Letterman's Roundtable

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

Buck Sanders: There was a lot to like about North Carolina's win at East Carolina. What did you like most? Renner's performance? Bernard's running ability? The catches by the wide receivers? The play of the offensive line? The turnovers created by the defense? What did you like best?

Mark Paschal: Every time I watch Gio he impresses me more and more. Renner had a very solid game, Dwight made some incredible plays, the offensive line was outstanding, and the defense created turnovers early and often and gave the offense a short field. Overall it was a great team effort on Saturday and something to build on for the rest of the season. Let's not fool ourselves, we beat ECU, not the Green Bay Packers, but it was a solid performance nonetheless.

Quincy Monk: There are many aspects from the victory against ECU that I really enjoyed, from the spectacular catches to the defense creating turnovers, but what I liked the best is the continued success from Gio Bernard. This kid is special! It's been quite some time since we've had a running back that can change the complexity of our running style. I am definitely a fan of Gio right now.

Deems May: Renner learning from the Georgia Tech game is what was most pleasing to me. He threw the ball away and played another play. Four touchdowns, no picks -- that is learning from your mistakes and not repeating them. Let's hope his growth continues.

Scott Lenahan: Honestly, I love the way that all these things contributed into making our team a complete product. Our defense, which we've been expecting to be one of the best to grace Carolina in years, finally seemed like they got their groove and were running around like a bunch of banshees. I also liked the way that Gio ran the ball. I'm telling you right now, this kid is something special. He's shifty, explosive, and although small, still strong at the point of contact. But what I liked best, you guessed it, the play of the offensive line. If you go back and watch the film, our guys were throwing and cutting multiple guys on the second level. I'd also like to point out what a great job Russell Bodine did. I love Cam and he's a reliable player for us, but where have we been hiding this guy? He's athletic, has great awareness and plays with exceptional pad level. Coach Shoop even packaged him at tight end on jumbo and double tight end formations. With the way that our offense continues to excel, I can't wait to watch us carve up Louisville.

Buck: Both the offense and defense showed some different looks at against East Carolina, some dictated by East Carolina's offense, some perhaps just new wrinkles the staff chose to implement against the Pirates. Did you think the staff was more innovative on both sides of the ball, or was this just a one-off because of the opponent?

Mark: Each week this staff will sit down and game plan for each opponent – naturally there is some carry over week to week about fundamental schemes and plays – each week they will create a plan to attack a certain opponent the best way possible. This week, I loved the fact that we rushed three defensive linemen and brought pressure with an extra linebacker. (If you go into the archives, I actually called for this type of defense last week.) I thought the changeup really helped get pressure on the quarterback and made him rush some throws; it also allowed us to get another guy in coverage if we only rushed the three down linemen. Great job by the entire coaching staff this week in game-planning for ECU.

Quincy: Well, I think we were able to create some new looks on both sides of the ball simply because ECU gave us some opportunities to take advantage of with some of their costly turnovers. By creating the amount of turnovers that we did in the first half, it allowed our offense to create some new wrinkles in the playbook because we had a bit of a cushion with the score.

Scott: Every week you are always going to add a wrinkle into your formation, plays, and movements. That's part of coaching and playing the game of football. As the season progresses, coaches study tape and game plan against what your tendencies and plays are. You're continually trying to find a soft spot in the other team's armor to exploit each week. We had great individual and team efforts this past Saturday, but my hats off to our coaches and their preparation and execution against ECU.

Deems: When your talent level is exponentially better than your opponents, then you can add more wrinkles. You give future opponents more to work on and also experiment on both sides of the ball and see what works best for the current makeup of your team. Having a lot of talent makes everyone's job easier. It's nice having a lot of talent.

Buck: This week North Carolina plays Louisville at home, it's a noon kickoff, but do you sense that there is some growing level excitement about UNC football after going 4-1 to this point of the season? Should we expect the bandwagon to pick up some passengers this weekend?

Deems: We had a great crowd in Greenville last weekend. True hardcore Carolina football fans. All I kept hearing about all week about how it was such a great atmosphere and a tough place to play. Over half of the stadium didn't return for the second half, we handled our business like we were supposed to. I wish we would've stepped harder on their throats and finished them early in the third quarter; we need a killer instinct. I'm not sure what the mindset of our fans is right now, but I know our true hardcore fans that were in Greenville Saturday night will be in Kenan this weekend -- hope others will be too.

