NFL Combine: T.J. Yates

INDIANAPOLIS --- Inside Carolina is at the NFL Combine and was on-hand for the media session with UNC quarterback T.J. Yates ...

With what went on during the season with the suspensions, you experienced a different test than all of the other quarterbacks that are here. Is that fair to say?
"Yeah, absolutely. It was something that the players and the coaching staff had never experienced before. It was something new for all of us. It was definitely challenging as far as being a leader on the team. W had to come together as a team because there were some many of us that weren't there, so many of the voices of the team – especially on defense – weren't there a lot, so it was very important for the leaders that were still there to step up and take leadership."

It was a breakout season for you. Can you assess your play?
"It was kind of a blessing in disguise because my junior year our defense was so strong and the offense really didn't have to do much. We had to control the ball, run the ball and if we got 14 points on the board, we'd usually be good for a win. But this year was a completely different story. A lot of times we had to go out and score 30-plus points to win the game. It made the offense as a whole step up, myself included."

What makes Robert Quinn such a good player?
"He's an extremely special talent. He's got measurables that are going to blow a lot of people away at the combine. He's going to test extremely well and wow everybody with his athleticism. His motor – I've seen in practice and in the games that I was playing with him, he's just a guy that will never stop. I think that's one of the things that will really shoot him up is when people watch film on him and see what type of high motor he has."

Would you have seen yourself being a part of the combine this time last year?
"Yeah, I hoped for it, but I knew coming out of my junior season it didn't look very good. That just fueled me more to work harder in the offseason going into my senior year and making it a good one."

Where do you think you improved during your junior and senior seasons?
"Decision-making. That was a big factor. Our whole offense really grew. We had a lot of young guys my junior year and a lot of guys got another year under their belt. Offensive linemen, wide receivers, running backs – everybody got an extra year and we got some guys back from injury. We were just more experienced and we had more talent throughout the offense."

How much did it benefit you throwing to Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate early in your career?
"That was huge, especially as a young quarterback. I played my freshman year and just to have some extreme talent at the wideout spot helped me grow as a player and helped our offense go. Those guys are premier guys in the NFL right now. To have those guys as a young quarterback growing up in college was huge for me. Hakeem was my go-to guy and you can't overthrow Brandon Tate, so there wasn't much wrong I could do my freshman year."

Do you think leading North Carolina to a bowl game in 2010 proves to NFL clubs that you can overcome adversity?
"Absolutely. I'd challenge anybody to go look somewhere else for some worse adversity for a team and a program, because we had it from all angles, as far as the NCAA and academic stuff. And then on top of that, we had a ton of injuries. There were times when we were stretching our depth charts in the middle of games to find a fifth-string running back. Coach Davis was looking on the sidelines and asking if anybody could run down on kickoffs. It got pretty hectic at some points. I don't think any other team in the country went through what we did and we still salvaged a good season out of it."

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