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 – Matt, I’m going to start with you this week, and about the quarterback situation. I know you were a backup for a while at UNC, and then, ultimately, you were named a starter. What, if anything, does that mean that Larry Fedora has actually named a starter? How important is it? Does it make any difference at all?

MATT BAKER – I think it’s big. I think it’s important that he named a starter and I’m glad he did. To be honest, I’m not really sure why we went through this whole exercise ahead of week one when Marquise was clearly the starter. It’s not like the two quarterbacks had different styles of play; they’re the same type of player. I’m not really sure why we didn’t get a better head start running into week one with an established quarterback.

Let the team start to rally around; let him get settled; get everyone settled down with the whole thing. I’m not really sure why we went through that exercise, but, here we are. Clearly the decision had been made that Marquise was going to be the guy and it was evident during the game. It wasn’t that both guys were going to get equal reps; they were more comfortable with Marquise. Both of them played okay. I think Marquise, given his experience last year and some more time with the system, is probably the safe starter. I’d like to see Trubisky in for more situations to show what he has, but I like the decision to get with the quarterback – make Marquise the starter and let’s move forward and get some momentum with this offense. I think that’s good.

QUINCY MONK – I agree with Matt. The offense rallies around the quarterback. So, if you’re indecisive back there – who’s going to be out there playing – it doesn’t give you that confidence as an offensive unit. You’ve got two different quarterbacks and two different styles. Can I really feel confident with this player? I think with Fedora making Marquise the head guy, it’s going to build a lot more continuity with that offense knowing that they’ve got one guy that they can really be confident in rather than having a series here and a series there with two different quarterbacks. It makes it a lot easier and a lot smoother for the offense, I believe.

MIKE INGERSOLL – Yeah, dual quarterback systems rarely work. In 2006 we did it, Coach Bunting’s last year – I was a true freshman – we did it with Sexton and Joe Dailey. Individually they were good players, but when you have to keep rotating quarterbacks, the team never really gets into the flow, like you’re saying.

It disrupts a lot of things starting with, from an offensive lineman’s perspective; it disrupts a lot as far as timing. Every quarterback’s cadence is different; every quarterback’s rhythm is different; the checks the quarterback is likely to call and give in situations is different. There’s no saying that Marquise is more comfortable with taking off and running the ball than they might check to a design quarterback run a lot more often than they would with Trubisky, even if the situation doesn’t call for it. If the situation calls for Trubisky to take it and run with it – just because he’s young, not saying he can’t do it, just because he’s young – he might be a little bit more hesitant to do that.

Williams, with the experience, is more likely to take off with the ball because he’s done some things with it and has confidence with that. That is something, from an offensive lineman’s perspective; we need to be ready for. We also have to be able to anticipate that, and then it all goes to the running backs and receivers, and then there’s rhythm all over the place. I think 2006 was the perfect example that dual quarterback systems rarely work.

BUCK – One of the things that we can talk about is the San Diego State game. They are not a conference opponent, obviously; they’re coming out from the west coast; they’re playing in Kenan. How important is this game to North Carolina? What’s at stake for North Carolina in this game?

QUINCY – I think it’s really important for us to come out to play fast and play aggressive. I think San Diego State will be a great challenge; I know it’s not Liberty, but it’s definitely a great opponent to kind of test our ability against a different, I guess, a better talented team. They have a lot of players in California and Colorado, a lot of athletes out there - that’s going to give us a challenge offensively and defensively.

I think this is a good test to measure up to how we can compete against other guys from other programs. Going with Liberty, you have the first game of the season there’s a lot of energy and a lot of things that go on in the first game where you’re like, it’s the first time I get a chance to play against a different competitor. So there’s going to be mistakes and missed assignments in the first game; that’s natural. I want to see these guys come out and learn from some of the things that can be corrected on against last week and really hone in on those areas and try to come out with a better performance.

BUCK – Anybody think they’ll be less experimental, I guess is the word I’m looking for? To me, in the Liberty game they just put a lot of players out there and they were getting a lot of looks at players on film. Do you think they’ll trim that tree down a little bit this coming weekend against San Diego State?

MATT – They’ve always played quite a few players and platoon players at skilled positions. There’s talk around TV to see who’s exactly in and out on the offensive line, but at least from the skilled positions. Fedora has always done that. I think this game is important for rhythm, for momentum. You’ve got to start developing momentum. I think Marquise playing the whole game will develop some momentum and cohesiveness with the offensive line unit. I think Marquise needs to grow into this as well. I think there’s some throws he needs to make better decisions on; there are some times he needs to make better throws. I think with a full week of the guy getting all the reps and just the comfort in being the starter and not having to look over his shoulder any more, should help.

