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 - I just want to hear from Mark first because he, in particular, was a little skeptical about Gio Bernard returning punts. How do you feel about that now, Mark?

Mark Paschal - Guys, I was never skeptical about him returning punts. I'm thinking, he's the best player on our team and we're going to let him return punts.

I said we need to have him return punts in special situations. And, that's the kind of situation, like Saturday night, that we need to have him return punts. It was great. What an unbelievable game from start to finish. What a great way for those seniors to go out with a win. Everybody should be really excited and proud about the effort and level of intensity played on Saturday. It was just great to be there in person and see it live. It was a really, really fun weekend for everybody that was involved.

Buck Sanders – What did you think of the game, Matt?

Matt Baker - That was pretty special. It was fun to hear some reports of players' and coaches' reactions after the game. I felt about the same way. I jumped up off my couch, slammed the couch, and wanted to cry tears of joy myself. It was pretty exciting.

Buck Sanders – Brian, you're a big guy, but you may have shed a tear or two yourself I'm thinking.

Brian Chacos - I literally, as cheesy and tacky as it sounds, I literally had goose bumps when he returned that for a touchdown. I hate NC State so much, as many of the people and I know everyone on this Roundtable does, as all the people who post on the message boards and are big followers of Inside Carolina. What a great win. What a great win for this university and the community as a whole in Chapel Hill. All the crap we've been through in the last two and a half years – dealing with the News & Observer and the investigative reporting that they supposedly do, how anti-North Carolina they are. To finally get a win and shove this back in their face was just so gratifying; what a great feeling. What a pleasure it was to be there, be a part of that game on Saturday in the stands. It was just an absolutely awesome experience. I'm happy for everyone who was involved as a fan, especially those players and seniors.

Buck Sanders –Quincy, when you were playing, you guys had more success against NC State, but I know you've lived through these last five years, the same way all these guys around the table have. I know you're living in Raleigh so you have to deal with that stuff. What were your feelings?

Quincy Monk - Yeah, I want to thank Coach Fedora, the players and the staff for getting that monkey off our back. I work in Raleigh so I work with a lot of State grads and State fans and I've got to hear it for the past five years on a consistent basis. Watching that game, I had success against State, but here at the Roundtable, you care about the guys who are playing now. It was such a refreshing feeling to see Gio return that kick. I had my son in my arms, I got off the couch and I almost threw him because I was so excited. It's an overwhelming feeling as a former player. You've got to feel for these kids because they put everything they had in this game; I'm just excited. I'm looking at the punt right now on video. I'm still on cloud nine because I just know how these guys feel – to finally pull it off this past weekend is definitely remarkable.

Buck Sanders –Scott, you come off on the Roundtable as a little bit low-key, but I know you a little better than that. I know what your feelings were, but can you elaborate on them a little bit, even though you're living in New York City. I know you had some special feeling about this game.

Scott Lenahan - Oh, yeah. I definitely have a special place of hatred in my heart for State, so this definitely means a lot. Especially I think it's such a big win coming from last weekend – that low we were at after losing to Duke. It's such a low that I knew going into this week that we were going to do what it takes to win this game. I think in the preparation for this game, in going into this game, you hear Coach Fedora talking about how Quinshad Davis and Kevin Reddick, both those guys were sick and on IVs Friday night – wasn't even sure if they were going to be able to play the next day; you got Gio, with an ankle sprain, just a lot of adversity going against us. I think it was just the will of this team, the no-quit in them, is what it was. You're talking about the last 30 seconds of the game they still didn't give up – set the wall up and return the punt for a touchdown. I'll tell you, I was jumping up and down but I wasn't screaming yet because I was still waiting for the flag to get thrown – I was like, ‘don't let there be a flag, don't let there be a flag.' Then, finally, after he jumped up in the stands, I was like, ‘alright, no flags,' and I just let it rip after that. It was emotional; it was awesome. I know that Coach Fedora and the players were crying, it means a lot to them. The seniors, they haven't beaten them; for them not to beat State, that's . . . I couldn't. At least while I was there, we got to beat them. I couldn't even imagine going through four or five years there without beating them. It's definitely got to be special for those seniors.

Buck Sanders –Mark, I know you are involved in this kind of situation more than most, and I know that some other guys have been exposed to it, but we're in the presence of something really special with Gio Bernard. He is a special player; he's just phenomenal. I know that you are a die-hard Tar Heel fan, but if you had to advise Gio about whether to declare for the NFL Draft after this year, particularly in light of what happened to Marcus Lattimore, what would you tell him?

