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Opening remarks -
Well, like all new coaches coming in, I mean, there are so many irons in the fire to sort through who the players are, what is the state of union of the team, conditioning, strength, lifting, experience. And so, I think we at least got a good start with the 15 days of spring practice, and trying to identify who some of the football players are, and maybe identify some unique niches and roles on the football team. But we're a long ways from even being remotely settled as a football team and even identifying who the starters are going to be.
We're trying to create as much position competition as we possibly can in all of the different areas on the team. The one thing I've been very pleased with is our football team's willingness to work. We had a pretty productive eight-week off-season conditioning program prior to the start of spring practice. Their willingness to work in practice, their effort and their attitude was very good. But as a football team, we're a long ways from being close to the finished product.
In your experience, what are the keys to developing players into first-round NFL draft picks, and how important is it for you to bring that back to North Carolina?
That's a long ways away. That's the farthest thing from our minds right now is developing guys for the first round. But, obviously, with first-round draft choices, there are two things. One is their willingness to work. Obviously, they have to have the athletic skills and the abilities.
The ones I've been fortunate enough to be around, the really truly great ones are highly self-motivated. They have a passion to be good. They want to work harder than the coaches want to work them in all areas. I think the threads that run through the truly great players are they are good guys. They're unselfish. They have a great work ethic. They're good in the classroom. They're good in the film room. They do everything that you ask them to do. And then, obviously, the athletic part of it…
For us to accomplish what we want to accomplish as a football staff and a school, eventually we've got to recruit some of those kinds of players that can become that type of a player.
On the NCAA's recommendation that text messaging be banned -
One of the things you hear a great deal from… You hear it from professors on campus in college. You hear it from guidance counselors and teachers in schools… I think there are two aspects of it. One, is the enormous distraction that it is causing with the athletes in school at all hours of the day, whether the kids are sitting in class, not sitting in class. Kids texting. That is certainly one of the issues. The other thing you hear from parents and the athletes is the cost. The NCAA is taking a look at that.
They're also looking at some of the other avenues, instant messaging, My Space, all the ways in which electronic transmissions go to players. My take of it is it will just make you have to work that much harder in recruiting and just develop good relationships with the players and capitalize on the opportunities you do get when you get kids on campus, the opportunities for them to come to your home football games to build those relationships.
On what he saw from the film of the spring game -
We really wanted to try to put as much focus on the passing game to find out a little bit in a scrimmage-type situation to find out how all three quarterbacks would perform under pressure. I think that all of those guys needed a shot of confidence; they needed a shot of confidence to build their self-esteem.
You know, we got off to a horrible start in the passing-game aspect in the first couple of practices, just because of inactivity and not actually putting enough emphasis during the off-season. They made some significant strides. I think we caught the ball much better.
The quarterbacks started to grasp the new offense. We knew it was going to be a struggle, I mean, it's no fault of the players. When you install a new offense, defense and special teams, we knew there were going to be learning curves. Guys are going to struggle. From that standpoint, we made some strides.
From a collective standpoint, I thought we started to become slightly more efficient as a football team. Because clearly, their minds were spinning – to be honest with you – the first six-to-eight practices because of the enormous amount of things we were trying to incorporate into practices – every practice had almost a different kind of game plan, whether it was red zone, short yardage, goal line, all the situational things – we tried to cover, all the different plays and personnel groups. So we knew that at times we would be a little bit sloppy. But I thought we got better from that standpoint.
From a defensive standpoint, I thought that the players really started to understand the concepts and principles we were trying to teach. But, again, we're still a long ways away. I wish we had 15 more days of spring practice to go along with summer training camp. I'm not sure I'd even feel good then.
Would you go into a little more in depth on the secondary?
Just from the standpoint that they're just so young and inexperienced. There are so many areas of this football team…quarterback and running back being significant areas on the offensive side of the ball where there is very little experience. I think in the secondary, Trimane Goddard clearly has got an outstanding chance to be the leader. He is the most poised. He's a junior. He is feels comfortable in being able to orchestrate and make the calls for our defense.
But between Jermaine Strong, Kendric Burney, Shaun Draughn, Deunta Williams is a young man we moved from wide receiver to the secondary. Every single practice was baptism under fire for him. So Jordan Hemby is a guy the coaching staff – Kenny Browning and guys that were on the staff last year – felt like is a young man that might have an opportunity at some point in his career to develop into a good player, but he's coming off of a knee surgery, so we didn't even get an opportunity to get a look at him.
I think just from the standpoint of inexperience, the biggest concern is with the secondary, because if the secondary has breakdowns and mental mistakes, is not as if your front seven makes a mistake. The guys in the black and white striped shirts generally are running up and down the field with their arms up over their heads. So it's an area where we've really got to put a significant amount of emphasis over the next five months to get those guys up to speed.
On the importance of changing the culture at North Carolina -
Anytime a program has struggled, you lose sight of what's important in winning. It's about developing guys with the mentality that they are willing to do more than their share, whether it's academically, athletically, the running, the lifting, watching film. It's also changing expectations in practice. This is the way that winners practice. This is the way that champions practice. It's upbeat. It's positive. You're flying around. You're making plays. You're enthusiastic. You're also unselfish. That is still a hurdle we have to go through.
Right now we don't have a depth chart, and everything is hunky-dory. Everybody is getting coached. There is going to come a time in the fall when we are going to have to start coaching that top 22 guys on each side of the football and saying, ‘These are the guys,' at least at that time, ‘that are the ones who are going to try to help us win football games.' There are going to be some guys who are going to be third-team guys, and they are going to be on the scout team.
That is when the character and the integrity of your team, the unselfishness of your team and the culture you're trying to create, they realize their day is coming some time. It may come in the middle of the season. It may come in Week Two. It may not come for two years. But you have to try to build that attitude. One thing I'll tell you about these players right now: They have shown an unbelievable willingness to buy into [what we're teaching]. They are so sick and tired of losing. Right now, they are very much onboard with everything we're asking them to do.