AJ- Lets welcome to the show our special guest, North Carolina quarterback C.J. Stephens. Welcome to the show C.J.
CS- Hi, how are you doing?
AJ- Doing great. Are you guys working hard getting ready for the season?
CS- Oh yeah. We are working hard, real hard every day. I am looking forward to actually getting to the season and getting a chance to do something.
AJ- What is your average daily workout like?
CS- We usually wake up at about 6:15 in the morning. We run for about an hour, and after we do some conditioning, which consists of different things on different days. Some days we run 300-yard conditioning things. Other days we run 110. Some days we do just agility stations and things like that. So, we do a lot of different stuff to get ready. We do that for an hour and then head to the weight room and spend about an hour there. We put in a lot of work every day, and usually in the afternoons we throw and try to get as many people together as we can to do (work) and stuff like that. So, hopefully we're putting ourselves in a good situation.
AJ- Do you throw every day?
CS- Pretty much. We try and get out there and get as many people as we can. Obviously, everybody's in class right now, so a lot of us have different schedules. But we do our best to get everybody out there as often as possible, and try to get as many reps as we can now, so when the season comes around we're already ready.
AJ- You spent two seasons at Florida under their former coach Steve Spurrier. What was that experience like and how much did you benefit from learning from coach Spurrier.
CS- It was a frustrating experience being a competitive person, being in a situation wanting to play and not really getting the opportunity to play. But I really think the two years I spent there I learned a lot of great things. Being able to come from one offense that emphasizes a lot of different things to another offense that kind of gave me the opportunity to learn a lot of other things Spurrier didn't focus on too much, I really think it's given me a best of both worlds type of education on football. Hopefully, all the education I have been blessed to have over these past three years will now pay off.
AJ- Why did you decide to transfer to Carolina, especially considering that Carolina isn't known for having many great quarterbacks in the past?
CS- Right. It's kind of funny because coming out of high school I don't think I ever even talked to North Carolina, and I don't think I ever even thought about coming to North Carolina. It was a situation where I wasn't going to transfer unless there was somewhere I knew would be a good situation for me to be in. And one of our ex-coaches from Florida - his alma mater is North Carolina and he played here in the 1970's - coach (Rod) Broadway, he came up here two springs ago, and the lines of communication sort of opened that way. With me and him knowing each other and him being back up here at his old school, and the more and more I took a serious look at the school, and at the program, and at the entire situation the more I really started to like it. I took a visit up and here and was nothing but impressed by the coaches and all the players and everything. So, I really felt like this was where I needed to be. It was a very, very difficult decision to make when you are in a place that you love as much as I love Gainesville, which has been home to me for a long time. But you know, it was something I had to pray about quite a bit, and I had a peace in my heart and knew this was where God wanted me.
AJ- You are No. 1 on the depth chart right now and will be battling Darian Durant for the quarterback job. What kind of relationship do you and Darian have?
CS- I think we have a very good relationship. Obviously, we are both extremely competitive people and we both want to play. But, right now we are both just trying to work as hard as we possibly can so whenever that time does come and they make a decision on who's gonna play this year, whoever it may be is ready. We have a good relationship, and like I said, we both wanna play more than anything. But when the time comes, whoever gets the call has to be prepared for it.
AJ- How good do you think Darian can be?
CS- I think Darian's a very good quarterback and I think he proved that last year. I really think he proved that last year. And hopefully, God willing, I'll get the same opportunity and I'll be able to prove the same things Darian proved last year, and we'll be lucky enough to have two good quarterbacks around.
AJ- How good can you be?
CS- I don't know. I don't think it's really for me to say.
AJ- What do you think are some of your strongest attributes?
