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Coach Fedora joked this week that he was told it's impossible to coach a bowl game and transition to a new job, and then found out that it was impossible. How difficult has it been?
"Well, it is hard, but I think we did the right thing. Any time you coach a team, I think they want you to see it through, especially when you have a good season like that. Otherwise, I think sometimes they're ready to get rid of you. But we had such a good chemistry on that team, good kids. They were playing for a school-record 12 wins, but it was really hard, too.
"Once we got to the bowl site in Hawaii – which is pretty nice, by the way – we got a little bit more insulated, other than your phone a little bit. The kids focused on what we had to do and we had fun doing it, so it was okay once we got there. But there was about a week leading up to it where it was a difficult deal."
A lot of the coaches have talked about the family atmosphere with this staff. When Coach Fedora started the process of interviewing for this job, did he approach you and the other coaches about the opportunity?
"When we won the championship game on Saturday and we flew back, he literally left on Sunday. Now we had had some conversations before the season about what we needed to do at Southern Miss to win a championship, and then as the season gets going, you're not talking about those things. You're trying to win ball games, trying to be right to the kids that are there. There wasn't a lot [of dialogue].
"He had made mention that if I get an opportunity, I'd like you to come, but not much more than that. There just wasn't time. It just happened so fast. And when I think everything got wrapped up from his end, he called me and said, ‘Hey man, I'm heading to Chapel Hill. Do you want to come with me? I hope you'll come with me.' And I said, ‘Absolutely, I'm excited.' But there wasn't as much dialogue as you might expect just because the timetable was so crazy."
Did Coach Fedora have to sell you on the split duties as defensive coordinator with Vic Koenning?
"Well, a little bit. We did talk a little bit about that. I wouldn't do this with just anybody. No. 1, it's a little different dynamic, but if you've got a guy that you've worked with and you trust, who shares your philosophy and doesn't have a big ego, and vice versa, I hope. I hope he feels the same way and I know he does or he wouldn't be here. Then I think it makes it a tenable deal. We both kind of run the same defense. We got to run it together for a year, but I've run aspects of it and he's run aspects of it, so we've both run the defense. We both believe in a certain way to treat kids and having fun. We both share those common goals, so if you do that, you don't care who gets the credit, so I think that makes it easier.
"It will be a collaborative deal. Everyone asks who will be calling the plays. I'll call the ones that work and the ones that don't work, you can say Vic called them suckers. But what will happen is that we'll collaborate during the week. People don't understand that's 90 percent of the work. On game day, if it's 4th-and-1, we've got two calls that we've talked about during the week together. Then you just call one of those two, so I don't think it's near as important who we decide to make the calls on game day as much as preparing your kids and preparing the game plan during the week, when you can collaborate. Where it gets a little bit clunky is on game day, but not if you've worked through it. And we'll work through every aspect of it.
"Like I said, I don't care and he doesn't care who gets the credit. We just want to come here and make things happen. This year he had some success against Big Ten power offenses. We played in a high-powered passing league. He's been in the ACC, I've been in the SEC. We both feel like we've seen a lot of different types of offenses, so I feel like between the two of us, we're prepared for it because the ACC is a little more diverse. I was in the Big Ten for six years, Conference USA, SEC. So I think our experiences when put all together will help us."