Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina

Inside Carolina Staff Chat: The Approach to UNC-VT

The Inside Carolina staff convened for a free-for-all chat in advance of North Carolina's game against Virginia Tech.

Buck Sanders - Welcome back to our new feature, an IC Staff Chat. We’ve got some folks on board now, and others will join when they can. So let’s get started. First, anyone want to comment on Mitch Trubisky getting his name thrown around in the Heisman race?


Greg Barnes - Just look at his 3rd-and-long/4th down passing stats. Head and shoulders above the rest of the Heisman contenders. He deserves the recognition.


Dijana Kunovac - That was ... surprising but at the same time not (hold on let me explain). We've heard so much about his talent, his speed, his arm, everything that at some point it had to come out - right?  I think I was a little skeptical after the Georgia game but man, he's really putting it all out there.


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Tommy Ashley - His performance speaks for itself. Good for him getting recognized beyond NC and IC.  Incredible to see a UNC QB name on the list.


Dijana Kunovac - and still NO interceptions! He performed like a Heisman candidate in the biggest game of their season thus far.


Jason Staples - Not really surprised. He has always had the tools, and he’s putting up the numbers. He deserves to be near the top of the discussion.


That could be both good and bad, as it’s obviously great for the program to have guys getting drafted early, but it could also mean he considers leaving early.


Buck Sanders - Ugh, I didn’t really want to go there, but what if Trubisky continues to perform at this level? Gone?


Dijana Kunovac - After everything Larry did to keep him at UNC how ironic would it be if he left after one year of starting...


Tommy Ashley - Like the games, football seasons are loooong.  Let's jump those ditches when we get there.  If that's the case then Carolina's had a hell of a season


Dijana Kunovac - Yeah I agree with Tommy. Let's slow our roll here, these type of things can change pretty quickly.


Jason Staples - In any case, the amount of NFL talent on this year’s offense is really remarkable. There are at least five draft picks out there: Trubisky, Hood, Switzer, Hollins, Crowley. And you can make the case Howard will have a chance to be a late-round guy. Logan will probably have a good shot at making a roster. Plus Fritts could develop into a pick, too. 


Dijana Kunovac - Am I missing something Jason? Isn't Fritts still hurt...?


Jason Staples - Yes, he’s still hurt. But he’s another guy on the offense who could be drafted eventually, though he hasn’t been able to play this year.


Tommy Ashley - Logan may be best one IMO.


Mike Ingersoll - Spoke with a Titans scout who was on campus week before last, was here to look at Peterson primarily. Experience tends to matter with OL guys, even if production is lacking. A three-year starter gets more draft love sometimes than a more productive two- or one-year guy.


Jason Staples - I forgot about him, too, Mike. Yeah, he’s also probably got a decent shot to get drafted.


Mike Ingersoll - Was actually having this conversation this morning. It's interesting to look at drafted guys vs. recruiting success, especially defensively.


Buck Sanders - How much of that talent is going to get a “it’s the system” rap?


Jason Staples - I don’t think that’s going to be much of an issue, Buck. The “it’s the system” rap really only applies if you’re getting guys that are putting up huge numbers but aren’t put in positions to show skills that would be more applicable to NFL contexts.


Greg Barnes - Fedora’s not afraid to adjust his passing concepts for his QB's abilities. For example, they scaled back the concepts after Renner got hurt to ease Marquise into the job. Mitch can make all of the throws, so the system tag won’t stick.


Jason Staples - UNC’s offense uses a lot of RPO stuff and is a “college” system, but Trubisky throws downfield a bunch and works with option route concepts and such. He’s shown enough that he can play with NFL concepts.

Hollins is a guy who will be really interesting as far as draft day goes because of how he’s more of a deep threat but doesn’t have as much experience with a full route tree. That’ll hurt him a bit, but he’ll still go high based on traits, e.g., WRs who make their living on bubble screens or RPO type stuff, QBs who don’t throw downfield into tight windows, etc.


Dijana Kunovac - I think Mack Hollins and Hood are my picks to make it at the next level. Hollins has really evolved since his freshman year and Hood ... well I don't think I need to do much explaining there.


Mike Ingersoll - For LF's first few years, his drafted guys were all Butch guys. And that mattered when Butch went out on the trail. He could throw a list down of all his draft picks from Miami and UNC and say "if you come here, you may start early, and we give you the best shot of getting drafted." That leverage has been lost (until this year) as the Butch guys phased out. A guy like Quinshad Davis -- 6'5", 210+ lbs -- who sets all kinds of records here and is a solid, solid receiver, goes undrafted and can't make a roster in preseason. May speak to perception of the program or the system (which I think is somewhat misguided, considering we run a fairly balanced attack, but I can see where the opinion comes from if that is, in fact, what's going on).


Jason Staples - I don’t think Quinshad not being drafted was as much a function of system or program as it was how he tested speed-wise.


Mike Ingersoll - Q is an example. That team also had Rashad, who I thought played with the mechanics to be a solid OLB in the NFL. It also had Landon, who had slow foot speed, generally, but showed to be the power guy that most NFL line coaches love, was a multi-year starter and various award winner, undrafted (and then made the team because he's frankly just a real solid player, amongst other intangibles).


