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 – What a win for UNC last Saturday. I think we should start where both Scott Lenahan - and Brian Chacos - played, which is the UNC offensive line. Those guys just did a tremendous job on Saturday against Virginia Tech. I'm going to lead off with Tank to talk about the offensive line because he has not been all that impressed with them this year, but you should be impressed this game, at least.

Scott Lenahan - - I'm definitely impressed; they're just sound across the whole board as far as Bryn having time to throw when he needed to and having huge holes for Gio. This year, I've been watching the line evolve, obviously. Jonathan Cooper, he's been impressive for quite some time. You've got Bodine, who I think is going to definitely be a huge asset to the offensive line. I was really impressed not only with Hurst, but Brennan Williams as well. I've been watching him a little bit closer as the year has gone on. To watch somebody that is his size ... I was sitting with Chacos at the game, we were sitting there talking about how well he moves and how well he can get around and how athletic he is – that's a guy who I think is going to be a huge pick in the NFL. This past Saturday was like watching a ballet; it was beautiful.

Brian Chacos - - Yeah, Buck, it was great. As Tank was saying, just watching these guys man-handle Virginia Tech, and they really did – 339 yards rushing; it was pure dominance. As fans and as Tank and I being past lettermen on the offensive line, it was just beautiful to watch. I'm really proud of those guys. It's an attitude; playing the offensive line is all about mentality and having a nasty attitude and it really showed. Just reading the quotes with that fourth down – with Cooper coming to the bench, and Coach Fedora wanting to send the punting unit out, for those guys begging him to let them have the opportunity to earn those inches and for them doing a great job sealing it off and letting Gio scoot for that 62-yard touchdown – that's just the mentality and mindset to know that they can prove to Coach that they can get it done. It was such a pleasure to watch them on Saturday – a great time on Saturday to see pure dominance of a tremendous football program at Virginia Tech and of a Bud Foster defense.

Buck Sanders – As good as the offensive line was ... granted Virginia Tech rolled up some yards in the passing game, but for the UNC defense to stone them for 40 yards net rushing, that's quite an accomplishment. They let Virginia Tech and Logan Thomas try to beat them with his arm, but to hold Virginia Tech to 40 yards of net rushing ... What about that Quincy? What did you see on Saturday about how North Carolina stopped Virginia Tech rushing the ball? Was it attitude? Was it scheme? What did you think it was?

Quincy Monk - - I definitely think it was attitude. Also, I think these guys are starting to gel on the defensive side of the ball. In the earlier games, they were playing more reacting-type of football, meaning that when a play is developing, you see guys thinking about the play instead of just going out and scoping out the play and being aggressive with their instinct. I think now you're seeing those guys starting to gel with this defensive scheme and start to feel more comfortable where they're able to make those plays instinctively instead of going out and playing reactive. In football, it's low man wins, but it's always the one that's going to be more aggressive that is going to win on that side of the ball. I think what we did on Saturday is that a lot of these guys are feeling comfortable in the defense scheme and you saw guys run to the ball and pursue – that's where we were able to get that momentum to stop the run, which was very pleasant to see.

Buck Sanders – Mark, one of the guys I wanted to ask you specifically about is Tommy Heffernan. Here's a guy, he may not have all the athletic ability in the world, he may not run a 4.5-40, he might not have Bruce Carter kind of weight room statistics, but that kid is a player. My hat is off to him. We've seen earlier indications of how he can play, but I really thought he brought it on Saturday.

Mark Paschal - - Absolutely, Buck. Tommy has been a very, very pleasant surprise this year. I know that going into the year I thought that he would have a chance to step up and play some valuable minutes, but I didn't have the foresight to see that he was going to be a heck of a starter for us. He's been very impressive; a pleasure to watch. The kid's story is unbelievable. Just the adversity that he's fought through just to be on the field, your hat is off to him. I just want to let everybody know that it's not always the biggest, fastest and strongest that are the best football players, some people just have "it." That "it" is the will, the fight, the determination, the smarts, and the reaction. Tommy has all those things. So, you can throw all the height, weight and speed out the door when you've got a guy that is that committed, that is that passionate about the game. It's been an absolute pleasure to watch him grow and get better and play at a very high level for this football team.

Buck Sanders – He's still a young guy. He's going to be a contributor not just this year, but also in the next couple of years. I think that really bodes well for the UNC defense. They are going to lose Kevin Reddick and some other players off the defense, it's reassuring for them to know that they're going to have somebody like Tommy being a stalwart on that linebacker corps next year.

Mark Paschal - - Absolutely, I think that he's blossomed into a leader from an emotional standpoint, just the way that he attacks the game and attacks the football. You rarely see him bust a read or bust a play mentally. I think that he's really become a leader for us on the defensive side. That's very, very exciting moving forward this year and years to come.