Scott: Since the beginning of the season I've said that as we've won games, people will gradually forget about what transpired before the season and join in. People don't want to miss out on being a part of something special, especially after our never-ending nightmare over the past year. I don't think that a win over Louisville is a huge deal, but being 5-1 is. Bandwagon fans or not, you're all invited as far as I'm concerned. If you're cheering for Carolina, well, then you're all right with me.

Mark: Noon kickoff against Louisville – let's just say I will be more than pleased if we have the same amount of fans there as we did for the UVa game. Is excitement building? I think so. Is a noon kickoff against Louisville the game where we see fans come out in droves? Doubt it.

Quincy: There should definitely be more of a buzz now from our fans simply because of what we are accomplishing on the football field. Anytime you start winning games, you're going to bring some bandwagon fans out of the woodworks. I'm really excited to see how our team is starting to mentally believe that they can win every game.

Buck: We expected coming into the season that the defense would be the strength of this team. There were a lot of question marks about the secondary, and the Tar Heels are ranked 10th in the ACC and 74th nationally in pass defense efficiency through five games. Todd Harrelson and Jabari Price returned in a limited number of snaps against ECU – can we expect improvement in pass defense over the course of the next seven games?

Mark: The defensive line has to get better pressure, the linebackers have to re-route wide receivers and tight ends and the secondary has to make more plays on the ball if we want to see improvement from a statistical standpoint. I never was big on pass defense stats though – think about it, if you are winning, the other team is going to have to throw the ball much more to try and get back in a game. As long as those W's continue to come, I'm all right with it.

Deems: We knew coming in to the season that we would struggle in the secondary. Price's injury hurt us. Boston looks more like a safety than corner; we'll see how it plays out. We need to get more pressure on the QB from our front seven; not sure what is wrong up front, but we are getting blocked too much. I don't like the stats in the passing game, but scoring defense is so much more important. I look for constant changes until we find eleven on defense that are stopping opponents and pressuring the quarterback.

Scott: I'm not omniscient, but having Jabari and Zach Brown back added a spark that I haven't seen all year. Our defense resembled last year's defense at times, and we all know that's a good sign. As we go forward, I expect our defensive secondary will begin to gel and play progressively better, that is if our personnel we have now stays intact. We aren't deep here, so if we have another hiccup like we did with Jabari somewhere along the season, it'll be some tough sledding.

Quincy: I would think that after each game we play, there should be something we can take away that we can improve and get better on. The challenge that the secondary has faced is that we've seen the complexity of the opposing offenses create breakdowns within our secondary. We have given up huge yards on plays where a breakdown in coverage or mental errors on assignments by our defense has led to easy scores. As we get deep into ACC conference play, we have to eliminate the mental errors and poor coverage assignments to prevent the opposing teams from scoring on big plays.

Buck: With a win over Louisville this weekend, the Tar Heels would be 5-1 mid-way through the season and have a chance to make it into the Top 25 nationally. Is it time for UNC football fans to put off-the-field questions and issues on the backburner and focus on what this team might be able accomplish this season?

Scott: Off-the-field issues? Oh, that's right! I've been enjoying watching football so much recently that I haven't even thought about it. Wait, isn't that what football is supposed to be? Not some saga about how this or that University is under double secret probation for possibly giving a player an extra bag of chips as he got off the bus. Football is about stories like Tommy Heffernan, about a team sport that you put your blood, sweat and tears into. To play a game that you love with others that you're willing to sacrifice almost anything for, because you know that you'll be in it together. That's exactly what this team has done this year -- come together and played their tails off. I know all true Carolina fans are with me when I say that I'm proud to be a Tar Heel. I always will be.

Deems: I certainly don't think this will be an easy win and I hope our players don't. Louisville is better than East Carolina. Charlie Strong will challenge them this week, and we'll get their best game of the year, like we get everyone's best game. I can't speak for our fans or influence how they feel about what has transpired off the field. I put off-the-field issues on the backburner every week for three-and-half hours as most of our fans do. However, I feel that making one person a scapegoat for all of the problems in the last year is unfair and others should be held accountable. Until then, I imagine that both burners will remain hot.

Mark: This team has a chance to be pretty special – Louisville, Miami, Clemson, WFU, State, VT and Duke remain – call me crazy, but I see a bunch of wins left on that schedule. If the Carolina football fans don't want to focus on this team, they might just miss the first 10-win season we have had in Chapel Hill in a long time. Time to be ALL IN.

Quincy: If not now, then when? We have a good football unit that bleeds baby blue, who needs the support of our fans to rally around them. I know we're going to continue to have to answer for the decisions that some individuals made prior to this year until the NCAA makes their ruling, but we are building on something special here in Chapel Hill. GO HEELS!

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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