"We tried to keep the coaching staff in house, the guys we had in the building. We elevated Steve Sisa to safeties coach and made Art Kaufman the defensive coordinator and basically moved on from there. The players have seen me up in front of them before. The defensive players know me especially well. Some of the offensive guys have had to learn me a little bit, but it's been good. It's been a great transition. The players are focused. We've had a lot of practice the last 13 months with adversity."
Were you surprised by anything on the offensive side of the ball?
"I really didn't find anything out that I didn't know. I found out a lot of things that I knew and that I liked. What I've tried to do is stay out of the way on offense. [Offensive coordinator John] Shoop and his staff do a great job on offense, so I try to stay out of their way and let those guys coach."
On the significance of being the first African-American football coach at UNC and only the second African-American head coach in school history in any sport:
"It's a responsibility, I think, to the African-American community here, to all communities here, that I represent the community well. That I put a football team on the field that is going to play hard and is going to do things right off the field, and try to win championships here at Carolina. That's the bottom line."
"For the most part, we've stayed relatively healthy. We've had a few bumps and bruises like most teams have during camp. Other than a hamstring or a groin here or there, we've been okay. Everybody knows that Ryan Houston is back at full speed and Gio Bernard is back running at full speed. We're pretty healthy going into that first game."
Will Bernard have to wear a cast on Saturday?
"He'll wear some protective padding on his hand, but other than that, he'll be fine. He'll be ready to go."
On injured cornerbacks Jabari Price and Sam Smiley:
"We feel like we'll get Jabari back in 4-5 weeks, maybe by the East Carolina game. Sam Smiley we think we'll get back in a week or so. Hopefully we get those guys back in the secondary. We need some depth back there."
On Todd Harrelson's move from wide receiver to cornerback:
"He's doing exceptionally well. Todd was an all-state defensive back. To be honest with you, we're probably a year too late in moving Todd. We should have moved Todd a year ago… Todd's got an exceptional ability to flip his hips, run with receivers – [he's] just a natural at it. The first day of camp that he was over there, you could tell that he belonged over there."
Will true freshmen cornerbacks Tim Scott and Alex Dixon see playing time against James Madison?
"Yeah, there's a good chance. Tim will play a lot. Tim's one of those guys that's kind of got ice water in his veins. You can never get him riled up. You can jump on him in practice and he'll give you a look like, ‘Yeah, Coach, I've got it.' But he's done extremely well. He's a smart kid… Alex Dixon is a young man from the Clearwater area of Florida that we feel like is going to have a great career here."
On the team's strengths and weaknesses:
"I think our biggest strengths are both the offensive and defensive lines. I think [offensive line coach] Sam Pittman has done a great job with our offensive line. The experience we have up there will bode well for our offense, as far as moving the football. [Defensive line coach Joe] Robinson has done an unbelievable job with the defensive line. We‘ve got talent there. I believe you build football teams on the offensive and defensive lines. That's where you start and then you work your way back.
"If there is a weakness – and I really believe that we're as athletic as we've been in the secondary since I've been here. I'm talking athleticism. Now experience wise, probably not, so it's more of an experience thing than a weakness. Once we get into some games and play, that experience will come. Jon Smith is back at strong safety. Matt Merletti played a lot last year at safety, so we feel like we've got experience at safety. Once we get some guys back at corner, I feel like we'll be fine and ready to roll."
What's your defensive philosophy? Do you like to blitz with the front four or blitz a little more often?
"I like to blitz all of the time. Coach Kaufman, do you hear that? Here's what I do believe – I believe if you've got four down guys that can rush the passer and stop the run, then you shouldn't have to blitz all of the time. You should be able to pick and choose when you want to blitz. I think you need to be aggressive on defense. I think you need to set the tempo on defense and dictate to the offense what happens.
"In my time as a defensive coordinator here, I felt we had good up front guys. We didn't have to blitz as much because we had those guys. I still think we've got those guys. I want to make sure we're not putting our corners in a bind all of the time, so we didn't blitz as much. I feel like we'll be able to do a little bit more as the season goes on. And our kids want to blitz all of the time. They get mad at me when I don't blitz, so I think they want to blitz all of the time."
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