Letterman's Roundtable

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

A 42-10 win over an FCS team was a great way to start the season, but next week North Carolina faces Rutgers, a team that will present a different reality from James Madison. How can the team build on the JMU performance, not experience a letdown, and be prepared for a different level of competition?

Quincy Monk: I think it's important to realize the character of this football team. They have been through a great deal of adversity during the past 13 months, and the fact that these guys took the field in the manner in which they did was phenomenal. I think the coaching staff will do a great job in looking at film and breaking down the positives and negatives which occurred against JMU, and make sure they point out Rutgers is a much different team than JMU, and that they have continue to work hard in order to get better each and every day.

Mark Paschal: It starts with the preparation for Rutgers. If this team wants to be as good as they can be, it will be up to them to prepare for each game with an intensity and focus that must be maintained week in and week out. The leaders in that locker room are responsible for making sure people are studying their playbooks, studying practice film, and studying game film. That is honestly the only thing that can ever guarantee you do not have a letdown after a strong showing the previous week.

Scott Lenahan: First things first, go watch the game film. This will give the coaches a chance to go over any mistakes there were and create an opportunity to polish up on those plays. In the same light, they'll also get to see what they did well and have some positive aspects to build on. Going into this game week, we will need to focus on doing the little things right. Rutgers Coach Schiano runs a very disciplined team so we can't afford to have blocked punts and still walk away unscathed.

Deems May: I thought Everett and the coaches did a great job preparing this team last Saturday. I can't remember a better-played first game in a long time. These kids definitely have formed a bond over the last 14 months that could enable this to be a special season. I kind of liked having a talented, well-balanced football team out there Saturday. I think striving for a competitive, talented team year in and year out is worth it, no matter if you call it ‘Big-time Football' or not. I also liked the fact that Coach Davis was there and he received the game ball. I don't care what a few administrators or outsiders may have thought about this gesture. Coach Withers, the players, and true Tar Heel football fans know who the architect of this team is and he was in the Blue Zone Saturday. Supporting Everett and the team and acknowledging the architect of this team aren't mutually exclusive. I hope we stay focused, not get too high after this win and prepare hard week in and week out for the next opponent. I also hope our architect is there to enjoy it; he knows I'll always have two spots open for him to come watch this team.

Buck Sanders: I think what we saw last Saturday was a team well drilled in the fundamentals that made very few unforced errors. Every opponent is going to present fresh challenges, but so long as the Tar Heels continue doing the little things right and don't shoot themselves in the foot, I think they'll be ready for any level of competition.

Adding to UNC's offensive success was the balance added by the running game. We knew what to expect from Ryan Houston, but did Gio Bernard's two touchdown runs in the red-zone surprise you? How does his addition change UNC's offensive capabilities?

Mark: Gio is a hell of a player. The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the success we had running the football on Saturday, they opened holes all day for Gio and Ryan. In college football, having two capable running backs is a huge advantage from a stamina standpoint. There is nothing worse, for a defensive player, than feeling like the offensive backs are fresh in the fourth quarter.

Scott: We should call him Neo Gio, because that guy is electric. He really surprised me with his speed and burst and ability to make people miss. With the short passes and screens Coach Shoop likes to call, he'll be a great asset to the offense. I still think that when we are within less than 10 yards to the goaline, Houston should and more than likely will get the nod. I'm excited to see Gio get more carries though. He has the ability to take it to the house and should he stay healthy all year will be a great duo with Houston, who I thought had a great performance and showcased a little more shiftiness in his game this year, although he'll always be Rhino.

Deems: Gio gives us a great 1-2 punch that we haven't had in a while. He's a patient runner that waits for the blocks to develop and accelerates hard once he decides where to go. Long time Carolina fans will remember Amos Lawrence. While we can't anoint him the next Famous Amos yet, their running styles are very similar. His size causes some concern when it comes to blitz pick-up, but if anyone can teach him how to step up and smack a blitzing linebacker its Kenny Browning.

Quincy: I was very excited to see the change in the running game against JMU. I was pleasantly surprised to see Gio Bernard's success on the field. I think with this addition in the backfield, it gives the offense a dual threat combo of power and speed, and can keep opposing defenses on their heels.

Buck: I don't care who you compare him to in terms of former UNC players or running styles, Bernard is a savvy, smart, and physically talented football player.

Bryn Renner set an all-time ACC mark for completion percentage (.957 for at least 20 attempts, the second-best in NCAA history for a player with 20-to-29 attempts). An amazing start, but what can we take away from Renner's debut against James Madison in terms of the rest of the season?

Mark: My hat is off to Bryn Renner and the way he played. He made a ton of plays and really showed off his athleticism and accuracy all game. JMU obviously will not be his toughest test of the year but this is an outstanding way to start and allowed Bryn and others to get a feel for playing in a college football game. I think every Tar Heel fan is impressed with him after week one.

Quincy Monk: What Bryn did on opening game was truly remarkable. The fact that this was against JMU, doesn't take away from that fact that during his first game as a starter, Bryn was very poised, accurate, and was a leader on the field. I believe we will see Bryn continue to have success in the air because he is patient and takes what the defense gives him.