MIKE – Well, it’s a I-A opponent versus a I-AA opponent, so to speak. You’re dealing with, like we were talking about before, a better talent pool. The first test of every season isn’t the one-AA opponent. Though you could say when I was in school that was a test because we struggled against McNeese State, the Citadel and William and Mary. I think those are trap games.

But, the first game of the year against a bigger opponent is always a better tell of where you’re going to be.

It’s important to remember that the greatest improvement you’re going to make is between games one, two and three. Every team every season is going to show marked improvement, especially when you’re running an offense like we’re running – it has to be the biggest improvement through the rhythm of the quarterback, like we were talking about, to timing with the receivers, the rhythm with the offensive line getting comfortable and, that itself, goes back to it’s good that we named a starter.

But, it all boils down to we’re playing a better opponent and this is going to be the first real test we’ve had, and it’s against a team that has had some success. San Diego State isn’t a slouch program. They’ve put some players in the NFL and they’ve won some games. So, I’m excited to see how it is.

BUCK – After the Liberty game…all during the offseason, we read about things, we develop some expectations, we try to pigeon-hole and figure out where the Tar Heels are going to be, did the Liberty game change anybody’s expectations? Or, should it? Does anybody have an expectation that’s different now than they had prior to the Liberty game? And, should fans change their expectations based upon watching one game?

QUINCY MONK – I don’t think so. I always had great optimism of this team, just because of how we finished last year. You know, winning six of the last seven games of the season builds a lot of good momentum going into this year. And, we really didn’t lose that many guys. We lost Ebron. We lost a couple of guys on offense but we still have the nucleus that has returned.

My opinion of the team, I had great optimism that they were going to come out and play well. Looking at Liberty, they’re a good team. It was good to get challenged early. We were down in the second half and made those incredible turnovers and changed the momentum of the game. But, that’s what I expected from this team.

You’ve got a lot of guys that are returning from last year who have a lot of confidence and they’re becoming leaders on this football field. I have high hopes for this team. We shouldn’t take this one game and say, ‘okay this is how our season is going to be.’ I think this upcoming game with San Diego State will be a good test, a good challenge that we can hone in on some of the areas that we need to improve on. But, I think it’s a good start to say, ‘okay, we were challenged early but we bounced back hard.’ We created six turnovers; we were able to score four touchdowns in a span of four or five minutes. There are a lot of good things that we can do on the football field, but I think we should definitely continue to build on that success from last week.

MATT – Yeah, I feel that Quincy. The Liberty game didn’t change my opinion on this team. I think this team has enough talent to win a lot of games and be very successful in the ACC.

I think, in general, people put too much into these early games. I said earlier that it’s about gaining some momentum, getting the rhythm down. But, at the end of the day, it’s just about the wins. These early season games, often times, don’t reflect your season. People are moving into new roles and shaking off the cobwebs; it’s been a long camp. At the end of the day, it’s just about getting wins. We got a win last week; we’ve got to go and get one this week. At the end of the day, you just want to see your team building momentum, but a win is all you need to walk away with right now.

BUCK – Mike, any final thoughts on that?

MIKE INGERSOLL – Not other than, once again, it’s early in the season and, like Matt and Quincy were saying, I don’t put a whole lot of weight into the first game of the year, especially if it’s, we’ll call it a weaker opponent, but that’s no disrespect to Liberty, they are a very good team; they’re a good program.

The fact of the matter is that they’re still working out the kinks. You also have to think of it from a being “in shape” standpoint. I know when I was playing, I don’t know about you other guys, but when I was playing, by halftime of the first game of the year, whether if it was because my adrenaline was pumping or whatever, I was worn out: there’s no shape like game shape.

It takes you a game or two to get back into shape and to get into actual football game shape. There is summer conditioning shape; there is practice shape; there’s scrimmage shape; then, there’s game shape. They are completely different things.

And that, coupled with working the kinks out, like Matt was saying, guys moving into new roles and learning their place, and the rhythm thing, once again keep harping on it, all that stuff plays into how you play in the first game. That’s why I don’t put a whole lot of weight on it.

People used to ask me ‘how are we going to look this season?’ Ask me in the middle of July, I always tell them to ask me after Week 12. I’m not going to be able to tell you. Just like the first game, I can’t tell you how good we’re going to be. There will be a game halfway through the season where you think that we’re taking a step back, and then the next week we blow somebody out. So, one game, I don’t think defines the season – especially not so early.

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