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's been a week since the Miami game; it was a big stage, No. 10 team in the nation coming into Kenan Stadium, Zero Dark Thursday, and North Carolina played them to a 27-23 finish. It could have been a lot better. I want to go through you all one at a time and hear your thoughts about that Miami game. I'll start with you, Quincy...

QUINCY MONK – I got a chance to witness that, first and foremost, at Kenan on Thursday. It was a tale of two halves. We came out with a lot of emotion, came out with a lot of passion, playing a top ten program in a great atmosphere. I think the defense really came out and played well. Our offense played well. But, we've had this issue this season where we can't put it together for 60 minutes. They blocked the field goal then had two long, long drives. The defense gave up two touchdowns. We had a couple of inconsistencies on offense. It's frustrating. To lose to a team in a game you're supposed to win is very frustrating; we had that win in the bag. Unfortunately, we made some errors that really cost us and affected us. Those are tough, tough losses to swallow. I hope we bounce back from it. That's a very big blow to the program and for these players because they fought with everything they had.

BUCK – Jeb, you've been one of the most outspoken lettermen following the Miami game. Give us your thoughts about the Miami game and what you saw in there.

JEB TERRY – I've had some time to think about it more, think about what we saw on the field and how our guys played. First of all, I was proud of our athletes that came out, our guys that played their tails off and had a chance to win. Any time you have a chance to beat the No. 10 team in the country at home on a national stage, it's a good thing.

I question some of the calls that happened in the game, some of the substitutions that went on and the subsequent calls afterward. We all know about the third-and-one debacle. As a guy that played in college, played professionally and been around a lot of different coaches, around a lot of different schemes and a lot of great, great football minds, I question some of the things that we called, especially the timing of it. But, at the end of the day, what we saw on the field is that we have the talent of a team that we all anticipated early on. Yeah, there's always going to be breakdowns in some plays and breakdowns in coverage or poor execution, but we showcased our talent. That's one of the most frustrating parts about it. We're not a 1-5 team if you look at us. When you look at us out there, we're just not a 1-5 team. At the minimum, we should be a 3-3 team, if not a 4-2 team. It's tough to stomach because, again, when I was here, I had two seasons that were brutal that were like one-win and two-win seasons. But, at the end of the day, we still had . . . I want to say there's about five guys from my senior team that made NFL rosters that year. There are a lot of big, huge programs that can't say that year in and year out. It was a function of, there was some talent, but were we really leveraging that talent and putting it in a position to win? Now, after seeing us lose that game, it makes me question are we really taking advantage of our talent and putting them in the best position to win? It's just, put the ball in the talent's hands; let's keep it simple; let's go out and win. I hope we can do that going forward after this kick in the gut we had last week.

BUCK – David, same question.

DAVID BOMAR – Well, it was a fun game for almost 60 minutes. The crowd was awesome. Night games in Chapel Hill just have a different atmosphere. I wish we could play all of our games at night, after being at some of those in the past. It was great to see our guys come out with some passion and lay it on the line. That's a game we should have won. I've been pretty tough these past couple of weeks on our defense and I think that they finally came out and sold out. They gave us the big plays, but for the most part, I was really proud of what they brought to the table. I think they played well enough for us to win the ball game – four turnovers. I saw guys flying around and that's what you need. They made some big stops and some big plays. It's just unfortunate because you just had this buildup of excitement like we were really, finally showing up, only to have ourselves take it away there at the end. It was a game we should have won. I think it would have done a lot for the team and the fans. It's really just disappointing.

BUCK – Matt, follow up those three guys with your impressions of the Miami game.

MATT BAKER – First of all, unfortunately, I was in Chicago and I didn't have the opportunity to be down there at the game. But, I'll tell you that on TV, it looked exciting. First off, hats off and props to the students that showed up in full force and embraced the Zero Dark Thursday. And, a lot of props to the school, the administration, to Bubba and Fedora for organizing something like that. I thought it was really unique. We've been talking about, for years, of changing the culture of North Carolina football. I think something like that does that, at least from an organizational standpoint. Hats off to a lot of people for organizing it; it looked real exciting.

Same frustrations as everybody else. Like Jeb said, you don't get these opportunities all the time. The stage was set for a defining victory for Fedora, for the school, for everybody watching – the stage was set. We didn't execute when we needed to. Here's what I see, every one kind of touched on it, what they saw – there's little mistakes here and there, we don't execute when we need to. I see a coaching staff that looks disconnected.

Like Jeb said, I played a lot of college football. I played for five or six different teams in the NFL, saw a lot of staffs. I coached at Ole Miss. I've seen what works; I've seen what doesn't. I've seen when things work; I've seen when they don't. What I see is a disconnected staff. When the ball is rolling and everything is going your way, you're not having the difficult decisions, you're not having to make difficult play calls, everything is fine. You go along with your game plan – everything works your way; you never have to go off script.

