Q&A with Larry Fedora, Part V

GREENSBORO, N.C. --- Larry Fedora fielded questions from reporters for over an hour at the ACC Kickoff. Read everything the Tar Heel head coach said in the final installment of InsideCarolina.com's five-part transcription ...

When you said you wanted all the freshmen to be ready to play, does that include Caleb Henderson?

It includes everybody. I’m not going to say ‘Hey quarterback, you’ve got no chance.’

Would you prefer to redshirt him?

Could he come in here and help us win a championship this year? If he could, heck no. You prove the team is better when you’re on the field, then let’s go. That means you’ve won. You’ve beat them out. You’re better than they are. Why would you want to keep a guy off the field if he is? … We don’t determine (redshirts) until after camp. A lot of that is determined by, OK first of all are they physically and mentally ready to play for you that year? Some are, some aren’t. Do you have enough depth at a position? Sometimes you’ve got a young guy playing, he’s not ready. But you’ve got no choice. He’s just got to play and that’s an unfortunate situation. Some of the scholarship limitations we’ve had in the past have created those kinds of issues for us.

Are you past that?

We can offer as many scholarships as we can this year. It’ll be two more years before we get back to 85 scholarships.

What was your immediate reaction to the reopening of the NCAA investigation?

I was disappointed in the fact that we were going to have to continue to battle that in recruiting, that was the only issue for me. It opens up the door for people to continue to use that in recruiting against us.

What do you tell recruits about that?

If they ask about it, we talk about it. If they don’t, I never bring it up because it’s really not an issue for us. I think especially the kids in the state of North Carolina; they’re tired of hearing about it. How long can you beat a dead horse? They’re just tired of hearing about it.

You’ve still managed to recruit in the top 30 in the country…

We’ve done really well; our staff has done a tremendous job. I would love to see what we do without all those distractions. It could be really special. We’ll overcome it, we will. What are you going to do? Cry about it? You put together a plan and you go and you move forward. We’ll be positive about it and we’ll overcome it, there’s no doubt it my mind.

Marquise talked about the improved commitment from everyone on the team. Have you noticed that there’s a total culture change with the players?

The culture has changed. That was a big part of when we came here feeling like there were things in the program that we needed to change culture wise. Not so much that it wasn’t good, for what we expected as coaches there needed to be a culture change. We’ve made that change, guys know the way we’re going to do things now. There are no questions. It’s just part of who we are, the way we do things and the way we live.

Did that change come from the players you’re bringing in or an attitude change from the seniors and juniors?

Both. You had to have that attitude change. It’s gotta be happening when you bring the new guys in. If guys are getting out of workouts and not doing things, when the young guys come in and they see that, well there’s going to be a tendency for them to that. But when they come in and they see everybody’s working extremely hard, there is no whining. Then they know that’s just how it is here, that’s how we do things.

Anybody that’s not a big-time recruit or a walk-on that’s been a surprise for you?

Dominique Green at free safety, he was a walk-on that started every game for us last year. Earned a scholarship and will definitely be a factor in everything we do. He’s a kid that was not highly recruited but came in and played really well as a true freshman for us at the safety position.

Mack Hollins was a walk-on. Mack Hollins was a starter on all four special teams last year and was selected as a captain last year at the end of our season. I’ve never had that and he was a freshman last year. Mack’s going to help us this year at receiver along with continuing to be a great special teams player.

Do you think you can win the Coastal division with a 5-3 record?

I think there’s a lot of parity in our division. I think it’s wide open.

Should the league look at rearranging the divisions?

I like the divisions where they are, I think they’re good. I’m not in favor of changing it.

Why not?

I think it’s good the way we have it right now. I don’t think it’s bad, I don’t think it’s broke. We just won a national championship, we just won a BCS bowl and we just won every major individual award there was. I think we’re in pretty good shape right now.

Would you like to see a challenge series with another conference?

We’ve talked about that as a league and have actually approached some other leagues about that and just didn’t get a lot of good feedback on it. I think it’d be pretty cool.

What’s your approach on scheduling down the road?

We’ve talked about it and that is one of the toughest things you do, right there. We’ve got ourselves in a situation where we end up with two FCS teams because another team buys themselves out of your contract. Nobody’s happy about it. Your fans aren’t happy, they’re wondering why you’re doing that and it’s a lot of times out of your control. We’re scheduling out right now, we’re talking about 2021, 2022. The thing that’s difficult for me, for Bubba and all of us involved in it is you really don’t know how this college football playoff is gonna unfold. What is really going to be important? When is scheduling going to be more important than wins? It’s really difficult, it really is.

We’re going to continue to play at least one team from the BCS every year, along with our eight and possibly Notre Dame. We’ll see where it goes from there.

Can you take us through how you teach your quarterbacks as far as reading defenses?

We start off with coverage. We’re going to read coverage based on alignment. The quarterback is going to find out where the safety is and that’s going to dictate where he starts. That tells him which side of the field he’s working and where he is going to start in the progression. At the same time, on the snap of the ball, if the coverage rolls then he’s gotta adjust that and so do the receivers. So the quarterback and the receivers have to be on the same page because they’re going to adjust routes based on the coverage that’s happening. I know it sounds complicated but that’s why we rep things over and over and over so that those guys do get on the same page.