Mark Paschal - Well, Buck, first off, I think the world of Gio. I think that he is an unbelievably special talent, but I think he's just a special off the field. The kind of guy that he is, the way that he represents the university, the adversity that he's overcome to put himself in this position gives me goose bumps. To see him succeed and have his finest hour against NC State is something that I, and every Carolina fan, will have the privilege of living, remembering and celebrating the rest of our lives. He's brought a lot of happiness and a lot of excitement to these Carolina fans, alumni and lettermen. He's done himself and his family very proud; he's got a lot to be proud of. That being said, if I was his advisor, I think that you would look at all the different things. A running back's shelf life, so-to-speak, is not as long as a tackle or quarterback or a lot of different positions.

Buck Sanders - Very, very short for a running back.

Mark Paschal ¬ - The career life span of a running back is so short. And, what Gio's done and the things that he's had to overcome as a young man, I think he deserves the opportunity to play on Sundays. If he feels, in his heart, that he's ready to make that step, the University of North Carolina will always be waiting there for him with open arms. I guarantee you that.

Buck Sanders - Matt, I know that you spent some time with the Dallas Cowboys. I was talking to Frank Frangie earlier in the week and, I know you've probably heard a lot about Emmitt Smith when he was with the Cowboys, but Frank said that Gio's style is very much like Emmitt's and that he could have an outstanding pro career. What's your assessment of Gio's potential at the next level?

Matt Baker - Yeah, I think he's got plenty of NFL upside. I'm surprised to see the so-called gurus, the Kipers and McSheas of the world, not talking as much about him, especially since he's a sophomore and we all know that he's a draft-eligible player this year. He's got plenty of upside. I see him as kind of like a Ray Rice guy -- Emmitt Smith, that's some big shoes to fill there, comparing him to Emmitt Smith. But, he has all the ability in the world. I think guys like Ray Rice will help out Gio to show that you don't have to be the tallest guy. Sometimes it's better . . .

Buck Sanders – Even Doug Martin this year at Tampa Bay…

Matt Baker - … better to smaller at running back. One, they can't see you behind the massive offensive lines. Two, when you're close to the ground, there's less area for people to hit you.

Buck Sanders — Brian, there are so many emotions that goes through people's heads after games like this, and the team is undoubtedly emotionally ripped. How important is it that they've got a bye week this week after such a big win?

Brian Chacos - It's huge, Buck. This bye week could not have come at a better time. Obviously, I think Coach Fedora is going to do a great job allowing them to have longer than a 24-hour break. These guys need to celebrate this win for about three or four days. They really need to take in this win and how well they played and some aspects of the game. Obviously, there's still a lot that needs to be improved on, but I think this bye week comes at a great time. Always two weeks was preferred when you're playing a Georgia Tech offense. But, just mentally and physically, we've got some guys that are banged up. You just need a break sometimes from the constant grind of college football. These guys have been going hard since August and it's a much-needed week off. I don't think it could have come at a better time after a great win that will go down in the history books.

Buck Sanders –Quincy, to follow-up on Brian's comments, this season, the entire season has been extremely emotional. The Tar Heels are 6-3, but the three games they lost all came down to the final possession of the game. They are eight points away from being undefeated. And, it's been an extremely emotional time, not just the NC State win, but the three losses – the loss to Duke . . . How much does having this bye week allow them to get their emotions back under control and help them finish out the season?

Quincy Monk - It couldn't have come at a better time. Like you said, we've had our share of emotional letdowns; we're eight points away from having an undefeated season. Coming from a monumental win against NC State where they've had our number for the past five years, this is a huge week. If we had a game, it would have been an easy letdown game because emotions are so high. You built up to this big rivalry game and you'd probably take your feet of the gas for the next opponent. I think the bye week is going to help these guys definitely celebrate this win, but also have Fedora put a game plan on against Georgia Tech because they do have an outstanding offensive scheme where you've got to be disciplined or we can get caught and get beat by Georgia Tech. That's why I think this week is huge and I think with all the emotion it's good because these guys can really relax and really enjoy this win because it has been so long, not just for the players currently but it's also for former guys like us. Having to deal with the a lot of NC State trash talking the past five years, it's been unacceptable.

Buck Sanders – Scott, you were obviously disappointed to know that Brennan Williams has had a season ending injury. I think it just speaks to this North Carolina team that James Hurst decided to wear number 73 in honor of Brennan Williams. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Scott Lenahan - I saw it earlier, actually, before the announcers pointed it out. I saw 73 out there and thought, ‘man, wait, who the heck is that?' When I saw it was Hurst, I thought that was awesome; that was really cool. It just kind of shows the brotherhood of the line and how well they get along. I thought it was great. Touching on the uniforms and Coach Fedora getting the whole rivalry and putting more pressure and emphasis on it with the new uniforms. I can't believe we haven't touched on that that yet, but the new uniforms were fricking awesome; I loved them. When they ran out of the tunnel, I was like, that is something special there – the helmets were awesome, especially with the all blue uniforms, which I love. I thought that kind of brought everything together – it was the sequence of events that built up to the perfect game, the perfect story. It was a perfect storm as far as us winning and everything coming to an end.