I feel like when stuff starts to go off script and you start to get down and you start to have problems – you can't protect as well, this staff is not on the same page. A lot of times you see the problems; you see substitution errors; coaches are thinking about different things – you end up scrambling. No matter how well you know the game plan, it never works out that way. When you get off it and you get unique situations, there needs to be one voice. It looks like everyone is kind of looking at each other like – Who makes this call? Who calls this play? Is it the coordinator? Is it the head coach? Any one of a number of problems. There just seems to be a disconnect with this staff. I've been around it; I've seen it a number of times in a number of places. It's just what it looked like to me.

BUCK – You know, guys, one of the things that I've tried to make the point that, even though North Carolina is a 1-5 team, they have played the fourth toughest schedule in the nation, according to Jeff Sagarin. It hasn't been easy for North Carolina in terms of the opponents that they've played, a lot of the opponents have been better than advertised in the preseason. How much do you think the strength of schedule has played into what North Carolina has faced this year, what they've tried to do schematically, what they've tried to do in terms of getting new players on the field? And, again, I'll start with Quincy.

QUINCY – I know the strength of schedule is one factor, but we've been . . . in a lot of these games, like Jeb touched on it earlier, we should be 3-3 or 4-2. There have been a lot of games that we played that we either come out the first half and don't finish out the second half or just come out flat like we did against East Carolina, or just have mental breakdowns that just really cost us deep in the fourth quarter.

I think, right now, you could put the strength of schedule in the mix, but that's just making our team a lot better moving forward. You hate to see that we're 1-5 right now. I know Fedora is in a tough spot because you want to send these seniors out with on a good note, send them out on a bold statement. He's also got the option of starting to play these young guys for the future. So, you're probably going to start seeing some of these younger freshmen and sophomore guys get more snaps because Fedora is going to have to that mindset to prepare for next year. We really didn't have the kind of start that we wanted. I think it's good to always be competitive, always play a tough schedule because that only helps prepare deep in December around bowl time. But, right now, we just had a slow start. I honestly think we need to start thinking about, if we don't make a bowl game this year, we've got to definitely start preparing for these younger players to get more action so they can get prepared for next year.

BUCK – Jeb, that's an interesting point that Quincy brought up. At this point, you're halfway through the season, how much do you owe the upperclassmen that may or may not be playing as well as some underclassmen, and even if it's marginal, do you play the seniors or do you play the underclassmen to start preparing for the next year?

JEB – I don't think it's a matter of owing anybody anything. If they're not performing, and it's clear they're not performing, then you play the younger guy. Say you have an upperclassman that's under performing and you have a freshman that can come in and play at his same level, then you've got to bring the freshman in. If the upperclassman is under performing, then it's time to bring in some younger blood to either, (1) light a fire under the upperclassman's ass to get his ass in gear and start playing ball or, (2) get your freshman up and get him some game tape and game film and get him up to speed.

At the end of the day, it's about the good of the program and ending this year on a strong note. We're not 3-3, we're not 4-2, we're 1-5. That's just stating the obvious. We still have a chance to end up the year okay. You say the schedule is tough. You have to have a hard schedule if you want to do anything. You want to build a program and grow prominence and become a perennial, strong team, you have to have a tough schedule. So, no one can hide behind that excuse. It is what it is and we have some games left. Either we've got to bring the young guys up and get them up to speed, or do something. At the end of the day, our talent is there and we've got to execute better and go out with the mindset that we have to win out.

BUCK – David, what's your opinion on that? Should North Carolina allow the upperclassmen to play out their careers and be starters, even though – and it's a double question – even if they're as good as an underclassman, do you play them instead of the underclassman, keeping in mind that 2014 is coming around and you want to get young guys experience who are going to have to play next year? How do you balance that out?

DAVID – I think, bottom line, you play the person who is going to give you the best chance to win, whether you're 1-5 or 4-2. You play the person who is going to give you the best chance to win. If that hadn't happened already, then shame on the coaches for not figuring that out sooner. That's why you've got spring ball and fall camp. It's still early in the coaches' tenure, but you've got to be able to bring the fire out. That's the time to see what these guys are made of. It pisses me off if some guy gets a free pass just because they're a senior. I spent my whole career trying to prove myself.

You've got to battle every day. Coaches can't play favoritism; that's going to hurt them in the long run. So, you play the person that's going to give you the best chance to win, whether they're a walk-on, whether they're a freshman, or a senior. One thing you can't coach is effort. These guys have got to start showing up. I was finally glad to see it on defense. I felt like guys were flying around and leaving what they had on the field. But, why didn't that happen against Virginia Tech or ECU? You can't let that happen.

So, it's whoever is going to give you the best chance to win. If some of these guys, after this loss, are going to start getting down and thinking about the draft, or whatever it is they're preparing for, playing not to get hurt, the hell with that. You've got to put your best guys on the field. Somebody has got to step up in the locker room. Those guys in the locker room know what's going on. If you're a young guy and you're sitting there at 1-5 and you know you've got skills to play the game, 'get out of the way, I'm coming through.' You've got to start stepping up. That's how programs are built. These young guys get tired of losing and they see what's going on. If it's not mattering to the upper guys, they're going to question, what are they doing out there to begin with? It's going to be telling what happens next week and who decides to show up and come out and get ready to play. Young guys, the guys that are fighting, are the guys that should be on the field. As a coach, you've got to get the sense of your team and be in the locker room and see what's going on and put those guys on the field.

