Spring Game: Locker Room Report

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--<I>Inside Carolina caught up with Matt Baker, Larry Edwards, Barrington Edwards (pictured left), and Chase Page following UNC's Spring Football Game on Saturday afternoon.

Matt Baker

Is the defense ahead of the offense?

Not necessarily. We mixed it up and we had a draft so we split up our offense. We were already thin at offensive line and receiver. When you draft and split up your first-team offense, the same group is not together, so it is tough to get anything going. That's what happened today. I think there was only one player who has ever played a snap on Blue Team offensive line--at least played a snap this last season. That was our center [#63, Ben Lemming], and he is playing a whole new position.

The offensive line is a lot more complicated than it seems. They have to make a lot of calls among themselves. When you have a new guy next to you, it's tough to get into that. That was the problem today. We had trouble pass protecting, and the other team had trouble run blocking. It kind of went both ways.

It was fun. I wish I could have gotten off a few more passes, but I had a good time out there. It was good to see my buddy Jay Spence come in and take the MVP honors for our Blue Team at the end of the game.

I think we had a good game. Our offense made some strides forward. We have to work hard this summer and get ready for fall.

How do you think you played today?

I give myself and incomplete grade. I didn't really get off any passes. The couple I did got deflected. They dropped a lot of guys in coverage, so we dumped to the backs. It's hard to comment on. It's just an incomplete.

Do you feel more comfortable now than you did at the beginning of spring practice?

I definitely feel a lot more comfortable, getting the first team reps all spring long and playing with that same group of players every day. It definitely helps with confidence, and I think we had a successful spring as an offense.

How much has knowing that you are the starter helped?

It's a lot easier to come in-- Like I've said in the past, the back-up quarterback is one of the toughest positions in football, never knowing when you are going in. Practice is the same way. You never know when you are going to get thrown in there with the first team or be thrown into situations and not be completely ready mentally. Starting every practice, knowing when I'm going in, knowing I'm going to be with the first group every day is a lot easier mentally on you, and I think that makes it a lot easier for me.

What happened on the delay of game on third-and-one?

That was me. We didn't have signal callers in the game so it was a little slow to get the play in, but that's on me. Delay of game [penalties] are always the quarterback's fault for the most part. I tried to check [the defense] twice and ran out of time on it. The second one? I don't really know what happened there.

Looking at a guy like Khalif Mitchell on the other side, how much has the defense improved?

I can't even explain how much they have improved since last season. As a group there is a lot more excitement with them. I think the linebackers are really stepping up. Tommy Richardson, Doug Justice, Jeff Longhany, they are good seniors. Having seniors in your linebacking corps will definitely help with leadership and help our defense in the future. I'm excited about that.

Can Khalif be a star in this league?

Every problem Khalif has is mental; otherwise, he is a freak. You can't explain some of the things he does. He just has to know what to do and get himself under control.

Larry Edwards

The defense has been sort of down in the past with some good performances down the stretch last season.. Is that motivating you right now?

Most definitely. We go out every day and play our hearts out. We take it in the classroom and study our film and study our plays. That little doubt is a motivating tool for us to get to be a contender for the ACC Championship. It motivates us to get better.

What do you do between now and August?

Work. Get in the weight room and work. Get in the film room and work. Meet with coaches and do all the little things that count until it's time to strap on the pads again. We have to take it to the classroom, get in the weight room, and develop mentally and physically.

You had some problems with your fitness level early last year, in addition to some injuries. How would you rate your fitness level right now? Are you at 100 percent or is it more like 80% and then you are going to work up

I feel better than I have ever felt at Carolina. I feel good like I did my freshman year, and I can get better. I can only get more in shape. I can take a couple of more steps to play the whole 60 minutes of the football game. I feel great. I wish I could have played the whole scrimmage. I could go play another one right now, so everything is going good.

What did you think of Matt Baker today?

He's a good quarterback. His fundamentals are strong, he's a great team leader, he has a good attitude as far as team spirit and enthusiasm doing the little things like going in the weight room, watching film. He's a great leader, and I'm happy we have him. We feed off of his enthusiasm on defense as well as offense.

