Q&A with Larry Fedora, Part IV

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

Are there any sophomore, juniors or seniors that impressed you during the spring and are ready to take the next step?

There were a lot of guys. It’d be hard to say… I don’t know if I could say that there’s one guy that stood out all spring. There were guys that flashed all the time. I think you’ve got a lot of guys that are hungry, I really do. I think the things that they’ve done this summer, and the word that I’m hearing from them as I get back in and I’m talking to them and their excitement, I think they’re all ready. It’s just hard for me to pick out a guy or two. It wasn’t somebody that just jumped out every day.

How about Sam Smiley?

Sam Smiley could have a really big year. If we can keep him healthy throughout the season, I mean, it could be special for him.

Jeff (Schoettmer) said a commitment to discipline has been really important since Coach (Gene) Chizik came along for Sam, said he saw a very different guy…

Totally different guy. Totally different guy. I hope that’s going to pay off and I expect Sam to be a heck of a player for us. He’s got some big shoes, he’s got to get out there and he’s got to do it. I think he’s proven through the spring and the summer that he’s ready to do that, now he’s gotta do it.

Do you have to rebuild confidence, especially among defensive players?

Yeah, definitely.

How do you go about doing that?

Hire Gene Chizik, that was No. 1. You bring a guy that’s going to lead them that they have complete confidence in because of his reputation. That’s a big boost right there in itself. Then, just watching as they start learning the defense and they start having success in spring ball and they start seeing things work and they start gaining more and more confidence. With success you’re going to gain more confidence.

Is this an easier scheme to learn and get a hang of?

I don’t know that it’s an easier scheme; it’s all about how you teach the scheme that makes it easier. That’s an age-old question, what’s better a 3-4, 4-3, 4-2-5, you can win with any of them. On offense you can win with a spread, pro-style, triple option. You can win with any of them, it’s about how do your players fit your scheme and then do they truly believe in the scheme? Time is going to tell, but I think we’re going to be better on defense. Now, is that going to be because we went to a 4-3? I don’t know.

The team is going to be in a lot of nickel…

Nowadays, you’re going to have nickel on the field majority of the games anyway. If you can go back and count and see how many times you’ve got three linebackers on the field, you’re probably talking 10, 12 percent of a game. But you’ve gotta have a base.

In recruiting, aren’t you focusing on different guys now (that you’ve switched to the 4-3)?

Even in the 4-3, you’re not looking for linebackers that are 6-foot-4, 250 pounds. They don’t need to be that big. They need to be able to cover in space. They need to be able to tackle in space, as teams are spreading you out. Guys that are 6-foot, guys that are 6-1 that are 210, 215 pounds they can play in a 4-3. They’re gonna be spread out and they’re going to be in open space, they’ve just gotta be able to make tackles out there.

Does the installation of the defense speed up when fall camp starts?

Oh yeah, because in spring you’ve got the time. In the spring you’ve got 15 days to get it. It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose in the spring. But what you’ve gotta do is you’ve gotta come outta there and you’ve got to know the base and that’s what we were able to accomplish. Now, it’s moving to the next level. How much work did the guys do over the summer in preparing for that? And then, where are we when fall camp starts? Because we’ll go back to an installation process, on re-installing everything on a daily basis. But now you’re putting more in on a day, not just one term. So, the recall is very important.

Is there anyone else on the defense you’re challenging to be a leader?

Yeah, Shakeel Rashad would be the next guy over there on the defense because he’s got a lot of experience and he’s very well respected on the team. I’ll tell you another guy who’s stepped into that role, Sam Smiley that you brought up. Sam has really had a great spring and summer. I’ll be happy if we get one, but having more than one is important.

Coach Chizik mentioned changing the mentality and physicality of the defense. In the past players have said that the workout room would be empty on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and now it’s a packed house. Is that a sign that some of that mentality has changed?

We’re constantly evolving with our culture and we’re getting even closer to where we want to be. Those guys were alluding to the fact that Wednesdays and Saturdays are their off days. That’s when the strength staff cuts them loose. When I first got there, there was no one there on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Now, you’ve got the majority of the team in there on Wednesdays and Saturdays doing extra work, trying to get better. Obviously, the commitment you make in that weight room is going to make you a more physical football team.

(On if he’s learned from, or reached out to, other head coaches at UNC)

Anson Dorrance, Jenny Levy and Coach (Roy) Williams, we have all these Hall of Fame coaches, Mike Fox, I’m able to learn from everybody there. That’s a great thing, because I can promise you I’m not too proud to beg for anything if it’s going to make us a better football team. I don’t have that much pride where I’m afraid to ask somebody if I think somebody can help us. All of them have been more than willing, in any situation… I’ve had Anson come and speak to the team and that was an eye-opening experience for our players. We’ve got a lot of great coaches at Carolina and I’m fortunate to be around them.

In terms of leadership and chemistry, what are you seeing to make you think it’s going to be better?

We’re not around them a lot in the summer so, for me, it’s just talking to them and asking them how do they feel about the chemistry of the football team? To a guy, it’s so much more positive about where we are and what’s being done, and the attitude on the football team and the guys that are coming in on their own on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It’s more about, ‘what can we do to make our team better?’ Instead of, ‘what do I need to do to be better individually?’

Focusing on, ‘how do I become a better teammate? If I’m truly going to love one of my teammates, I’ve got to spend time with him, I’ve got to care about him and I’ve got to know him on and off the field and everything about him.’ That’s important. There’s a lot of different activities that we setup in the summer for those guys to be put in those positions, whether it be beach volleyball to ultimate frisbee to paintball to… just goofy activities. They do all kind of things. It’s just really to spend time and build a bond with your brothers, that’s all it’s about.

The players noted that you don’t believe in the concept of just leading by example?

I really don’t see that. Leading by example, if you’re a leader you’re going to do what you do. Leading, to me, is just influencing. It’s just influencing the guys around you. If you’re a leader, you’re influencing one way or the other. You have to be conscious of how you’re leading and I don’t necessarily think that just because… if I go out there and I just play as good as I can, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m leading.

Leading is influencing. People say that’s leading by example. I don’t see it that way. I don’t see that as leading, just because you go out and do your job. I don’t see that as being leadership. It’s actually influencing the people around you, making them better, raising the level of the guys around you is leadership. And then being aware that you can do it both positively and negatively, and you’ve gotta be careful.

(Check back tomorrow for Part V.)

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