Besides the news about Skip [Seagraves's injury] it was really good to be around the players yesterday. They were excited about getting back to work. There are so many of them that know that we have the possibility to be a very good team. We know that we have great possibilities offensively, and we know that we need to improve defensively, significantly. We also believe that we could be a defense that is greatly improved before the season is over.
We think we can improve a lot this week. That's our goal. That's been our focus all along. A new system -- we are still learning to work out a few of those kinks. But more importantly than that, we need to prepare well on defense to play better. The coaches, the players, everyone knows that. Offensively, we did an awful lot of good things last week, despite what some people might say. Two-hundred yards of total offense in the first half -- didn't have quite enough points to show for it, but we certainly were about as close as you can get to getting 17 points. A lot of teams around this country have one loss, just like we do this week. We are looking forward to playing Georgia Tech at home.
Has Skip [Seagraves] red-shirted? Will he be able to come back next year?
We will pursue everything, every avenue because Skip -- I'm looking into all of that -- but Skip was injured, as most of you may not know, in pregame warm-up before the first game. We weren't sure if he was going to be able to play. He played almost the entire game with a bad foot. After somewhere in the fourth quarter, he is in tremendous pain and comes out of the game. We do the MRI on Sunday evening -- or was it Monday? It was yesterday and then come up with this result.
This young man has really got a lot of ability, has a tremendous work ethic, has worked hard toward having a great career here at Carolina. Every year that he has played under me, he has gotten better. I certainly think he has the ability to play at the next level. He certainly needed this year to be able to get to that level, and I'm hopeful that we can get that extra year for him so that he can come back and play again next year, to give him an opportunity to play at the next level, because he has a lot of the attributes necessary to play at another level of football. And for his sake, his parents' sake, and everybody else that's involved in his life we would love to see him have that opportunity.
Kevin Best, UNC Athletic Communications: He did red-shirt as a freshman.
Is he going to have to have any surgery for that or just a cast?
What we know is it's 8-10 weeks, and I think, right now, there is no surgery required.
Is [Steven] Bell the clear starter there, and how much shuffling will you do on the line?
There are a few different scenarios that we will look at. I think that Steven is certainly one of the first guys we'll look to. Skip was not only playing guard, he was playing tackle. Our third tackle situation is something [where] we lost Drew Hunter this year to a medical [red-shirt]. Obviously, he'd be the guy you'd go to next if he was here. We'll have to look that over. There is a number of different things we might do. Ben Lemming might be involved in this mix here. Steven Bell will be involved in the mix. Kyle Ralph has played tackle before. What Hal [Hunter] has done a great job of is getting a lot of players out there on the field and done a great job of working with guys that, for the most part, have some experience on the field of play. With the exception of Ben, the guys I have talked with -- all of those guys could help us out at the tackle position.
At running back we see the three that play every week. We know about them. Are you going to try a couple of the young guys? Vince Wilson, the young guy from Florida, what have you seen as far as potential from those guys?
Vince Wilson is one of the hardest-working players on our team, and he's a true freshman. He does a tremendous job every day on the scout [team]. He did such a great job last week in preparation for UVa that I took him on the trip. I think he's going to be a really good player for us. He's a really hard-working kid, and he's tough too. He's short in stature, but he's big in the heart.
Jarwarski [Pollock] only has three [catches] in two games. Is there a way to get him more involved?
He's on the field a lot. We've been getting the ball to [Adarius] Bowman, we've been getting the ball to Derrele [Mitchell]. We'd like to get the ball to 'Jaws' some, and maybe to Mike Mason some. But we're getting the ball thrown to the people that are open. And there's a couple catches against UVa that we all know we'd like to have caught. So right now, I'm satisfied with where our passing game is going.
Have other teams taken him away [in your offense]?
'Jaws'? No, it's what they give you based on what defense they are playing and what coverage they are in. 'Jaws' is on the field a lot. He'll get his share. It's just a matter of time.
Can you talk about the emergence of Adarius Bowman as one of the guys on this team and what his upside is?
Well, he has tremendous size, and he has worked really, really hard in the offseason to mold the body that he's in right now. It's different from when he got here. True freshman -- the changes between his freshman year and sophomore year in terms of his physique, in terms of his conditioning, in terms of his strength, in terms of his ability to play the whole game, is now on the punt team. I never envisioned him being on the punt team, but right now he is, and that is significant also.
His strength, his speed, his stamina, all have improved dramatically. His mental approach to the game, I think, from high school to here has changed dramatically because he's been exposed to so much more. There is only so much any high school player can be exposed to, so when they get thrown in like he did, it is extremely difficult. It can be overwhelming at times. Last year he went through that year. We needed him to do that because we wanted to have him playing like this, this year, and that's why we did that. And it's paying off right now.
