When we first found out, it was sitting down and being honest with them. This is what it is. Then letting them say what they wanted to say. Letting them express their frustration. They got to all say what they wanted to say, talk about it. Once they were done, we said ‘Okay, here's the plan.' For the first time in my life, I know we have 12 games and that's it.
If I'm a senior and I know I only have 12 games left, I'm going to take advantage of each and every one of them. I'm not going to take anything for granted. No matter how I feel, no matter what the weather is, whether we're playing on asphalt, or who we're playing against or what color our helmets and our jerseys… nothing matters. I got an opportunity, and I'm only going to have 12 of them, to play a game that I love. And to go out and put that interlocking "NC" on the side of my helmet or my chest and represent the University of North Carolina.
For them I think it's now, I've got 12. We're going to focus on one and make the most of that one. And then when that one is done, then we'll focus on the next one… and not take anything for granted, because you can't.
What's been the biggest adjustment for you with your new players?
I was there (at Southern Mississippi) for four seasons. You tend to forget what it's like when you start – so that's the biggest adjustment, again, is going back and starting over. Starting from scratch and remembering the frustrations that are involved in starting over, and then trying to remember what those frustrations were like and whether you're coming along at the same pace and all those things. At least I've done it before, that was the nice thing. I was able to look back, go back and look at notes from four years ago, look at mistakes that I felt like I made four years ago and now not make those mistakes in this transition.
In taking over this program, how do you face things like negative recruiting?
I think that was probably more prevalent before the sanctions came out, because they can say whatever they wanted to say. Now, it is what it is. Everybody knows. It's not like we've tried to keep it a secret. It's been talked about, and written about over and over and over. Where now, kids they are just tired of hearing about it. They don't want to hear about it anymore. The bowl ban doesn't affect anybody that we're recruiting, because there won't be anybody on campus that we're recruiting that will be affected by that. And so really it's not something – I don't think a lot of them even think about it anymore.
Do you think the program is finally at the point that it can put all that behind it and take the field knowing that it has finally passed?
I don't think it is, I know it is. I know that we're at point where we're moving forward. The team, the players, we've been moving forward since the sanctions came out. I think our fans, they're tired of it. They don't want to hear about it anymore. Everybody's excited about the new season, everybody's excited that college football's just around the corner and that's all anybody wants to talk about right now.
What's your approach is with your players developing them into your style. How do you feel like the players you have aree going to fit your style?
That's one of my biggest fears – that we may not have somebody in the right place or we may not take full advantage of someone's skills because we don't know about them. That's something that we challenge ourselves as coaches all the time, making sure we figure out what each and every young man can do and what they can't do.
Then, if you're a good football coach, then you take your philosophy and you take your offense and your defense and mold it around the talent you have. The offense won't be the same as it was at Southern Miss. The defense won't be the same as it was at Southern Miss. Because we have different players. Whether or not they fit it or not doesn't matter, it's whether we do a good job molding the offense and defense around what they can do.
Then recruiting the players that we feel, maybe, fit it better for the long run.
You talk about molding, have you still not seen any film on the guys or are you going on what you've seen?
Fifteen days. Fifteen days of practice, that's all I'm going on. Then I'll go through the 29 days of fall camp and we'll make all our decisions based on that. Really for me, it really doesn't matter what they did before. I can't go back because I told them I wasn't going to.
The very first day, I said ‘Whatever you want to be, you're building your resume today. You'll build it every day from this point on. Whatever you want to be, it doesn't matter what you've been in the past, whether you've been lazy, overweight, you haven't been very strong, whatever it is… Whatever you choose to be from this point on you can be.' Most of them have taken that to heart.
Is that your philosophy or is that compounded by the fact of what happened to Carolina before you got there?
That's just my philosophy. I've now taken this offense into… this is the fifth program, I've never looked at any film on any other player before that, ever before.
What have you learned about Kevin Reddick, both as a young man and a football player?
The first thing I learned about Kevin Reddick is that he is a great person and a very fine representative of the University of North Carolina. He's just a good person with a good heart. He really understands and has bought in. He was one of the guys that after we talked about ‘Seniors, hey, you guys can leave if you want or do whatever you want,' he was the first one to stand up and say, ‘I'm not going anywhere. We're going to have a good season here next year.' He's a leader on our defense and he's very, very well respected amongst his teammates because of his work ethic and the way he carries himself both on the field and off.
What has been the learning curve for your offense in the four places that you've been before?
It's been a little bit different in every one, based on the personnel and the talent level and how quickly we as coaches adjust to the talent level. We make sure that we can do the things they can do and don't mess with the things they can't do. We're still in the process of figuring it out, I don't think you're going to do that in 15 days. But, by the end of fall camp, we've got to be able to do that.
It really doesn't matter what the timeframe is that it takes because have to be ready Sept. 1. That's what I tell them all the time, you have to have a sense of urgency about everything we do. I've gone throughout the entire summer telling them ‘Okay, you've got 75 days,' ‘You've got 60 days,' ‘You've got 50 days,' ‘We're coming up on 30 here next week.' We're counting it down and we have to make sure we're taking advantage of those days and not just counting them down. We have to take advantage of each and every one.
What was the smoothest one, in terms of installing it, at a place you've been?
Probably Southern Miss. The quarterback made it that way. I anticipate that same way here. I think Bryn (Renner) shows a lot of the same intangibles as a quarterback that we had back there with Austin Davis. What I learned from Austin, I see Bryn being able to do some of the same things but also have more talent than Austin had.
Did you think the NCAA purposefully sent out a strong message with Penn State?
I don't think there's any doubt about it. I think each time as we go in college football, every time they do something now they're trying to send a stronger and stronger message each and every time until eventually hopefully everyone understands the message.
Do you think the coaches, administrators are getting the message?
I hope so. I don't know if you can ever totally eliminate everything that's going to happen out there. I think making everybody aware of it is what's important. I think people are getting closer to it, if they're not they're awful stubborn.
Could you talk about the difference in offensive line play in the pro style versus the spread. Are these guys athletic enough to be what you need in a spread?
Oh, yeah, they're definitely athletic enough. These guys are not only athletic enough, they're big. They're really big. If you look at them now, compared to what they were at the beginning of the summer, they're not near as big as they were. I know our strength coach, Coach (Lou) Hernandez, has carved a little bit of weight off some of these guys. Which, all he's done, is build up their work capacity. Each and every one of them, to a man, has gotten stronger but they've also cut body fat. That just means their work capacity is going up and they'll be able to do some great things this year.
Check back tomorrow for Part II ...