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 – This week I'm going to start out with Matt Baker first because I want his impression of the North Carolina offense. I don't want you to focus entirely on Bryn Renner, although I think that's probably where you're going.

MATT BAKER – Yeah, I mean, there's not a lot to say about it right now; we haven't been very good. We don't seem to be running very well; we don't seem to be passing very well. We're still playing fast, but we're not going anywhere. It's hurting the whole team when we play that fast and don't get any yards with it because the defense never gets off the field and we never get any momentum going. I don't know if there is one particular spot to point the finger. I think the coaches and players will probably echo that. As always, a lot of the blame gets put on the quarterback – I think deservedly so a little bit. But, we just don't seem to be doing anything well.

BUCK – Jeb, in addition to the other problems that the UNC offense may have, there's been a lot of criticism, or at least observation, about a very green offensive line. What did you think of the offensive line against Georgia Tech, or so far this year, and moving forward?

JEB TERRY – Honestly, I think the offensive line has played pretty well as a whole. Bryn has been able to stay upright most of the time. There's going to be a few growing pains, to be expected, but if you look across our body of work, or these past three games, I think we should be quite pleased with the way our offensive line has played so far. At South Carolina, you go against probably one of the best defensive lines across the board in the country, and we performed well. We've got a bunch of new starters out there. I think that's going to be a big strong point for us, honestly. That could be a big solid building block. The protection seems to be standing up, it's just that we've got to put it all together.

MATT – I'll pop back in. What do you think of our play calls? It looks to me like the coaches have no confidence in this offense. It seems to be everything short . . . they seem to be lacking rhythm themselves. Where last year we seemed to be calling plays in rhythm; the plays seemed to be going together. I don't know exactly how they fit. Our plays don't seem to match one after another. We just seem to be all over the place; it's sort of like a grab bag thing. I don't know if it's a lack of confidence in one of the pieces or what but . . .

JEB – I feel that exact same way. Honestly, I feel that way a lot of the time. It feels like, we saw some of it at Georgia Tech – we started opening things up down field a little bit and that started opening up underneath routes and that started softening up the box; it opens things up. We kind of went away from that towards the second half and started taking things out of the grab bag, like you said, and running some trickeration here and there. It didn't seem like we were seeing that cohesiveness that we saw last year when we all got enamored by the offense. To be clear, I have complete confidence in our staff, in our offense and in the scheme; I'm just not sure what the trepidation is. I don't feel like we're running at full throttle, as we should, as an offense in its second year under this staff. It's not a smooth machine; there's something off and they have to figure that out.

MATT – I think you're right on.

BUCK – I don't want to freeze anybody out on the discussion of the offense, so I'll turn to Quincy. Quincy, what did you see out of the offense? Give us a defensive perspective.

QUINCY MONK – From a defensive perspective, I kind of agree with Matt and Jeb. I think . . . we've been talking about being fast and physical and stretching the field, but from a defensive standpoint, you know they're going to be doing a dump screen. You see what kind of plays they're going to be running because they're just running short, underneath routes or short bubble screens. As a linebacker – the defender – that can kind of be a little bit more predictable – you know this is the tendency, third and short, third and long, this is what they're going to do. I think we just need to open up a little bit because if you keep running the same plays, it just makes it very easy for the defense to attack and know exactly what you're doing. That's what we kind of saw last game because Georgia Tech was able to contain our offense. The second half we didn't get many offensive yards; we didn't get any points. I think we definitely should open up because we do have . . . we lost a few guys last year but we've still got a lot of good weapons that we can utilize on the offense.

BUCK – Mark, don't get left out. You can chime in on the offense as well.

MARK PASCHAL – I think it's all been said. I don't feel like I should beat a horse at this point. My three points – we've got to have some playmakers to continue to emerge; we've got to continue to gel better. I think whether it's a play calling thing, whether it's everybody getting on the same page, whether it's a combination, we've got to get to get some gel to our offense. We've got to be able to get into a rhythm. The last thing is that I'd like to see us stretch the field some this week, take some chances. Our defense has made some strides; let's go win the football game. So, those are my three quick little add-ons. I've got complete confidence in this staff; I think we've got enough playmakers, but we need some guys to continue to step up.

MATT – One last thing, it's time to take the gloves off. At this point, there's no sense in worrying about our new pieces on the offensive line. I don't think Bryn needs to worry about what comes next after college – I don't know that he is but he looks to be playing hesitant. The coaches don't need to be calling in plays because they don't know what our pieces are yet. Now is the time to take the gloves off and throw it all out there. This is a game we absolutely can't lose. The expectations are kind of off this team right now. So, it's time to go out there and go play ball.

BUCK – I do think that, even though the results weren't what North Carolina was looking for against Georgia Tech, the one bright spot, I thought, is that the defense played with a lot of intensity. Quincy, how do you read that? I just thought they played with a lot more effort, it seemed to me, and intensity, maybe it's just that they're getting familiar with the scheme. What are your thoughts on that?

