“We finished up a very productive open week last week, worked on some fundamentals, got some good work in and started implementing our game plan for East Carolina here at the end of the week. We’re in full force for East Carolina from this point on.”
What was the main priority during the bye?
“Getting a lot of reps, a lot of fundamentals, a lot of things that are going to take us throughout this season. When you get into a game plan week you don’t really get to spend a lot of time doing it, that’s what we spend our time on, a lot of individual drills.”
Was this an opportunity for some of the young guys heads to stop spinning a little bit?
“It’s an opportunity for them to get more reps and hopefully get more comfortable. When it’ll slow down, I don’t know. Last year, it took a while for it to slow down for all those young kids, and they started realizing that they could play, so I don’t know when that’ll take place for them. But I thought it was good to have the open week at this point, and it gave us some time to really go back and focus on the fundamentals.”
Did you watch any of the ECU-Virginia Tech game in Blacksburg?
“I did. I thought that East Carolina is a really good football team. I read all the headlines that they upset Virginia Tech, and I’ll tell you what, from the very beginning, it was a heck of a game. Offensively they could pretty much do no wrong in the first quarter. Whatever they did worked. They were playing really well with a lot of confidence. I don’t think they were affected by the crowd, or the hype, or anything. I thought they went in with a lot of confidence and played like that throughout the entire game. Defensively, I thought they did a tremendous job throughout the game. They were solid in every phase of their kicking game. They have a punter that’s punting it 48 yards a pop, the kicker is kicking the ball in the back of the end zone, and they did some really nice things.”
Do you think this test on Saturday looks a lot more difficult than it did four or five weeks ago?
“No. I remember what last year was like. And I knew that a majority of those guys are back. This is a veteran team, he has a lot of guys back, and a lot guys that have played a lot of reps for him. We knew in the summer as we stared looking at them and preparing, we knew they were going to be a really good football team, and they’re showing it. They showed it with the first week. But it wasn’t a surprise for us to be honest with you.”
How is your defense playing?
“With the takeaways, I think it’s been exceptional. I think that part of it has been exceptional. Coming out of the last game, I’d say our tackling is below average. You can’t have that many missed tackles and say you’re a good tackling team. So now we’ll come back and see where we are because the tackles now are in open space, every one of them, because they are going spread you out, and you’re going to have to make plays and make good solid tackles in the open field, because if you don’t, they’re going to turn into explosive plays.”
People said years ago that North Carolina had nothing to gain by playing East Carolina. Has that changed? And what are your thoughts on a rivalry game like this?
“The good part about it is the regional rivalry that I’ve talked about before, the fans love it, both sides, because they don’t like the other side. That’s good for college football. It gives your fans something to talk about all year, and it’s something to talk about up to the game and after the game, and I think it’s a good thing.”
The fans love it, but how about the coaching staff?
“Oh yeah. Who doesn’t like rivalries? Who doesn’t like playing teams that dislike each other? I think that’s a good thing. You know what the stadium is going to be like, you know that the crowd is going to be hostile, you got to relish in that environment. That should be a lot of fun.”
Has this week helped a guy like Norkeithus Otis kind get back into the flow of things? How key could he be Saturday in trying to get pressure on Shane Carden?
“It’ll be important. I’ll tell you, Carden did a great job of handling the pressure last week, because Virginia Tech threw everything at him that they could throw at him, and I thought they kid played exceptional, he really did. So it’s going to be important that we get to the quarterback, and Norkeithus is a big factor in that. This week was good for him to be able to rest and get his legs back under him.”
You don’t have a running back averaging more than 40 yards a game. How much of a concern is that for you, and what needs to happen to get the running game on track?
“I’ve said that it’s going to be a work in progress for us, and it starts up front. We need to continue to gel up front as an offensive line to get better in the backfield. It’s not so much of just one guy back there, as much as it is are we being productive at the position? Would I like one guy to take it and role with it? That’d be great, but at the same time, I’ve done it a lot of different ways, and you can have success running the ball without just one guy being the main ground gainer. Marquise [Williams] will always be a factor in the game plan as a runner because he can do both, and that’s a tough thing for a defense to try and defend, and we’ll never take that aspect out of it. We don ‘t necessarily want him to be the leading rusher, but if it happens, it happens, if that’s what they’re giving you.”
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