What tweaks can we expect on the offense this year?

I think we could do a little more two-back stuff. I think we may be in a position where we move Jack (Tabb) around a little bit more. Not necessarily just split him out, but move him around in the backfield. Some of the things they had success with at Indiana.

T.J. Logan said he’s been playing some “A” back. Any chance we see that during the season?

Definitely, it’s just another way to get him on the field. Again, I think it’s important for us when we look at our team… Who are our playmakers? Who is going to make plays for us week in and week out? How do we get the ball in their hands? This whole offense, when we started this offense in 1999, it was about spreading the field and getting the ball in your playmakers’ hands in open spaces. And when you can do that it makes it really difficult on a defense. Now if they don’t make that tackle out in the open, you’ve got big plays.

Was how Indiana pushes the ball down the field a part of your reasoning for hiring Seth Littrell?

It wasn’t, ‘Hey, they push the ball down the field.’ I’ve done it pushing the ball down the field, I’ve done it with short passes. It’s really about taking advantage of the skills your quarterback has. I’ve done it without throwing it a whole lot, I’ve done it without running it much. The thing I want to pride ourselves on is making sure we can do both, because a team can take one away from you. If they want to stack it up and stop the run they can do that, but you better be able to beat them with the pass. There’s team’s that can take the pass away, but you better be able to run the ball.

How much do you think a vote of confidence from Peyton Manning will help Marquise this season?

If you were a quarterback and one of the greatest that plays the game told you ‘Hey, you’re a good player and you can throw it’ that’s going to give you a boost of confidence. Not that Marquise was questioning whether he could throw the ball, but to have a guy like Peyton Manning say ‘Hey, you can throw it’ … I think a lot of times dual-threat quarterbacks people talk about what they can do with their legs a whole lot more than they do passing. As they grow up, that’s kind of their first, initial thought, to run before you throw. Marquise understands that he can beat you with his arm. He did last year. He didn’t just win by running the football. I think that’s a great thing when a guy of Peyton Manning’s status tells you that. It just gives you a boost of confidence.

Can you talk about the importance of getting the whole state behind Tar Heel football?

That’s what we’re doing, is taking spring practices to Greensboro and Charlotte were we have such huge fan bases. Also that’s big for us in recruiting to make sure we have that exposure all over the state.

How much of your decision whether or not to throw down the field was protection?

If you’re going to throw the ball down the field, you’re usually going to be holding the ball a little bit longer. That’s why, there’s so many factors that go into that. It’s not just drop back and throw the ball down the field. Receivers have to be able to beat DB’s down the field. Your quarterback’s gotta have the time to do it. You’re going to put your offensive line in a position where they’ve gotta to hold up longer. There’s a lot of things that dictate whether or not you throw it down the field or not.

Do you sense any change from last year, because you’re opening up with Liberty, in the player’s excitement and preparation?

No, I don’t sense any change. I sense a change with the fans, I don’t sense a change with the team. If Liberty beats us, will that be a big deal? Well, then it’s a big game. That’s the way I approach it. They’re going to approach it the same way. Our guys have bought into that philosophy. They know that anybody can beat you on any given Saturday. They understand the importance of it. I can’t tell you if the fans all believe that. But I can tell you our team believes that and they’ll be ready to play on that game.

Kind of like the East Carolina game last year?

Oh yeah. I don’t think there’s any doubt. They learned a really good lesson right there. They got embarrassed.

Changing the culture with the fans, how do you feel that is progressing?

I think we’ve made progress, I really do. The first year there was one game where I thought it was unbelievable. This last year, there was two home games like that. This year there will be three or four. We’re in a give it to me now society. I want instant gratification and that’s not the way it is. You can’t just throw it in the microwave and it’s gonna happen. That’s not the way you’re going to build a program and get it to where you want it. It’s going to take time and it’s going to take a lot of effort. It takes effort from the fans, from your students, from your players, everybody involved is the only way you’re going to get it done.

When you were at Southern Miss was there a time when you said ‘OK, I think these guys have it. I think we’re ready to take the next step?’

I said that the third year there. I really thought we would and was very disappointed that we didn’t do it that year. We just didn’t get it done (the third year). We had a lot of injuries that year for whatever reason, it’s just the way it worked out.

What have you seen from Elijah Hood?

He’s special. You don’t have a lot of kids like that in any program I’ve been in. What’s his role going to be? That’s still up in the air, that’s too hard to say before we ever get started and we’ve never had him in a game. He’s going to play in the first game, if he’s healthy. And his production is going to determine how much he plays in the next game, and the next game and the next game. Whether it’s him or T.J. or Khris Francis or Romar, the guy that’s producing that’s the guy that’s going to be out there.

There’s more to it than carrying the football. In what we do, that’s guy gotta be able to pass protect he’s gotta know protections, he’s gotta do a lot of things. I will tell you that he blew me away in how quickly he picked those up. Faster than any freshman running back I’ve ever had. I’m talking protection, I’m not talking about carrying the football. I’m talking about understanding protection, knowing who the blitzer is, who he’s supposed to pick up and that is a little bit complicated in what we do.

Have you noticed a difference in perception by recruits since Florida State won the national championship, since the conference won two BCS bowls?

No doubt, no doubt. Guys understand you can be in the ACC and you can reach every dream and goal you have.

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