CS- It's funny. I've always struggled for an answer when people ask me that question. My whole life I've believed it's up to other people to decide what you're good at and how good you are. And, in all honesty, when it comes down to it, I try my best to be good at as many things as I can. My whole life, regardless of what the sport may have been, whether it was basketball, baseball or even soccer when I was younger, I never wanted to be a one-dimensional player or a one-dimensional person for that matter. I think my whole life I have strived to be as versatile as possible, so I think I carry that over into football, and I never wanna be one-dimensional in any way. I wanna be able to do as many things well as possible. You may find someone who is bigger than you or faster than you, but you can find their weakness in some way or another. And if you're balanced enough you can probably find a way to beat that person.
AJ- Talk about your receivers and what you like about throwing to those guys.
CS- It's impossible for me to describe just how good these guys are. I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to play with them and hopefully throw a bunch of passes to them in games this year. All of them are outstanding. Sam (Aiken) is unbelievable. Chesley Borders is unbelievable. Jawarski (Pollock) is gonna be outstanding and he's still young and has a lot of years to show what can do. I'm just really thrilled to throw to all of these guys. North Carolina's not always been known for its passing attack, but in all honesty, I wouldn't trade our receivers for any receivers in the country.
AJ- You guys have a lot of nice tailbacks that should rally help balance out the passing game.
CS- Right. We really have the luxury of having a lot of depth in the backfield right now. Andre (Williams), Willie (Parker) and Jacque (Lewis) are all gonna be extremely good. We've got a lot of depth in the backfield and every one of them has the capability to play every down. Hopefully we can find a way to use all of their strengths as well as possible. And I really think that's gonna be an asset to our offense.
AJ- It looks like UNC is going to have some depth and experience on the offensive line. Can you talk about the boys up front?
CS- Oh boy. As excited as I've sounded about all the other positions I am just as excited about our offensive line. I think these guys have a lot of talent, and even more than that, they've shown a lot of character and worked really hard this summer and they are continuing to improve and get stronger. I really think that is going to be a strength for us this year. I know they were really young last year, so there was a big learning curve for them, but I think last year was a great opportunity for them to get adapted to playing in college, and I just think they are all gonna be outstanding. I think our offensive line is going to be a big strength for us this year.
AJ- You faced this year's defense in the spring. You guys have been picked by many magazines to finish near the bottom of the ACC mainly because of the inexperience on defense. Can you talk about the defense?
CS- I know that everybody is questioning our defense and their capabilities this year because we did graduate so many great players off last year's defense, which we did. I think any time you get two guys in the top ten picks in the draft is special, and some other guys got drafted as well. Obviously, we lost a lot of great players and most people would look at that and say we are gonna struggle this year. But in all honesty, I really don't believe we will. We still have a lot of outstanding players. We may be filling a lot of spots, but I think the people we have filling those spots are going to do that well. We have a lot of talent and speed and discipline. Defense is a place where you can overcome a lack of talent through hard work, discipline and having the desire to make every play, and I think we have that kind of character on our defense. I don't have any doubts about our defense this year and are gonna be just as good if not better than our defense last year.
AJ- Have you set any personal goals for yourself?
CS- I think it's really hard to set personal goals as far as stats or anything like that being in my position right now. Really, more than anything, I'm just concentrating on trying to become the best player I can. And after three years of a layoff not being able to get out there and compete, it's really just translating everything that I know back to the field and regaining all the confidence I had. Right now I am really trying to concentrate on making myself the best player I can be and instilling confidence from other players in me, so when the time comes we can really go out there as a team and be in a position to succeed and go out there as a unit and prove people wrong.
AJ- Has Coach Bunting told you and Darian when he might make a decision to go with just one guy?
CS- We really haven't talked about it much, and to be honest, it's probably the best thing. They may not make a decision before the day of the first game, and I don't think any of us really know. I think that all of us, Darian and I and the other quarterbacks, just have to focus on learning as much as we can as well as improving physically throughout the summer. When the time comes, we have to let the coaches make the decision that's right for the team because it is out of our hands at that time. So our only choice is to work and let them handle their job, which is deciding who to put on the field.
AJ- C.J., thanks for taking the time to join us.
CS- No problem. Thank you for having me.
Andrew Jones is entering his seventh year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He is also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a drive-time radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.