Was he a little frustrated today, do you think?

I sensed a little bit, but that is part of the growing pains as he steps up to be our starting quarterback. He's just going to go through some of those things, center exchanges, working on his reads. It's a lot of pressure stepping in for Darian Durant. I think he's taking it well and he's working to become a better team leader and a better quarterback to take us to a higher level next season.

What did you think about Barrington Edwards?

He's a great athlete. He's a great addition to this team. I feel we are very fortunate to have another athlete of his caliber on our team right now. He did some really good things out there today. He has a lot of enthusiasm and pushes everybody on offense.

What are your thoughts about the car wash?

(Deep sigh) I'm disappointed that the White Team lost, but it's for charity so I'm really enthusiastic about that. It's always good to help people less fortunate than you are. To be in a position to help is always a great feeling so I'm happy for that, but I'm disappointed the White Team lost.

Barrington Edwards

What was it like to get out there and finally get to mix it up outside of practice?

Today was like 'Finally.' It felt like all last year was trying to help the team. They felt I helped the defense get a little better. The D this year has been playing phenomenal, as has the whole team. It looks like everyone is making a turn-around.

When I got out there today it was the first time in a real jersey, not an orange practice jersey. Let me see what I've got. It was the first time in Kenan Stadium, something I've been wanting to do all year. It was something like a dream come true. It felt good today.

How would you assess your performance?

First of all, my offensive line today played their butts off. When we first came out, they looked at me and said, 'Barrington, we'll give you the block, and you hit the hole.' I said, 'You take care of that, and we'll take care of it.' It was a team game. I feel like they helped me to run very well today.

What happened on the 20-yard run you had today?

It was a toss play, more of an outside play. The tight end made a very good block on the defensive end. I had one guy who got in there, but I gave him a move and got outside. Coach Powell teaches us all the time that when we get out in the open field, instead of running people over try to make the big play. That's what happened.

Are you feeling comfortable with the offense?

Coach Tranq is, I want to say, an offensive genius. That sums it up. I'm learning it right now and going day by day. That's helping to get where I want to go. I'm really comfortable with the offense.

Was today about shaking off the rust, or can you take something from this?

Actually, we are trying to use this game as a spring into the summer and into August, trying to help ourselves get better as a program.

Chase Page

Thinking back to last year, the injury kept you out for the season. The downside was that you didn't get to play last year. Was there any upside?

Well, I never got to red-shirt and I was young. I'm only 21 and a fifth-year senior. It was good that I got another year to mature and get bigger and stronger. I got to know football more. Everything happens for a reason, and I look at it like that. It's another opportunity to get better.

Sitting out and watching for a year, did you learn anything from watching on the sideline?

I learned how to watch tape. Coach Lawing, who was the whole defensive line coach, taught me how to watch tape, what to look for, pre-snap reads and things like that. Hopefully, I can break our opponents down next year so it will help me whey I play.

How important is it for the defense to play well this coming season?

It's huge. The last four games of the season, we played really well and got some key wins because the defense played well. We got some confidence from that, and we need to carry it over to the first game against Georgia Tech.

How much better can the defense get?

The sky is the limit. We are shooting to win every game. We have a really tough schedule though. We are going to take it a week at a time, a game at a time. We are going to get a lot better this summer. We have some things planned. We are going to get together as a team and do some football activities, condition, lift weights. Everybody does that, but we are going to try to take it a step further and give us an edge.

Is what we saw today what we can expect to see in games, or was it more of a glorified practice?

We have so many injuries that it was hard to field two teams that are both solid, so it would be competitive. Some guys had to go both ways. In that sense, there were some weird match-ups. It was fun and we got some things done, but it's not really indicative of what you'd see in a game.

In spring practice we had more intensity, more crispness and sharpness. There were a lot of guys in spots they wouldn't normally be and guys playing with guys they wouldn't normally play with. We tried to make it as good as we could with the people we have.

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