Had you not seen it happen, could you have imagined it possible to go 11 games, the equivalent of a season without an interception? It's been 11 games--
Since Wisconsin. Is that what you are telling me? I didn't do the math right there. You're way ahead of me on that one, OK. You guys are so … smart. So, no, absolutely not. I can't imagine that. I really can't -- and nobody else can. … The problem right now is that they aren't throwing enough, OK? We're not going to get a whole lot of interceptions until we start slowing down the run game some. That's perfection of the obvious, right?
In the passing game, a lot of people look at the defensive backs and say they ought to do 'this, that, and the other.'
A lot of people say that? A lot of people that don't know say that -- what's going on.
Right, and a lot of it is pressure up front too, in the passing game.
In order to get interceptions, you need to force the offense to throw the ball more than they want to, and then you also need to put some pressure on the quarterback, and then you have got to be good in your coverage. What I've seen all through the spring and all through the summer against our offense is our defensive secondary and linebackers making a lot of plays. We haven't seen that right now, and until we stop the run we are going to have a difficult time seeing that. Pass rush is always important to anybody's coverage because that forces the quarterback to make quicker decisions than he wants to, and that's when quarterbacks sometimes will make bad decisions.
You're 1-1 … could this GT game set the tone for the rest of the season?
I never think too very far in advance especially with the football program/team that I've got. I've got to think week to week. I've said that before and that's what I will do. I think it's another opportunity. Another opportunity for us to get better. I'd love to do it this week. We'd love to do it in front of our great fans. I'm expecting that we will. I want to see a lot of improvement this week.
Arthur Smith's health?
He's in the mix. … there are a lot of different scenarios that could be available this week as we go into this game and Arthur Smith figures into that. Arthur Smith had a good training camp and he could go in there and play for us. He never missed a beat with that hand [injury]. To his credit he's never stopped practicing.
Your impressions of GT's running game?
P.J. Daniels is awfully good and their offensive line coach down there does a good job. We watched that game last year and we played roughly three quarters against them and then they wore us out with some difficult situations in the fourth quarter – turnover here, punt return for a touchdown – but we played well down there last year with the exception of the fourth quarter. Their running game wore us out in the fourth quarter. He is very good, he's tough, he's very physical and now they have the added dimension with the quarterback who is a runner, too. He's a very talented runner. What I see in their quarterback now is that he's as talented a thrower as a runner. And he's got receivers he can throw to, too. But their running game is very good and very talented.
It's wide open competition this week in the back. Besides Sensabaugh, I think it's a wide open thing right now. And that's good because Cedrick Holt has played and started for us, Trimane Goddard got out on the field last week and played well. Those are all positives. Cedrick Holt is one that we want to give the opportunity to compete again. He's been playing the nickel back for us and hasn't been out there much because we haven't played much nickel. Trimane Goddard did play last week on special teams and got some snaps at corner and played hard. What we thought about him coming out of high school is coming true early on and we're going to give him the opportunity to get some playing time this week.
On Jason Brown --
You talk to Jason Brown and he'll tell you he's been here for some big wins and now here it is his senior year and it goes by so fast and players sometimes lose sight of how fast it goes. He wants to fight and win some ball games. That's a tremendous family that Jason's from – his mom, his dad, his sister and all the other surrounding folks in that family. They're very strong, being present in that home the day we found out about his brother and being at the service, you just see why he is the way he is – because of his family. And he also loves to play this game – he loves this University, he loves this program and he loves to win. It's very, very important to him. So he is pushing, he is more vocal and I'm sure because of all the qualities he's inherited and learned, he's a heck of a person and he'll be a great person and great leader in the community. I can't say enough great things about the guy. He's a pleasure to be around, he's a great student and he'll be a heck of a citizen for this country.
On the problems with the rush defense--
No. 1, we're not getting lined up fast enough. We're not getting set fast enough. It's on us as coaches to get them to do that. There's not enough urgency. You cannot be slow to line up. When you get players that are young – and we have older players like Sensabaugh and Joneas [Seawright] who have played a lot and they've got to help people set up. Fred Sparkman has really got to step up for us and Fred knows that. He's the signal caller and we as a staff have to do a better job getting the signal to him faster, and he's got to get that signal faster and relay it and get down and ready to go. Virginia took advantage of something they saw that we hadn't corrected yet and that's on us – we've got to get that done. That's a big part of our job to get them to line up faster.
After that, then you've got to be able to set the plays and that starts with being in the right place, shedding the block and making the tackle.
How do you think rotating the three running backs affects their rhythm?
