Walt Bell Q&A

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina tight ends coach Walt Bell spoke with Inside Carolina about his history in the spread offense and what fans can expect from the up-tempo look.

Walt Bell
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What are the traits that have allowed you to be in this position at such a young age?
"I'm going to bring a lot of energy. Everybody in this business works hard. I'm not here to say I outwork people. I'm going to work like everybody else. The one positive that I have is that I've done nothing but this offensively. I played in it and I've coached in it. I installed it with Coach Anderson at Louisiana-Lafayette, so I've been in on the ground floor of this and seen the transition happen. At Oklahoma State, the offense was basically a shell of what Coach Fedora had done there, so I've been nothing but spread, up-tempo, no-huddle my whole life. So the install and teach from the ground up and teaching the communication with the kids.

"The biggest thing is that I think I'm a good communicator. I think I do a good job with the kids. Coach Fedora has said it, and I say it all of the time, but kids have got to know two things – that you're invested in them, you care about them and that you can make them a good player. When you go backwards from that, can you make them a good player, yes or no? And even if they're not a good player, you still care about them. And that goes both ways. As long as you do those two things… Kids are resilient. There's a reason they play football and hit each other in the face. It's physical and it's not always the easiest game to play, but as long as you do those two things, kids generally will do a good job for you."

UNC has trended toward a pro-style look over the past two decades, so not many in this area are accustomed to the spread offense. What are the key points to know about this offense?
"The things that you'll notice initially are how fast we play. The ball carrier is going to hit the ground and 14-16 seconds later, the ball is going to be snapped again. That's going to be a change. Usually a good play happens and fans stand up and clap, sit back down for a second and get ready to stand up expecting the next play. Don't sit down because the next one is getting ready to roll.

"No. 2 is how wide the field of play is going to become. Obviously a field is 53 1/3 yards wide. We're going to play on every inch of that. If the ball is on the hash, a lot of teams will play 30 yards wide and use all of the field vertically, but we're going to play 53 1/3 yards wide and we're going to play 100 yards long. We're going to stretch the field as much as we can.

"One of things growing up in the spread, and one of the reasons the spread has taken off in high school and college and even in the NFL with New England and the Saints, is what we call the "one foot, 10 foot" rule… The thing that we always try to express to our kids is [this] -- hand the ball off in a big wad of people and the guy breaks a tackle, how far is the next closest guy to him? Probably about a foot away. With the way we're going to play with the perimeter screen and other stuff, if we've got a guy and he breaks a tackle, the next closest guy to him may be 10-12 feet away. So you get great athletes, you put them in space. It will be a very, very exciting offense for not only the fans, but for our kids. It will be a chance for those guys that feel like they're playmakers, that feel like they've got a chance to make a lot of great plays – we're going to see. If you're a great player, you don't get tackled in a 10-by-10 box very much.

"So it will be interesting to see. But those three things – the speed of the play, how wide the field of play will be and how much space will be created for the playmakers."

On the balanced approach this offense will showcase:
"The last thing I'll say about the spread offense, especially the way we do it… Lots of people do it different ways. Houston throws it 60 times a game. We're going to be very, very balanced. In Coach Fedora's last year at Oklahoma State, they were right down the middle and finished fourth overall. This year, we threw for 260 and ran for 215. We finished 15th, I think but we were 20th in passing and 30th in rushing. We're going to run the football. We're going to be really physical. Our brand of the spread isn't – we're going to be physical. I think that's a common misconception. People think of our offense and they think we throw it all of the time. We're going to run the football first and the perimeter screen game comes off that and then the downfield pass game."

On his relationship with Larry Fedora:
"I will always be indebted. All of the things that I've ever wanted in my life, in terms of goals and dreams, would have never happened to me if it weren't for Coach Fedora giving me the opportunity to coach. I'll always be grateful to him and ever loyal to him and Coach [Blake] Anderson. Coach Anderson, it's not a cliché deal, but he's like a dad to me. All of the problems that I have, that's the guy that I talk to. Any other things, goals, aspirations, advice, that's the guy I go to. So it's a good staff with a lot of chemistry and a lot of loyalty."


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