What are you telling recruits about the NCAA and why are you so confident in what you’re telling them?
You know me and you know I’m a very positive person. There’s plenty of people out there that are going to look at the negative side of everything that we do. I’m pretty positive that it’s turning to turn out good for us. One, because I believe we do things the right way. I think that plays a role in it, I really do.
I don’t think that is the main reason guys choose to come to the University of North Carolina. I think guys come because they know they’re going to have the opportunity to get a world-class education, they’re going to have the opportunity to play football at the highest level and they know when they get a degree from the University of North Carolina, when football is over with; they’re going to have success.
Because they’re going to plug into a network of alumni that are going to take care of them. I think there is so much more to it than just making a decision based on, ‘Well, is the NCAA going to do something or are they not?’ I think that’s just a small part that everybody plays up, as far as the determining factor of where I go to school.
Some kids have said that your lawyers have told you guys (that the NCAA won’t be hitting the football program with damaging sanctions). What are you guys hearing to pass that on? Is that accurate?
Parts of it are accurate. If five people go watch a wreck and you interview all five of them afterward, and ask them what they saw, everyone is going to tell you something different, but it’s all going to be right. There are parts of that that are right. I feel confident that things are going to turn out good. I think that that’s going to be maybe a surprise to some people and not to some people. The kids sense our confidence in what’s going on and so I think that just reassures that they’re going to be OK.
At the running back position you’ve had four or five guys over the last couple years. What’s the main thing you’re looking for there?
If you go back to when Gio (Bernard) was our main guy, we still had other backs that played and contributed in every game, actually. I would like a guy to step out front and be the guy. I would love for that to happen. But I can tell you we’ve had success both ways doing it. If it doesn’t work out that way, we’re OK. I’m very confident in that position and that unit on our football team that we’ve got guys that can carry the load and guys that can make it happen.
How much does what Gene Chizik has accomplished mean in trying to turn things around? And how much did that factor into your decision to hire him?
Quite a bit, actually. Gene’s reputation is going to precede him. Everybody knows who is, everybody knows what he’s accomplished. He’s got a great resume. That alone, just that name and bringing him into our program, first of all not only our team but our fan base, gave them a lot of excitement.
For the team itself, from the very first day when they found out you saw a different look in their eyes. To me, that’s a big factor in success. Just the confidence alone.
What kind of impact have you seen him make in trying to improve that defense?
He had a very distinct progression of the way he wanted to teach his defense. He didn’t rush it, he wasn’t worried about whether he won spring or not. All he wanted to do was make sure when we came out of spring, those guys understood the base defense and had learned the fundamentals of the defense. That is something he felt like he accomplished and that has given those guys confidence, and that’s the thing that they lost.
How important is it to get off to a better start this season, beginning with the opener against South Carolina?
It’s always important. There’s never a game that we play that it’s not important that we win. We want that game to be a measuring stick of where we are as a program. It’ll tell us something. They’re a great program. You’re talking about Steve Spurrier and you know he’s going to have a team prepared. He’s a Hall of Fame football coach. That’ll be a great challenge for us and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Which position group are you most excited about right now in terms of what you know you have in them? And which one are you looking to make great strides in the fall to get where they need to be?
I’m not going to sit here and say there’s a single position on the team that’s arrived. I can’t do that. That’s not in my nature. I would hate for them to think that they’ve arrived, so I’m not going to say that. I do feel like there’s a lot of positions on the team that we now have guys in place that we can win a Coastal division championship with. But then there are a lot of other positions on this team and units on this team that we still need quite a bit of improvement to get there. We’re going to have to play much better up front, defensively, to get to where want to be. So there’s going to be a lot of pressure on those guys this year.
How close is Quinshad (Davis) to being back?
He’s back. He’s 100 percent right now. In fact, we met yesterday with our trainers and they say he’s back at 100 percent.
When you hired Gene Chizik did you ever think ‘I’m bringing in a coach whose name is in some ways bigger than my name?’
I don’t really look at things that way. Now that you say it, you know, yeah, it is. To have a guy that’s been a head coach, to have a guy that’s won a national championship as a head coach and a coordinator, I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I have him on my staff. He and I work really well together and Gene’s a great guy. There are things that come up that Gene is the only other person in that room that knows what I feel like sitting in that seat. He’ll be able to give me advice. I don’t walk into the room and say ‘Hey, this is the way we do everything.’
We open it up to the entire staff for suggestions on a lot of situations. Everybody throws things out then I make a decision on which one we’re going to use, then we walk out of the staff room all on the same page. To have another voice that’s been there in my seat, I think it’s nothing but a positive.
Was he the right choice because of his scheme or how he teaches?
Both – and his reputation. All those things combined. It’s just a win-win situation for us and Gene.
When things were devolving last season on defense, did you have a list or candidate in your mind already?
I keep a list of guys that I update every year, at every position, just for the future. Assistants are always moving and evolving so you have to be prepared. So that’s something that I‘ve always done. Gene’s always been on that list. He’s been on that list from the time before I was a head coach, because I was doing that as a coordinator in preparation of being a head coach. So, yeah, he’s been on that list forever.
To what do you attribute the inconsistencies on offense last year?
There were a lot of factors, but mainly I would say lack of experience at a lot of positions and continuity as a unit. There were times that we played really good and times that we didn’t on offense. That’s why I said I thought we were average, I really did.
Marquise (Williams) said at times you played really fast and at times things kind of slowed down. How do you get it so it’s going like that all the time?
It’s pretty simple. If you move the chains, we can go fast. If you don’t, you’re going to come off the field and we’re going to punt. If you’re moving the chains we can run the tempo we need to do. Tempo does not equal first downs. If you go fast it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to move the ball down the field. If you move down the field you can go fast. … They both have to work together.
Do you foresee rotating quarterbacks like you did last year?
Haven’t made that decision yet. Don’t know. A lot of that was last year those guys were still competing and, also, we knew we wanted our No. 2 guy to get some experience because he didn’t have it. Whoever it was going to be didn’t have any experience and it paid off at Virginia. Comes in on fourth down and throws the game-winning touchdown.
Who is going to be your kicker and how much does that have to improve?
We’ve got to make vast improvements in the kicking game. Tommy Hibbert’s gone – we had a great punter last year. That’s an issue for us right now. We’re still up in the air at kicker and punter as far as who’s going to be the guy and we won’t make that decision until going into that South Carolina game.
(Check back tomorrow for Part III ...)
Q&A with Larry Fedora, Part II
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