Letterman's Roundtable

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders hosts a collection of former Tar Heels for the weekly 'State of the Heels' football roundtable discussion.

Buck Sanders - It was a really interesting game last weekend with Louisville. My basic thought following that game is, I still don't know any more about this UNC football team than I did before the Louisville game. Let's start with Quincy and have him chime in on, do we really know more about this team than before the Louisville game?

Quincy Monk - Not really. It was a tale of two halves – the first half, we all know what happened – we played in a hostile environment and Bridgewater just ate our lunch. It was kind of frustrating because he was back there and we really didn't get much pressure on him. It seemed like he didn't have to really put in effort in order to complete passes; it was effortless. I know he's going to be playing on Sundays in the next couple of years. It still would have been nice for us to come out with more of an aggressive mentality than to get hit in the mouth in the first half. But, what I did like is the fact that we could have shut it down after halftime. We were down 28 points, or whatever, we could have shut it down and looked forward to ECU. But, it was refreshing to see that these guys weren't going to just take it. They came out with aggression in the second half and had a chance at the end, to come out with the win. Like you said, you don't know which team is the true Tar Heel team. But it's good to see, going into this next game, that we ended on a positive note with a lot of momentum.

Buck Sanders – Brian, I said this going into the game and I'll say it now, it's very difficult to predict what's going to happen on any given Saturday with this team because there are so many moving parts in terms of new offense and new defense. But, to Quincy's point, what do you have to do to get a team ready to go out there and just knock somebody's head off from the opening of a game? How can you not be ready to just get after it from the opening snap?

Brian Chacos - Obviously, we still haven't figured that out, by the looks of it. I'm going to do a Mark Paschal impersonation. Saturday was so disappointing; it is just so frustrating to watch this. But, Buck, to really get to your point, for these guys to have only 12 opportunities - now nine opportunities - you've got to look at these games as opportunities to go out and play with your teammates, play with your friends and really just represent the University. It's unbelievable that these guys, so early in the season too, just aren't coming out with the kind of preparation and intensity that they should. It's not like we're in week eight or week nine and the season has already played out the way it's going to. We're on week three; we're on ABC at 3:30, primetime sort of game, half the country has this on TV and it's a time to show your skill-set – it's a big market. So again, it's frustrating that they came out and played with no intensity and no sort of preparation, no effort, no enthusiasm, and sort of were just going through the motions. I actually got up this morning and re-watched the first half again just to see how bad it was. It was just as bad as watching it the first time. Guys were totally out of position and guys just looked like they had no idea what they were doing out there; it really showed. Someone has got to step up in that locker room. It really starts with the leadership from the players; the coaches can do all the ‘rah rah' they want to, but it starts with the players.

Buck Sanders – Matt, one question that I've gotten a lot this week from a variety of people, including a bunch of reporters following the game – just watching Bryn Renner in that first half, I don't know what your take on it was, and I think there was probably equal parts of blame to go around between the offense and defense in that first half, but there are times that Bryn Renner looks brilliant and there's times where, inexplicably, he throws into double and triple coverage. What's your take on that and do you see the same thing? That's sort of what I saw but did you see the same thing?

Matt Baker - I think this offense is really struggling to get rhythm consistently. I think that's where you see the ups and downs of the quarterback. There will be drives where we are putting it all together; we're playing at a good speed; we're getting yards on first down and things are going well. Then, you'll see a drive where we're making a mistake; we're in a second and long, or we get a penalty, or we snap it over somebody's head. It's tough to get any consistency when you continue to have mistakes in the middle of drives. When Bryn gets going, when Bryn gets playing, he looks really good. But, he gets off beat, that's when you see him try to force some throws, throws into coverage. He locks onto a receiver and makes up his mind before the snap. I think when he's in the zone, he's great; when it's off then the whole offense is off, that's when you see the struggles.

Buck Sanders – I've got one follow-up for Matt. This is just my own observation, but it appears to me that when he goes to Eric Ebron, who is 6-5 or so, he either overthrows him down field by five or six yards or he throws the ball too high for Ebron to catch it. Remember a week ago at Wake Forest Ebron had to climb a ladder to even catch that ball for that touchdown in the end zone. How much about that is chemistry – the quarterback and receiver having the right chemistry? It doesn't seem like Renner and Ebron have as much chemistry as maybe they could have to the betterment of the offense.