I've been asked that question several times. We had 98 yards rushing in the first half [at Virginia]; that's pretty good – against the vaunted Virginia defense, OK? 434 total yards on the game. What I would like to see our offense do is continue to progress. And if we play great defenses like Virginia and we get 434 yards, we'll be happy. I just like to see us get some more points. We had an opportunity to get some more points and we just didn't take advantage of it. I have three running backs that all can contribute. Ronnie McGill, at this stage of the game, is our No. 1 guy. Jacque Lewis is our No. 2 guy. Chad Scott is our third guy, and that's where we are at right now. Each one of those guys can contribute. Jacque does a good job on third down situations. Ronnie McGill is a great first- and second-down back. And I hope we continue in that fashion. [I'm] very pleased with what the running backs are doing and I'm very pleased with the rotation.
What did you make of Matt Baker's performance in the fourth quarter?
If you watch enough football, you see some of that every week. The good thing about it is that sometimes some guys go out there and don't do very well, and sometimes guys go out there and do very well. That's what Matt Baker did, so I'm very excited about that.
Does it make you more confident in him if something were to happen to Darian?
Well, that's what I just said. It was very good for him to be able to go out there and do that, because that makes us all feel better about that situation. Sometimes you never get to know that because you don't have that situation occur. It's always in the back of your mind, ‘Can he do it? Can he not do it?' Well, he was able to do it in that situation, so my expectations of him are higher, and my confidence level of him is higher. I know it gave him a boost, so in that respect it was a positive in a very, very difficult situation. In a very poorly played defensive and special teams game, there was a player on offense that went out there and did something well. [It was] mop up duty, but he was given an opportunity to go out there and do something and he made something with that opportunity.
What would you do differently on special teams?
I've analyzed backwards and forwards that scheme which we broke down on. I don't think our scheme was at fault as much as our execution of that particular scheme. Covering kickoffs is a lot like playing run defense, you better be in the right spot at the right time. I know sometimes people are going to get you blocked and players have to compensate. It's a really interesting part of special teams – the kickoff coverage. Our players did not fit very well on the first kickoff return for a touch. On the second one, it just blasts through a hole that shouldn't have been there. We overran the ball, we had like five or six players inside the hash mark where we shouldn't have – you should never have maybe four or five, six or seven, at least. So we really overloaded into the area of the point of the tackle, and when he was able to find a crease there were very few people left to block or be involved. We missed a tackle. To Hilee Taylor's credit, he was 15 yards behind Alvin Pearman and tracked him down at the one-yard line. I think that was an amazing effort by that kid. I'm really proud of that kid for what he did. But we will have a personnel change or two on that team and we will coach that better so that they execute better. We've got to do a better job on that element of our team. That is inexcusable.
When you gathered the guys together on Monday, what was your message to the team?
They all made me feel good because their resolve is strong or stronger. My message to the players is that it is one game. We're 1-1 with two games coming up here at home, starting with a rival team that we have been very close against. If we want to have any chance to get a second win and to beat a team we haven't beaten in three years, we've got to prepare extremely well. My stress was on two things: 1. That's one game. We did some good things on offense and we did some bad things on defense and special teams. We needed to win one of those phases in order to have a chance. We didn't, we lost both of those phases. If we want to have a chance to win this week, let's prepare well and let's turn things around here.
Personnel-wise, is Tech anywhere similar to Virginia, and if they are, does that help your preparation?
They'll have a couple of the base runs that Virginia has, and we'll practice those and hopefully practice them well – better than we did last week and respond to them better than we did last week in the game. But they have some other things that they do that are very different from Virginia. Just like every offense we play will have different nuances and the blocking schemes will be somewhat different. The protection is somewhat different. The quarterback is different. They operate differently from Virginia, but there are some similarities in some of their concepts.
How have you addressed the players' interaction on campus after a tough loss?
I've addressed that before. I don't think there is any need to at this point. It's early in the season. They're very aware of the fact that we've had a couple of tough seasons. Now we've had a win over a double-A opponent and we got beat by a ranked team, and we got beat rather handily. We did compete with them on offense; we competed very well. We've got to get the rest of this team together. As I said to them on Friday night and I said to them Saturday before the game and I said to them Saturday after the game, ‘You've got to keep sawing wood. You've got to keep working to get better and keep trying to prepare better.' There are a lot of good kids on this team, there are a lot of good players on this team and there are a lot of good coaches in this program. We've got to make sure that we keep sawing wood.
Is there anything extra that you have to do to get a player a sixth year of eligibility?
You've got to present all the information to the NCAA and the ACC. We're going to pursue it right away. But I know this, it will be very important to that family.
It's not like a normal redshirt? There's more stuff to do?