Buck Sanders – I'd love to spend a couple of hours just talking to you guys about the Virginia Tech game because what a game it was, to beat them the way that North Carolina beat them – the first time since 1938 in Kenan Stadium – and all the other records that were set – they hadn't been beaten in the state of North Carolina by an ACC opponent - but let's turn our focus to the Miami game. I know that everybody has some thoughts about Miami. This game has storylines written all over it in terms of a couple of programs that have been under siege by the NCAA, a couple of programs that can score a lot of points, have scored a lot of points in ACC contests, and it looks like it could be shaping up to be a track meet this week in Miami at Dolphin Stadium. Scott, what are your thoughts about that? Is the way to win this game for North Carolina to get Miami involved in a track meet, or are the Heels going to need to buckle down on the defensive side of the ball to beat the Hurricanes?

Scott Lenahan - - Yeah, you couldn't have said it better, Buck. I think that there are few facts that are important to this game, one being that if our defense can show up and play like they've been showing that they can play, I think that we should win this game. I think that watching Virginia Tech, watching our defense grow up, I was watching some game coverages where you saw those interceptions where instead of our man actually playing the defensive back and running, we were actually turning our heads around, finding the ball, finding the quarterback and putting ourselves in the best position to make interceptions. Those are the things older players, people who who have been playing longer, make. It's the maturation that you've been seeing as our defense goes along. On our offense, I think that we should be able to put up points. Other teams have been able to put up a ton of points against them. Look at Kansas State; I think they put up 52 points against them. I definitely think we'll be able to score points. The main thing in this game is going to be capitalizing on turnovers and our defense showing up, bowing up and making a few big plays this coming week.

Buck Sanders – Brian, my theory about the Miami game is that North Carolina needs to start the game early establishing the run with Gio. Miami, they've got problems on both sides of their defense in terms of stopping the run and stopping the pass. But, to see the way Notre Dame shredded them running the ball, I think North Carolina should take a clue from what they did against Virginia Tech and let that offensive line, Gio Bernard, A.J. Blue, and those guys really establish the rhythm and tone of the game early.

Brian Chacos - - Absolutely Buck. You know what? Let's just bring the same mentality we had this past Saturday down to Coral Gables. Let's not change anything we did on offense. What we did on Saturday, you couldn't have scripted it any better. We stalled on the first three drives of the game, but after that, it was just absolutely magnificent what we did. We were able to throw the ball when we needed to. Obviously, we've got Gio, as well as A.J.. A.J. was fantastic, as well, running the ball. . . .

Buck Sanders – He certainly showed some wiggle. He showed some wiggle on Saturday.

Brian Chacos - - He did. He's got a great spin move. You know, I love it when he lowers his shoulder, too. The great wrinkle I saw as well is when we put Marquise in the game. Even though he had a total of 15 yards on the two carries, when you see another quarterback line up in the backfield, you see Bryn split out wide, that's just a nightmare for a defensive coordinator. You don't know what the heck is going on – whether we're going to throw the ball out wide to them, and then it's going to be a double pass, or what's going on. You're making the defensive coordinator scramble and think that something else is going on. Again, it's just something else the defensive coordinator from Miami is going to have to prepare for and other coordinators down the road are just going to have to think about when they're playing North Carolina. We've got to take the same mentality, and it starts up front, it always does, whether it's North Carolina or whoever it may be – it always starts up front. That's what we've got to do when we go down to play Miami. I'm looking forward to that mentality going down there as well.

Buck Sanders – You know, Quincy, every week it seems like - at least the last two or three weeks - we've seen young players on the defense step up and names, that aren't household names, starting to hear their names called on the public address system. This past week, I think it was Shawn Underwood. Tommy Heffernan we knew about, some other players we knew about, but Shawn Underwood began to establish himself a little on that defensive line. Talk about how that might be able to help North Carolina down the road, having another player on the defensive line to worry about.

Quincy Monk - - Anytime you have somebody contribute like that who you're not expecting to make a big contribution is always a plus because you're going to need these guys late in the season. It was great to see him perform like he did, but we're going to need that kind of performance as we get late into the ACC. As lettermen know, you're only one play away from the next guy stepping up. So, when you see Underwood and some of these other guys stepping up that don't really have a household name, it's very refreshing to see. They're going to get more comfortable as we play some of these other opponents in the ACC. I think what you're seeing now is guys are getting comfortable and trying to make plays for the team. Like we all know - one team, one dream. So, everybody's playing hard to get this win. I'm really happy to see the progress with some of these young guys making plays out there.

Buck Sanders – Mark, this is not the first time we've had this conversation but I know you feel strongly this way and so do I, that the Miami Hurricanes are a front-running team. And, if you can get out early and get on top of them, get up a couple of touchdowns, double digits; they are a far easier team to beat. That may not hold up this year; maybe that's not true of this team, but traditionally that's how they roll.

Mark Paschal - - Yeah, Buck, that sums up Miami pretty much to me, every chance I had an opportunity to play them. If you got them down, if you hit them in the mouth, if you were the aggressor from the very beginning, that first kickoff, or that first punt return, through the first quarter and you got a lead, and you continue to out-physical them and hit them in the mouth, they are the type of team that will quit. But, if they get up, they have a couple of big plays, if they start dancing around and really feeling that Miami swagger they always talk about – and I hate the word swagger – but when they start feeding off their own energy, they're a really tough team to beat.