Buck Sanders – Since Scott touched on it, though it may cause us to run a little bit long, I want to get a quick word or two from each of you about the uniform changes that they've done this year. Being old school myself, I don't really, totally get it, but apparently these kids do, and not just the players that are currently on the team, but those that might be thinking about going to North Carolina. I'll start with you Mark, what do you think of this uniform stuff? My guess is that you're more old school than I am, but what are your thoughts about these uniform changes?

Mark Paschal - I don't really have any strong feelings either way. Whatever gives you an advantage, whether it be on the field or in a kid's living room – whatever sells your school, whatever sells your program, you've got to do it. Being a more traditional guy, I like the blue, the Carolina blue helmet with the interlocking NC. I don't mind a pants change-up, or even the white helmets. But this was a different change-up; it was cool, whatever you can do to get the program a little more excitement. Do I want to see it every week? No, I don't, but that's just my opinion; it doesn't mean anything. I'm just more of a traditional guy but I think the new uniforms will provide a recruiting edge and an excitement edge on the field. Heck, we came out and threw 25 points on the scoreboard in the first quarter. I think those guys were pretty jacked up to be wearing those uniforms, so I think it's a good thing.

Buck Sanders – Mark makes a good point about how jacked up the kids were. Fedora said in his press conference that, when they brought the guys back in after they warmed up and gave them those new helmets, that they were like kids at Christmas. Matt, what do you think about that? It's just a different thing.

Matt Baker - Yeah, you know what? I'll tell you, I love the white helmets; I love that look. I'm not so sure about the helmets this weekend. But, if the players like them and recruits like them, I'm all for it. And, hats off to Coach Fedora and Bubba for allowing this staff, this program to make changes like that to build new excitement into it – to get recruits excited and the current players excited. Hats off to those guys because I know it's something that kind of got blocked by the administration in the past years and when we were there; it was stuff we, as players, were screaming for. I know for a fact that John Bunting wanted to do some things like that and it got blocked from upstairs. So, hats off to those guys for allowing them to do that. If recruits and the current players like it, I'm all for it.

Buck Sanders –Brian, Matt makes a great point that in previous administrations that they really didn't allow that many changes – that they kind of blocked stuff like that. But, Bubba Cunningham, he comes from a marketing perspective, I think. Personally, I'm sort of like Mark in that I kind of prefer the traditional look and all the changes, the Oregon kinds of stuff, don't mean much to me, but obviously it means a lot to the players and potential recruits.

Brian Chacos - Yeah, I've got to agree, this new administration has just done a great job and is fostering a culture change of Carolina football, starting with the uniforms and starting with the amphitheater outside and how we just do different things. So, Buck, I really enjoy the uniform changes. You know, you can never go wrong with the Carolina blue uniforms and the Carolina blue helmet. But, I really enjoyed the all-white uniforms that came out and the chrome helmets this past weekend I thought were just unbelievable; I thought they were awesome. I hope we wear them again, maybe for Thursday night against UVa when we're the only college game on that night and get some national exposure. You've got to do what you have to do to sell our school and our football program to these recruits, like Mark said. I really love the uniform changes; sometimes change is good and not having to be the Carolina way of being traditional and instituting some new uniforms. So, I really like it and love the changes from this administration with what they're doing.

Buck Sanders – Quincy, as young as you are, on this Roundtable, you're kind of the oldest rat in the barn among the former players. From that perspective, how do you feel about the uniform changes?

Quincy Monk - Buck, I'll be quite honest, when I saw those uniforms, I lost my mind; those things are sick. I even posted on my Facebook, ‘if I had played with that, we probably would have went undefeated.' There's something about having that image, that mindset, when you have something new like that, it just motivates the guys. I remember when Dion Sanders once said, ‘when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you play good.' And these guys, when they got that helmet, you're like a kid in a candy store because it's just another element that gets you so elevated; these kids get it. Oregon, they've landed recruits because of the swag, the type of uniforms they get, because they're going to be on TV, they're going to have a chance to wear these new uniforms. That makes a big deal. I think what the coaching staff is doing, they understand. These young players, they like that kind of stuff. Those chrome helmets, they were sick.

Buck Sanders – Well, you know there's about 95 percent of the players and potential recruits out there that would totally sign on with Quincy about that. But, there were some good points made about how the administration has embraced this. Appreciate you guys joining me for the Roundtable, and we'll talk to you 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.

  • 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.

Inside Carolina Top Stories