Matt Baker - I don't know how much it has to do with chemistry. I'll tell you what, I noticed again watching this game, and I said it back, I think when we had our first meeting back in the spring coming into the fall, that Bryn's footwork really fell apart at the end of last season, I thought. I think his footwork gets too wide sometimes and he starts to over stride, especially in throws over the middle, I've noticed. I don't think it's based on who he's throwing to. I think often Bryn will over stride and when you over stride, often times you sail the ball. That's what I've noticed a few times in the last couple of games from Bryn. I think mostly it's a footwork thing than it is a comfort thing with a particular receiver. So, I think that's something he really needs to work on; he really does get wide in his release sometimes.

Buck Sanders – This is kind of a question for all three of you guys, but I'll start with Brian first. This question came up earlier in the week when we were discussing it on IC Radio, but in a situation like this, how much does it matter when you have a player really step up, like Romar Morris on offense? To me, when Romar got going and he had a couple of big plays, that was contagious to the rest of the offense. I think the rest of the offense sort of fed off of that in the second half. Even though I think Tommy Heffernan played well for the game, I think his intensity, and some other guys stepped up in the second half as well on defense, the team began to feed on that. How much of the second half comeback is due to a player stepping up and then the rest of the players saying, ‘okay, let's follow that guy?' As you guys were players, how much did you feed off other players that were making big plays? Brian, we'll start with you.

Brian Chacos - Yeah, Buck, it's 100 percent contagious – one guy making a great play. The play I think that Romar made was the blocked punt – that was enormous in the second half. But, again, it's a simple answer, it's 100 percent contagious, whether it's your quarterback making a play … A guy like Quincy – Quincy made tons of plays when Matt and I were sitting there as true freshmen watching him play on that great defense we had back in 2001, it's definitely contagious. The certain leaders that we know who are on that defense especially, that's the unit that is struggling for us right now that really have to step their game up. A guy like Kevin Reddick, he's got to step up, and a guy like Sly Williams, who has sort of been quiet the last two games, has really got to pick up his intensity and has got to step up. It's got to be something where those two guys have really got to step it up and make plays for us.

Buck Sanders – Quincy, how do you feel about that? You know, coaches can say whatever they want to say or give whatever inspirational speeches they want to give, but when you're on the field, do you look towards the other guys and guys that are making plays, is that really where other players draw their inspiration from?

Quincy Monk - You can get motivated by a coach but you have to have something within you to make you want to get up and make plays. It's like Brian said, it's 100 percent contagious. When you see one of your teammates make big plays, it's like, ‘okay, it's my turn to make a big play' – it just feeds off of each other. I remember when I was playing, I wanted to get a tackle as soon as possible in the game because that kind of gets the nerves off and you feel more comfortable once you start making plays – it just trickles down to the rest of the teammates. When you see somebody else make a play, you get energized. It's like, ‘okay, it's my turn to make a play.' That mentality just feeds off of everybody else. Then you start seeing a play here and a play there, that's when you get the momentum of the team, both sides – offense, defense, special teams – then everybody is coming together as one because one guy made a big play, bit hit, big catch, whatever, it just kind of feeds on the rest of the team. I actually agree, it's very contagious, once one guys starts making a play, then it trickles down to the rest of the unit.

Buck Sanders – Matt, here's your chance to make it unanimous. I've seen it many times where a player, either a defensive player making a huge hit or the offense connecting on a long pass down field, in what previously might have been a little dormant offense or defense, all of the sudden got going. How much does that enter into the psyche of the team when they see somebody else make a big play.

Matt Baker - Yeah, of course. Everyone who has played the game, for that matter, everyone who has watched the game, would agree with Brian, Quincy and all of us here on this one. It doesn't matter who, often times it doesn't matter when, but when someone makes a big play, other players on the team feed off of that and you get some momentum going; it just continues to roll. Obviously fans that have been in the stands for games or at home when that happens, it has the same affect. When you're on the road, it's similar. When you're on the road playing and that crowd gets quiet, everything gets easier – making defensive calls, making offensive calls, it's all easier. I certainly agree with everyone on this one. It doesn't matter who and when, someone needs to make a big play to get the team going.

Buck Sanders – You guys may have some further thoughts on the Louisville game, and if you do, you're welcome to share them. But, I want to focus a minute on the East Carolina game. Growing up in North Carolina and living here my entire life and knowing what that fan base is like… Every time I cross I-95, I have to get my passport stamped because that's how it is with East Carolina fans – great atmosphere, a lot of drama seems to surround UNC and ECU games. Talk for a minute about your experiences. We'll start with Quincy about your experiences with East Carolina, what playing them is like, and what that meant to you as a player. Go ahead Quincy.