I can't help but wonder if those same guys, with that same production, were here between 2008-2011 if they would have been drafted versus FAs.


Buck Sanders - Let’s move on to the topic of the defense, as much as we may not want to. Is it a case of “it is what it is” this year, or is there any shot at this defense lurching a step forward or two this season?


Greg Barnes - Buck, there’s hope for improvement given that we’ve seen signs of solid defensive play (4Q vs. Pitt, 1H vs. FSU), but the schedule’s not getting any easier with a couple of top-25 scoring offenses up next in VT and Miami. DL is starting to play better, which is most important. If the LBs mature rapidly, this defense has a chance to improve quite a bit. And it needs to. Not good to date.


Tommy Ashley - I figure 'Stars matter' more for defensive guys as it pertains to NFL. That said, Carolina's defense has to better, especially the LBs, for Carolina to reach goals. Their - the LBs -  performance can't be 'it is what it is.’


Dijana Kunovac - Yep, we keep going back to the LBs and just waiting for them to improve.  Is it just a personnel thing? CAN they get better?


Tommy Ashley - I think awareness in football gets lost in the combine numbers and measurables. You better have some LBs that have a high level of that.  A. Smith has it.  Who else?


Jason Staples - I’m not sure the defense gets a whole lot better. But they’re unlikely to face anyone that’s a worse matchup for them than FSU was and they survived that one. Both FSU and Pitt were bad match ups for this defense. Once VT and Miami are in the rear view mirror, you gotta think the stats will at least look better even if the defense hasn’t actually significantly improved.


Buck Sanders - I keep thinking that Chizik and Papuchis will make some personnel changes - just because we’re not seeing a lot of improvement from game-to-game. Can they move A. Smith outside and put Jonathan Smith in the middle? Is it too late for any personnel changes?


Mike Ingersoll - It's rarely too late for personnel changes defensively. There's obviously something that makes GC a little hesitant to make that change, whether it's what he sees out of a young J. Smith or he thinks he's already walking on thin ice with what he has and doesn't want to risk breaking through that ice by changing people around.


Tommy Ashley - You move Smith outside and JSmith into the lineup, who sits?  Granted they will all play a lot anyway


Mike Ingersoll - In terms of recruiting defensively, it surprises me that GC doesn't have more pull on the trail. Maybe this generation of kids doesn't remember his Auburn days, or maybe they're just getting out-dueled by other area schools/Bama for the talent they want. Not sure, but I fully expected more 4-5 star guys from GC's recruiting territories and development of those guys once they're here. Maybe they're still gestating in depth, and there's a few that will break out next year. Not sure, but an interesting thought.


Buck Sanders - Well, Mike, he’s not been there really long enough to evaluate that I don’t think.


Dijana Kunovac - Haha yeah I was just about to say Buck, maybe give the guy a few more years...


Mike Ingersoll - And that might be it, too. Still dealing with what he inherited and his guys are still in development. I guess that's a better way of stating the "gestating" point.


Tommy Ashley - ^^could that pull be negated by the fact no one thinks GC will be around too long?  Who knows?


Greg Barnes - You also have to remember that Fedora pulled the quality over quantity card on Signing Day 2015 in saying they would rather hold the scholarships until Chizik found pieces that he liked better. That plays a role.


Buck Sanders - Plus, the former regime was recruiting to a different type of scheme. Anyone have an idea about how hard that is to do? Move from one defensive scheme to another?


Dijana Kunovac - I talked to a friend who coaches defense at Ole Miss recently about defensive schemes and to put it shortly - hard. I remember how frustrated the defensive guys were when that 4-2-5 was first introduced by Fedora's staff. Many felt lost about those "in between" positions.


Greg Barnes - I admit I find it odd that Fedora talked last week about the difficulty involved with recruiting defensive linemen when Mack and Butch had so much success in this state recruiting those positions.


Dijana Kunovac - Yep, Greg and I talked about this on our podcast last week actually. The days of Quinton Coples and Kareem Martin are long gone...


Buck Sanders - Greg, I think this is the difference, and I think you’ve spoken to this issue before. Running the kind of offensive scheme he does, with time of possession consistently going to the other team, recruiting lots of depth at defensive tackle and end is necessary to make the offense and defense blend together well. Those defensive line guys have to spend a lot of time on the field, so you’ve got to be three-deep pretty much across the line.


Greg Barnes - True, Buck. That ’09 defense that was elite? They played 835 snaps. Last year’s defense played 1,110 snaps. One extra game, but still a significant discrepancy.


Buck Sanders - There is going to be, and is already, a lot of competition for those defensive guys. Clemson has that figured out somehow. Virginia Tech is going to as well. More spread type offenses are going to make D-linemen a recruiting priority in UNC’s recruiting footprint.


