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Coach Fedora talked in his introductory press conference about how UNC would be in attack mode in all three phases of the game. How does that translate to special teams?
"First of all, it starts with an attitude. And when your head coach is behind your special teams, it's amazing how the attitude changes with meetings, with coaches and how you approach the special teams phase on a daily basis. When we were at Southern Miss, we started every day with a special teams meeting at 6am, so if you were a part of that special teams phase, you were in there with the head coach looking and evaluating the special teams play. So that's the biggest thing that you have to do with getting guys to buy in. This is important. If your head coach is in there every day, then your players are going to think its important. And he's heavily, heavily involved in special teams. It makes the job of special teams coordinator that much easier when your head coach buys in."
Frank Beamer helped to change the special teams philosophy in the ACC by putting a lot of his star players on those units. What's your opinion on that approach?
"Well, you've got to be careful. Coach Fedora says we want the best players to be on special teams. His whole philosophy at Southern Miss has been – he makes a big deal of special teams. Special teams players ride the first bus. Special teams players generally eat first. There's a lot of privileges to being on special teams. He makes it a big part of the game and it is a huge part of the game. Field position changes really influence a game. As soon as your players start to see the benefits of it, not just off the field, but on the field. We've had pretty successful special teams at Southern Miss over the past four years.
"I think with him doing that and the players understanding that, to get back to your question, starters are going to be available to the special teams coordinator. Now, how many plays they play per game usually influences how many special teams they're on. He likes to find core special teams guys that take a lot of pride in it, but he's also going to use his best players. A lot of starters were on our special teams at Southern Miss and I'm sure it's going to be the same here, but you've got to be careful about how many you use them on and how many plays they're playing. The best mix to make you successful is what we'll use."
Let's go back to the attack mode approach. Defensively, when people hear attack, they automatically think about blitzing. Is it that simple or is there more to it?
"It's not necessarily blitz all of the time. By using a hybrid defensive-end-rush-backer, it enables you to switch your rushers. And you may be sending an inside guy that may give you the perception that you're blitzing, but it's really still a four-man rush. It just changes up and makes it harder on offenses as to which way to set the protection and which linebackers are dropping and which ones are rushing. But it just depends upon the game. Coach [Dan] Disch and Coach [Vic] Koenning will use calculated risks. It's not just, ‘Okay, we're going to blitz every down for the sake of being in attack.' If it's going to benefit us, we're going to slant or move the front in some different way and it may still look like we're sending linebackers, but it may just be a four-man rush and just changing up which side you're setting the front to."
Now in terms of that hybrid end-linebacker, is that similar to how Southern Cal used Brian Cushing years ago?
"Yes. It takes a pretty special athlete. You've got to find that guy that's big enough and strong enough and an edge pass rusher that also has the ability to drop into coverage and change direction in space. So you've got to find a pretty special guy. Coach Disch and Coach Koenning have had successful players go on to the next level and play that position. So hopefully we're excited about trying to find out which one of our guys are capable of doing that."
Can you be defined with this defensive scheme? Is it a strict 4-2-5 or is that too broad?
"Yeah, it's a 4-2-5, it's a 4-3 with a nickel, but it's really not a true 4-3 because there's a little bit of a 3-4 element tied into it. There's only so many things you can do out of defensive football. There's only 11 guys out there – you can only move them around so many different ways. But the key is just moving them in the right ways against whatever offense you're playing."
Did Coach Fedora have to sell you any on taking this job?
"Not at all. I was here – I forgot what year it was – it was my first full-time coaching job at the University of New Hampshire. I was just excited to be a full-time coach and you go out on professional enhancement visits in the spring, you go visit different staffs, and the very first visit that I ever took was here to Chapel Hill. I believe it was Mack Brown's first year. Carl Torbush was the defensive coordinator. And I just thought, ‘What a beautiful place.' Because I'm coming from New England now, and the weather and the winter is just brutal. And you get down here to Chapel Hill and it's a beautiful place. I thought to myself, ‘Man, I'd just like to work here one day.' And now 20-some years later, here I am. I'm excited about it and I'm really looking forward to it."