Scott: What we saw didn't look like a quarterback making his first start. I thought he was extremely composed in the pocket and made some good, quick decisions with the ball. He looked athletic, poised and in control of the huddles. To be quite honest, not to say that I was doubtful in his ability at all, but I was expecting there to be a few rookie mistakes on his part. The performance that Bryn had was for the most part a huge stepping stone for him becoming more comfortable in game time situations. Albeit against what some would say a lesser opponent than we will face this season, this first appearance will help him build more confidence and grow as a player, helping him to recognize blitzes and formations he studies on film and being able to transition that into games as the season progresses.

Deems: Renner definitely had his ‘A' game Saturday. He was extremely accurate and had great control of the offense. His preparedness was a testament to his hard work while grooming behind T.J. Yates. The receivers being so open were a testament to the running game that was established early and the time afforded him by the offensive line along with great route running. I am tempering my excitement right now because first games never accurately predict what kind of year a player or team is going to have. In some cases the team is not as bad as it plays or vice versa, but it was certainly an exciting start.

Buck: Obviously Renner can't expect to have that sort of game every time he takes the field, but what an incredible debut. It's possible for fans to get too excited about his play in the opener, but what we saw Saturday bodes well for Renner's season and UNC's success in 2011.

North Carolina didn't give up a sack against JMU, a testament to the offensive line being built by coach Sam Pittman and the talent he's helped bring to UNC. It's just one game, but can we say that North Carolina's offensive line is on track to be one of the best we've seen in Chapel Hill in a decade or so?

Scott: Obviously talking about our offensive line gets me fired up, but I'll try to stifle myself and take a levelheaded approach to this. This year having Bryn, who is a more mobile quarterback, is going to be better at evading defenders and preventing sacks. I couldn't agree with you more about our offensive line having a great showing, but I really don't believe that JMU was the best litmus test to determine how good we can be. Unlike what we will see with Rutgers blitz heavy packages coming up this next week, we were never really in a position of being bombarded by blitzes or in a situation where the defense was able to pin its ears back and really come after us. I don't doubt that this could be one of the best offensive lines we've had in awhile. We've got the talent and having played for Coach Pittman, I know that he's an amazing coach and he makes you not only want to play well for yourself, but you want to play well for him as well.

Quincy: I think it was a good test for the offensive line to go against JMU and have some great success. JMU has a pretty good defense and it was good to see the offensive line protect for the Bryn, as well as open up some huge holes for the running backs to run through.

Deems: Coach Pitt has really recruited, built, and molded this offensive line over the past few years. As he likes to call them, "they are my house payments." (meaning having a unit like this provides very good job security!). These guys are not only really big, but very athletic. It was amazing watching them move out in space ahead of our running backs. The best compliments always come from the opposing coaches. JMU's coach compared them to pyramids, giving them all the credit for JMU not getting any pressure on Renner. This group is deep, talented, and athletic. I know Coach Pitt won't let their heads get too big, they'll be tested this week.

Mark: The offensive lines at Carolina haven't been incredibly strong the past decade, but lets not get ahead of ourselves and anoint this group as the second coming. It was a great game to put on tape, learn from it and continue to grow as a player and a unit. Don't get me wrong, I love the way the entire line played. There are some really talented guys on that line and I think if they continue playing to that level and beyond they could be one of the best lines to play at UNC in a long time.

Buck: Having an offensive line able to do the things we saw on Saturday has been a long time coming. They'll get tested against the better defenses UNC will face during the year, but so far, so good.

Defensively, the secondary is still a concern, giving up a couple of 40-yard plus receptions. Next week Charles Brown returns to the line-up after a one-game suspension – how much will his presence help the UNC secondary?

Deems: Charles Brown's return will be nice. This will allow Boston to move back over to the other corner and Tim Scott to nickel. I thought Scott played exceptionally well for a true freshman. I can't wait for Jabari Price to get back enabling us to move Boston to safety where I think he'll be a star. Our coaches are excited about Harrelson's potential and he got some good experience Saturday. We will need to be patient with him as he was playing receiver just three weeks ago. All of these factors should comfort fans that the more games we play getting Scott and Harrelson experience and also closer to Price's return leave me cautiously optimistic about our secondary. Another thing that adds to that is that teams will have to leave running backs and tight ends in to chip our defensive ends and help in protection - this will alleviate the pressure on the secondary.

Quincy: Charles's presence will be huge for the secondary. He is a veteran leader who can make a lot of plays in the secondary, and to have someone like him in the defense will only elevate everyone else's play on the field.

Scott: There's no question that having Charles Brown will help with our secondary. He has so much experience and he'll be able to give the younger guys a person to lean on. I understand that there are a few guys that have played a little bit, but Charles is a seasoned veteran and will help add a little swag and attitude that the other guys can pick up on.

Mark: Charles is a solid player, but lets not forget that he hasn't played in a football game in almost two years. I played next to Charles in the nickel package my senior year. Charles was a true freshman playing the nickel corner, and one thing that I remember about Charles is how competitive he is on the football field. As a young kid he wasn't afraid to mix it up in the run game and he battles for balls when they throw his way. It will be good for us to have a guy out there who has experience and has seen some success.

Buck: Mark is staking out his ground as the voice of reason so far, being what can be called, "cautiously optimistic." Brown being back, even though he's missed a year's worth of games, can be nothing be a positive – even as a true freshman he was an upgrade over what UNC had previously.

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.
Quincy Monk recorded 247 tackles at linebacker during his Tar Heel career from 1998-2001. He was drafted into the NFL and spent three seasons in the professional ranks.
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.

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