They have a whole lot of athletes that can play the game at a very high level. These guys are all four or five stars coming out of high school, so they've got talent, no question about it. But I don't know if anybody saw the game the last time they played at the University of Miami, I believe they were playing NC State. There might have been 10,000 people there. So, this is a great opportunity for the University of North Carolina to go down there and feed off the energy that the University of North Carolina brings. They can't rely on it being an exciting atmosphere because right now a lot of people are starting to throw in the towel for that program. That also makes them a dangerous bunch because you never know with Miami. They could have an inner-rallying cry and say, 'you know what, it stops here.' So, this is going to be an interesting game for both teams to see how both teams come in and respond this Saturday. I'm excited to watch it.

Buck Sanders - You know, Scott, what I saw against Virginia Tech, is a North Carolina team that's playing with a lot of confidence. Larry Fedora referred to it earlier in the week and he talked about it on previous occasions. Even when the first two or three series were blah and they didn't get any yardage - I think they were minus 14 yards if you counted the penalties - Tapley makes a big play and they're right back in it. From that point, the juices seemed to be flowing. They just seem to be playing with a lot of confidence right now. Miami, they're going to have their backs against the wall. And, as Mark says, they may respond in a way that does them credit. But right now, North Carolina is the team that is playing with more confidence. Talk about what that means in terms of the outcomes of football games.

Scott Lenahan - - It means everything. Playing with confidence is huge. If you're going out there and you're playing timid, you're not moving as fast; your systems are not as quick. Not only that, when you have more confidence yourself, it helps gelling with your teammates; you're not second-guessing yourself; it grows. I think Miami is in a tough spot and they're a type of team . . . I don't think I've ever watched a Miami game where if somebody got on top in the beginning and at halftime they came out and came back, it's hard-pressed if I remember them doing that against anyone. I don't see that changing, really. That's the kind of atmosphere they have the way their teams historically have been. There's been so many weapons that we can utilize. A true freshman, Quinshad Davis, comes out and plays amazing, Ebron, Erik Highsmith, Gio, A.J. Blue, Marquise Williams, all these people who we can use as weapons. It's really come together on offense; I think that's building into our confidence and hopefully, we'll win this Saturday.

Buck Sanders – Brian, the confidence just doesn't seem to extend to the offensive side of the ball, it seems to extend to the defense and special teams. In the post-game, Coach Fedora talked about those guys on special teams are . . . they expect to do something tremendous on special teams; they expect to make big plays, and that's half the battle.

Brian Chacos - Special teams is a third of the game. I know you're not getting as many snaps as you are on offense and defense, but those are momentum plays. What Tapley did for us was enormous. It totally brought the fanbase back into the game. As Scott and I were sitting next to each other in the stands, you could literally feel the electricity come alive in the stands. It literally sparked the energy from the sidelines. It's something that you can't replace. I'm looking at a stat here: Virginia Tech hasn't allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown since 1993? It's just unbelievable. Special teams is going to be huge against Miami too. They've got talented athletes all over the place. But, Coach Fedora has done a great job with really utilizing our best players, making it a priority to put them on that unit and it's something we've got to be able to capitalize on Saturday and really take advantage of it.

Buck Sanders – Mark, let's wrap this up with your thoughts about what North Carolina needs to do on Saturday to come away with a win. They haven't proven they can play well on the road, and I think that's number one.

Mark Paschal - Yeah, whenever you travel, whenever you get on the plane, everything is different. People don't realize that checking into a hotel, even though we do that at home, it's a different hotel, get on a plane, it's busing all the way from the airport to wherever you're going to be, it's a lot of different factors that go into this that really makes it difficult.

I think what we have to do on offense is do the exact same thing – put pressure on Miami. Make them be confused on defense. Make them second-guess what they're doing and just really keep tempo going on offense. I think what we're doing is great, we're scoring a whole lot of points. Coach Fedora's offense has been incredibly impressive. On defense, we've got to hit them in the mouth from the very beginning. I said that earlier in this conversation – we've got to hit them in the mouth early; we've got to hit them in the mouth often; we've got to make sure we're tackling. One missed tackle with Miami can cost you. They've got those kind of athletes. It really comes down to applying pressure. On offense, it's tempo, to spreading the ball around, to getting a solid running game established with Gio. On defense, we've got to tackle because these guys are dangerous.

Buck Sanders – Ok, guys, great talking to you as always.

    Featured Lettermen in Today's Roundtable

  • 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.

  • Scott Lenahan manned the center position in Chapel Hill from 2003-07, overlapping two coaching regimes. Nicknamed 'Tank' for his weight room exploits, he earned the top senior honor on the '07 Tar Heel team.

  • 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.

  • Mark Paschal captained the Tar Heels in 2008. As a middle linebacker, he led the team in tackles prior to a career-ending injury and didn't miss a game in his four-year career up until that point.

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