolina Top Stories