Mike Ingersoll - Listen, I'm one of the few people in the world left who thinks the three-four year limit for coaches to be winning championships or they're fired is ridiculous. That being said, kids come out of H.S. significantly more prepared for the college game now than in any other time in history (see year-round football, customized training plans for high school kids, high school coaches adopting more intricate college-based training programs), so it's not at all crazy to be surprised that there aren't more diaper dandies on the defensive side. As to the Butch and Mack recruiting point, it is surprising, Greg. But, people underestimate Twitter and social media, most of which was still in its infancy when I was in school. 


The recruiting world is much rounder now. Players are much more connected to each other in high school than we were even when I played, and through that guys can coordinate where they go with other players, perceptions get magnified regarding certain programs (even if those are incorrect or exaggerated), and H.S. players can virtually recruit each other. 


So if you're a solid defensive player, programs like in the SEC get entrenched as the "go-to" programs for in-state guys, even if they don't give them the best shot at going pro. Again, having a black book of draft picks and first rounders makes life a lot easier for coaches, mainly because kids think about the NFL much younger on the whole now (everyone thinks they're going to the league). For most guys I played with in Charlotte, it was an afterthought...wasn't even a consideration for others. And those difficulties perpetuate those recruiting headaches for guys like GC. Could explain why so many in-state/regional DL go elsewhere now.


Jason Staples - I’ve finally read Mike’s longer post above and completely agree.


Greg Barnes - To your point, Mike, the iPhone was unveiled the summer you enrolled at UNC, if I’ve got my dates right.


Mike Ingersoll - And Facebook was a year old - it was still "the facebook"


Jason Staples - I think the ACC’s ascendancy with FSU (sort of), Louisville, and Clemson all being national programs this year will ultimately help UNC attract a few more high-potential DLs down the line.


It’s important that those guys not all buy into the “I’m a great DL, I need to play in the SEC” myth that was going for awhile.


I also think North Carolina recruits have a tendency to be a bit more raw than in some other high-talent states because of the way football is coached (and secondary to basketball) in the state. That means there are more diamonds in the rough, but it’s also more difficult to find sure things.


Buck Sanders - Final topic for this chat: This could be a “bad weather” game - rain to be sure, maybe gusty wind. Advantage who?


Jason Staples - Advantage VaTech.


Buck Sanders - Why, Jason?


Jason Staples - A muddy track favors the underdog.


Mike Ingersoll - Yeah VaTech has the advantage in the rain


Buck Sanders - The track may be more wet, slick, than muddy. I tend to think UNC has the advantage.


Tommy Ashley - Ball security.  Best team at it wins. And a lot of folks see the Delaware game as a sign that wet doesn't affect MT.   VTech is no Delaware. 


Dijana Kunovac - Yeah that's definitely gonna be the hot phrase come game day - ball security!


Greg Barnes - Fun stat to end on - Larry Fedora played a game during Tropical Storm Lee at Southern Miss. 38 rushes, 38 passes. His approach won’t change, regardless of rain/wind.


Dijana Kunovac - Ah yes - the one thing I recall from ALL of Larry's rainy practices is he never even acknowledged the rain. "What rain? What cold? I LOVE THIS!" - Larry


Greg Barnes - “Preparation, Dijana, it’s about preparation… Nice shoes."


Mike Ingersoll - From an OL perspective, I hate the rain. Regardless of the spikes, footing is an issue, and wet jerseys and wet gloves make it really hard to block. Add in those wet jerseys are form-fitting now, makes it all the more difficult to sustain blocks. Favors the DL/LBs. Those same headaches affect the DL less significantly.


Jason Staples - Like Mike said, it makes it tougher to block, and the wet ball makes turnovers a little more likely on both sides. The better team (UNC) wants conditions to be more ideal to limit turnovers and such. The more chaos that happens in a game, the more likely there’s an upset.


Buck Sanders - Here is my theory (which could be bogus), unless there is a substantial amount of wind, it won’t affect UNC much. They like to pass short anyway. Elijah Hood may be the better North-South runner in the game. I think a slick field hampers the defense as much as the offense. Offensive players know where they are going, defensive players do not.


Mike Ingersoll - Yeah element games are frustrating, because they add in a completely unpredictable variable.


Buck Sanders - Okay folks, time for final thoughts. Fire away.


Tommy Ashley - Last one to kick a ball wins.


Dijana Kunovac - Final thoughts: I have great shoes.


Jason Staples - As far as final thoughts, Dijana has always had great shoes.


Mike Ingersoll - The VT game has become a fantastic per se rivalry game for UNC hasn't it? Always a great draw for the fans. Hopefully the weather doesn't affect that this weekend.


Jason Staples - I’m pretty concerned about this game in a letdown spot after such emotional wins the last two weeks. VT is capable of being pretty good when they’re not turning it over. 


Mike Ingersoll - So am I. Very uneasy with the weather situation. Dry conditions, not so concerned. Wind and rain? May hinder an area of strength for us. And if the game reverts into a defensive battle, I think Tech wins that. We'll see how that plays out on Saturday (which is for the boys).


Tommy Ashley - Two years ago, VT kicked Carolina's butt in Kenan. Can't see it happening again.

Buck Sanders - Okay, that’s a wrap for this week. We’ll talk again next week.

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