QUINCY – Well the schemes have a little bit to do with it, but I like the intensity. These coaches had a great game plan first half. We were attacking; we were playing aggressive. You saw guys knowing their responsibility – they knew if they had to take a dive, they took the dive. Then if they had to take the quarterback or the pitch man, they were doing it. What I like to see is that guys were playing their responsibilities. Like we talked about last week – do your job. I think what we saw in the first half is that guys were really owning up to that – if I've got this guy, I'm going to take this pitch; I'm going to take this dive. You saw when one guy made a play, it became contagious. You saw Scott, you saw Otis, you saw all these guys flying around the ball because you get that confidence – ‘okay, we can stop this offense' – in the first half. In the second half, a little bit of a different story. Georgia Tech made some adjustments. Unfortunately we did not make the same kind of adjustments. What killed us, I believe, was a momentum change when they drove down late in the second quarter and scored that touchdown. I think that was really a momentum killer. Then when they came out the second half, they were able to create a lot of running openings, a lot of running gaps, which really contributed to us losing the game. I think, from what I saw, I did like the intensity; I liked the guys flying around the field. But I would like to see that for both halves instead of just one.

BUCK – I've already talked to Mark this week about what he thought about the defense. But, I want to hear from Mark, and everybody else, about the importance of the ECU game and what North Carolina needs to get fixed headed into five consecutive ACC games. We can start with Jeb.

JEB – Alright, I'll take that. People look at this team and people want to point a finger. What do we fix? What's the missing link? That's the thing that we all have to look at – we have the talent to play with anybody in the country and we've just got to stop playing timid. I think that's part of what's happening. We got up on Georgia Tech and then we started playing not to lose. Whenever you start playing not to lose, then you start second-guessing and you're worried about messing up. We should expect to be in that position – to be up 20 to 6 on the road at Georgia Tech.

It's time to just open up and play with reckless abandon. This ECU game, it's the biggest game of this coaching tenure of the past two years because right now this sets us up for the whole remainder of the season. It's an in-state rivalry and the crowd is going to be there. We have a chance to lick our wounds from this last loss, which should have been a big victory for us, and go against this opponent full throttle. That's from the way I see it. I'm probably going to be more excited than half the guys on the team. I'm sure Baker can attest, I was one of those guys who got geeked up before the game. I feel the excitement for me so, hopefully it can rub off on the whole team.

BUCK – Yeah, I think Mark is one of those guys who got geeked up, too. Mark, what are your thoughts about what North Carolina needs to get fixed for this game against East Carolina?

MARK – I'm impressed with the way the defense played, from a physical standpoint, last Saturday. Actually, I think we're growing and maturing. I think the two weeks helped us. On offense, I think we've got to continue to stretch the field vertically instead of horizontally. I think those are two areas that we've got to continue to always get better and try and make big plays. That's what this offense is about – it's about making big plays. This defense has gotten more physical. Last weekend we showed that we grew up. We're still missing too many tackles. But, the physical presence is showing up; that's encouraging. Something I always like to say about East Carolina, East Carolina wants to beat the Tar Heels. East Carolina doesn't like UNC. All these guys that have played at East Carolina were told that they weren't good enough to play at UNC – most of them, at least the in-state guys, weren't recruited by UNC. These guys that have played for Carolina, they probably got an offer from East Carolina and chose to go to North Carolina over East Carolina. So, East Carolina is going to come in here with a chip on their shoulders and they're going to be ready to knock you in the mouth and throw it around the field and make plays. They're going to do everything they can to beat you in the house they were told they weren't good enough to play in. So, it's going to be up to our guys to take a step back, look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘hey guys, I'm going to do everything I can to protect this house and make sure we're going to come here and beat East Carolina.' There's nothing more that East Carolina wants to do than to beat the University of North Carolina. Jeff Connors is the strength coach down there and he will have those guys fired up and ready to come play. Jeff Connors understands what it's like to be at East Carolina. He understands because he was there before he came to North Carolina. So he understands how to get those guys fired up to play against North Carolina. If we take this backseat approach and say, ‘oh, we're better than there guys; we're North Carolina; we're going to roll over these guys' – no that's not the way this game is going to be played. This game is going to be a fricking war and I hope everybody gets ready to play. I think it's going to take every single last down to beat these guys the way that we want to beat them. That's just my tangent ramble, but that's my thoughts.

BUCK – Quincy, I know that you're from east of I-95, Jacksonville area. How important is it to you, personally, to beat the guys from Greenville?

QUINCY – It's very important. Down there it's pretty much ECU country. They get fired up for the ECU Pirates. So, from my standpoint, it's very important. Like Mark was saying, these are guys that probably weren't recruited by North Carolina, going to have a chip on their shoulders, playing against guys that they play against or played with in high school. There's all that extra momentum, all that extra added venom when they come out on Saturday. ECU is one of the toughest games I ever played because these guys get so emotionally fired up. They're going to come out ready to win; they're going to come out ready to play physical and we've really got to match that intensity. Like Mark said, if we come out and think, ‘oh, we're going to roll these guys over – it's just ECU,' we're going to get beat. They are definitely a much better, talented team this year. Coach Ruffin has got these guys motivated. I think it's definitely important for us to put last week's game behind us. I know it was a tough loss and a tough atmosphere, but if we don't come out with our minds right, our minds focused to win this game and play physical against one of our in-state rivals, we're going to have a difficult time beating them.

I think Coach Fedora is going to coach them up, understand last week is over and we've got to keep our eyes forward. From the standpoint of myself, coming from that part of the state, these guys are going to be jacked up and ready because this is going to be like their Super Bowl.

Featured Lettermen

  • Matt Baker quarterbacked the Tar Heels in 2005, while amassing the 9th-highest season passing yardage total in school history. Following his UNC career, he was a member of six different NFL teams.

  • 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.

  • Jeb Terry was a three-year starter on the offensive line, earning Second Team All-ACC honors in 2003. He was a fifth round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay and played four seasons with the Buccaneers.

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