Quincy Monk - Well, I'm originally from Jacksonville, North Carolina, that's the eastern part of the state. So, growing up you hear ECU fans talk about Carolina and ECU all the time. When I got a chance to play against them my senior year I had a buddy that was on the ECU team. It's a good rivalry because a lot of these players have played each other in high school – are either high school teammates or know each other from meeting each other at different football camps. But, the atmosphere is crazy. I know, when we played, ECU fans talked so much junk, players talked so much junk, they put this game on a pedestal like it was the Super Bowl. They bring everything they can possibly bring when they play Carolina. If there's one game on the schedule that they want to beat anybody, they can be 1-10, as long as they beat Carolina, that's a successful season in their book. I remember when we played back in 2001, it was a close game, I think one of our players made a miraculous play to run a kickoff back and cause a fumble, which in turn helped us seal the victory. I just know how they attack this game with so much pride, so much emotion, that it's going to be a tough task. I remember the fans, they get charged. It's exciting, but I also want you to understand these guys are going to bring a lot of passion and a fan base that really has no love for Carolina. I remember the time we played, there was so much trash talk and so much junk talk, then we hit them in the mouth and shut them up.

Buck Sanders – You know, Quincy, I may be mistaken about the player's name, but I'm fairly confident that it may have been Kevin Knight that ran down Art Brown on a return, it was either Kevin Knight or Derrick Johnson.

Quincy Monk - I think it was Derrick Johnson.

Buck Sanders – It could have been Derrick Johnson. One of those two ran down a return and knocked the ball out of his hands as he was getting ready to score, as I recall.

(Note: It was Derrick Johnson that caused a game-saving fumble in 2001, knocking the ball out from behind on Art Brown for what would have been an 81-yard return)

Matt Baker – David Garrard was on that team, wasn't he?

Brian Chacos - Yeah, yeah, Garrard was their quarterback.

Buck Sanders – Brian and Matt, I know both of you all grew up outside the state of North Carolina. But, what were your experiences with the East Carolina game? Brian, go ahead and give me your experiences.

Brian Chacos - Well, Matt and I both played there in the 2004 season. We came away with a good victory; it was a good, tight game. The East Carolina fans are passionate about their football and they have a hatred for Carolina. Obviously, every school in this state does as well. But, it's a great rivalry. I think Quincy, Matt and I have a good appreciation for the East Carolina rivalry as well because of our connection with Coach Connors, who is now back with East Carolina - before he was a strength coach with us at Carolina he was at East Carolina. So, he pretty much instilled in us all the things he did at East Carolina and how East Carolina felt about North Carolina when he was there. So, again, Matt and I being out-of-state guys, we sort of got caught up to speed real fast with that rivalry and how they feel about us. It's like Quincy said, this is their biggest game on their schedule. They're coming off a nice win against Southern Miss. You know, it's a great opportunity for their fan base to travel up to Chapel Hill and a great afternoon at 3:30 and see a game that they're seeing us as sort of limping into, as they think, and they think will make them get a win. So, this is a prime game for them and probably the best game on their schedule to come and see.

Buck Sanders -- Coach Connors was a piece of work. Let me interrupt you for a second, Matt. I'm just wondering now what he does with his UNC tattoo, which I hear he had placed on a strategic part of body. I wonder how he shows that tattoo off on occasion.

Matt Baker - The funny thing is, that was the exact question I was going to ask – what do you think Coach C does with that tattoo this week? You beat me to it. No, this is the plea from all of us as ex-players for Carolina fans in the state and around there to try to make it happen to get to the game. I know how it usually is at Carolina after two very frustrating losses; you see it in the stands come the next home game. If you're a Carolina fan out there and in the state, you show up to this one, hopefully it's a beautiful Saturday, and do your best to get there. If we don't show up, there's going to be a lot of purple and gold in that stadium and that's the last thing we want to see. That's demoralizing as players – to show up and see a lot of the opposing team in your stands. Like everyone else says, it's a game that ECU circles every year when they see Carolina on the schedule.

Buck Sanders – Thanks guys, talk to you again next week.

Featured Lettermen in Today's Roundtable

  • Matt Baker quarterbacked the Tar Heels in 2005, while amassing the 7th-highest season passing yardage total in school history. Following his UNC career, he was a member of six different NFL teams.

  • Brian Chacos's UNC career (2001-06) included 35 starts at offensive tackle, a selection to the Lombardi Watch List, and All-ACC Academic honors.

  • 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.

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