BUCK – Matt, what I'm hearing from the other lettermen is that if an upperclassman isn't performing to the level that is necessary to give the team their best chance to win, then the coaching staff ought to look past that and put the younger guy on the field. I know all of you guys have been freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and have been through the grill. Is that your opinion? D you just have to ignore the fact of where the guy is in his class? If there is a better option, you just go with it and let the chips fall where they may. Is that your opinion also?

MATT – Absolutely. That should be a coaching staff's mindset all year, no matter what your record is – the best player should play. What you've got aren't professional athletes, but they are all scholarship athletes. Just because a guys has seniority over another doesn't mean he deserves to play. If the younger player is working hard and proves he deserves more time, then he should get more time. That's how it should work.

Whatever player or group of players can help you win football games and be the most competitive group on the field, then that's what you do. I don't think class should have anything to do with it. Now, if we're talking about the last game of the year or a senior day when we want to get some guys a series or something, that's one thing. But at this point in the season, or any point in the season, other than maybe senior day or something, the best player needs to be playing. The younger kids, if they're proving it in practice and showing they work hard, then they need to be on the field.

BUCK – All that being said, I'm going to go through you one by one and I want a quick answer, something short. Who do you think, among the underclassmen, guys that are maybe freshmen or sophomores, that deserve to see more playing time? I'll start with you, Quincy.

QUINCY – We definitely saw T.J. Logan and what he can do. He's the kind of guy I'd like to see more action. My guy, Switzer, he's a playmaker. I think he can do some great things with this program, as long as we get him the ball. I definitely see him getting more action. And, Marquise, I want him to start getting more action. We've got the two quarterback situation now, and we get to see who's the better fit for the scheme for Fedora. I like his mobility because he's able to make the defense honest because they know he's a two-threat guy – he's able to run and also throw. As the weeks go by, I definitely want to see those three guys get a lot more action moving forward.

BUCK – Jeb, same question. What guys do you think among the underclassmen, should see more playing time?

JEB – It's a hard question to answer because a lot of times you haven't see those kids up front and personal. But, T.J. Logan shouldn't come off the field. He should get at least 25 touches a game. He's obviously a dynamic player – he proved it against Miami. I would have loved to have fed him the ball a ton more times. He just brings a threat. When you can threaten with the run, it opens up a lot more options than the passing game. It's elementary stuff. I think he should get as many touches as he can take. Trust me, I love A.J. Blue. I think he's a huge factor on our team and needs to see some time as well. And, Romar Morris can have some great break-away speed, but I haven't see anything out of them yet that's the same as what T.J. can bring to the table. The defenses respect what you can do. So, we need to get him the ball as many times as possible.

BUCK – David, same question. Which underclassmen do you think ought to see more time? And, focus on, maybe, the defensive side of the ball.

DAVID – Well, I'm going to echo what Jeb said, a lot of times it is hard to see because those guys out on the field. Dominique Green had two picks on Thursday and I think that ought to deserve some more playing time.

The other thing, you don't see that on game day a lot of times, but where you do see it is in practice. I don't know how many times you are able to get out on the practice field, but that's where these position battles are won or lost. If it's not set up to be a competitive environment in practice, then I think you get stuck with some folks that get penciled in to those starting positions. To me, that's where the battles are won. If you've got a guy on Thursday or Saturday that's not doing what he's supposed to do, then you've got to make it competitive enough in practice for the other players to be able to set up.

Again, you try and use a lot of that time in the offseason to figure those things out, but I got my first start at safety during my junior year towards the end of the year just because the coaches decided to make a switch. You've got to be competitive in practice and allow your players to be able to win that job. If it's just a walk-through type practice, then you're not going to see that.

BUCK – Matt, last word goes to you. Who do you think, among the underclassmen, ought to see more time and why?

MATT – Everyone we can throw out there on defense to see what they have, first of all. From watching from TV and not being at the game, it is tough to see who's in the game sometimes, especially to have to watch without volume at places. Obviously on the offensive side of the ball, I completely agree with Jeb and everyone else, T.J. Logan needs to be our feature guy. He needs to get the majority of the carries.

So, let's give him the ball and let him ride. Offensively, I want to see Bug Howard a little more. I know he's a true freshman, but I want to see him get the ball. That's part of our offensive play call – we just don't go down the field enough. We can stretch the field; we have guys that can go up and catch the ball. Let's see what he's got and put him in position. I like the bubble and tunnel screens occasionally, but I've had enough. We run them to death and we don't block them that well and we don't get the ball out that quick. We haven't had a lot of success with them. They feel like they're pretty obvious calls when they are called. Let's push the ball down field and get Bug involved and maybe that will help open up the running game a little bit. At this point, there's nothing to lose. So, like everyone has said, there's nothing to lose at this point. If there're guys that can help us win, there's some talent we need to develop, then let's get on that.

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.

  • David Bomar walked on at UNC, ultimately earning a scholarship and a starting safety spot as a junior. He was named National Defensive Player of the Week in 1999 after recording 19 tackles vs NCSU, including the game-winner at the one-foot line.

  • 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.

  • 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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