On the transition from T.J. Yates to a new group of quarterbacks:
"It's a brand new spring for us, but it's really exciting. I've found that it has really energized me. There's a lot of things with an experienced quarterback like we've had you kind of take for granted over the years. We've gone back to square one and it's been an absolute blast. Bryn [Renner], Braden [Hanson], all of these guys… A.J. and Marquise are just doing wonderful. I've really found that it's energized me. We're going back to some things and some drills that we haven't done in two years. These guys have really taken to it, and goodness gracious, you all should be so proud of how hard these guys work. They're sure following in T.J.'s footsteps. He set the path about how you're supposed to go about business and these guys are sure following it."
T.J. Yates complete 110 of his 112 passes at UNC's pro timing day last week. Is there any chance that he plays at the next level?
"Well, if I was coaching there, I would sure want him. He's a really good player and he's a great guy. He really is. It's been a wonderful experience for me and my family to be around a guy like that. And it's great being around guys like Bryn and our whole team. We've got a staff – I promise you, the energy in that building is something else. It's great and we all really look forward to coming to work each day. With guys like that, gosh, it's a blast. I haven't worked a day since I've been here."
Your philosophy is set, but will we see changes in the offense with a new quarterback?
"Not dramatically. Coach Davis has set out an identity for this team offensively, defensively and special teams-wise. We're going to be a physical football team and we're going to try to play-action pass you and get behind you. We're always going to do what our quarterback does best. I think that Bryn Renner is a guy that we're going to accentuate his strengths, which are maybe throwing a little bit more on the run and getting outside the pocket. This whole spring he's really worked hard to strengthen his weaknesses as well. One of the things that I think is amazing for a coach to do and Coach Davis does it, but we practice so much situation football. In the last two practices, we've backed up in short yardage with every down imaginable, red zone, two-minute [drill]. We practice situations and that's what our quarterbacks are getting good at now.
"The offense will be the offense. What we need to improve on and what Bryn is learning is how to play situation football. A good analogy is if you go to the driving range out at the Masters, the guy who is hitting the ball beautifully might not have the best score. The guy that's over at that chipping range and putting and doing all of the things that matter… We practice things that matter in football. We just don't run plays. [On Wednesday], we practiced four different situations. That doesn't happen everywhere, so I think that's really helping our quarterbacks create an identity and [it helps] me figure out what he's good at and what he's not so good at."
On the value of Renner splitting reps with Yates during practice last season:
"There's no doubt – it's paid great dividends for him, but also, endurance and durability are the most underrated qualities in a football player and I think it really helped our starting quarterback last year to have endurance toward the end of the season when we really needed him and he played some of his best football then."
What are the good things that you've seen through 13 practices and what are some things that the offense needs to work on through the summer months?
"I think the strength of our team is going to be our offensive line. Coach Pitt [Sam Pittman] is doing an unbelievable job with these guys. Two years ago, so many of these guys playing were freshmen. They're juniors now and they're getting pretty good. So I think that's real strength for us. I think we need to work on 100 yards of offense from the tailback position and 80 catches at the tight end position. So Coach Mo [tight ends coach Allen Mogridge] and [wide receivers] coach [Charlie] Williams have as much work to do as I do at the quarterback position. They've been working their tails off as well.
"We're going to ride Dwight [Jones's] coattails a little bit, too, at the ‘X' position. Charlie's done an excellent job with the opposite receiver from Dwight in getting an awful lot of production from that spot as well. And it might come from Mookie (Erik Highsmith) or [Sean] Tapley or Reggie Wilkins. There's some great young receivers that you're going to hear of that you haven't before in the past."
On the true freshmen forced to play against LSU last September:
"You learn something about kids. Kids are more resilient than you think they are. I felt like those kids, after the first half, they felt like it was just another football game and they just went out and played. I think it's valuable experience for all of those guys. It's really helped us this spring. I think it will help us going into the offseason and summer and I think those kids really gained a lot of knowledge about how to play this game at this level."
What have you been able to accomplish this spring?
"When you bring a group in, and obviously some of those guys played last fall, but now it's a matter of putting everything together. We had to piecemeal a lot last year, so we're trying to get units to play together and build some camaraderie on your football team. I think with the addition of Joe Robinson, Art Kaufman and Troy Douglas, they have done a really good job of trying to coach guys to play team defense. I think that's a key – we've got to learn how to play team defense and we've got to learn how to play together. One guy is not bigger than the team. I think that helped us last year going through what we did. Trying to build that this offseason will be critical."
What are the good things that you've seen through 13 practices and what are some things that the defense needs to work from now until the start of the season?
"You're always trying to build your defense from the inside out. You add a guy like Sylvester Williams and you've got Tydreke Powell, Quinton Coples, Donte Paige-Moss and you've got Kevin Reddick. You're trying to make sure that you've got competent backups and trying to build depth, but you're trying to strengthen your team in the middle all of the way back to your free safety. The reason you want to do that on defense is you want to stop the run – and today wasn't a real good day of stopping the run – but we want to try to force people to be one-dimensional on offense and the only way to do that is to make sure you're a good run-stopping defense. So one of the goals is making sure that we're good in our run fits with our line guys and our linebackers and our secondary.
"I think the next thing is that we're trying to find leaders on our defense. That's the key. Think about all of the guys that are not playing this spring. We have to gain some leadership on our defense. That's got to be a critical thing going into the finish of spring and through the summer months."
On the third linebacker position:
"It's a competition. You've got Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick as guys that have played for us. Darius Lipford has been a guy that has really shown up and done some good things. Darius played a little bit for us last year. He's athletic, he's a big long guy, he's physical, he's smart. So he's done a great job in there. Curtis Campbell, Ebele Okakpu – all of those guys are trying to fight for that third spot to get on the field and then obviously, we signed some guys, so there's going to be a big competition for that third linebacker spot."