I've been asked that question a couple of times, and I think the best answer is that it's actually exceeded my expectations. You never really know – even through the research you do, and talking to people that know a little bit about the program and everything, I have just been so happy as well as pleased with the unbelievable support. The administration has been outstanding, [as well as the] the Board of Trustees. The passion to bring outstanding football to the University of North Carolina – those are some of the things that you don't really know. You can look in the media guide, and look up weight rooms and stadium capacity and all those kinds of things, but grassroots – how important is it truly to really have a great football program?
And I've been very, very impressed – from the administration to the faculty, and their willingness to jump in and help with recruiting. We got an awful lot of positive publicity over an excellent first recruiting class, but it was such a collaborative effort.
On how the players have adjusted to the new coaching staff:
Change is difficult. It's difficult in businesses, it's difficult in families, and it's difficult on football teams when you're making a transition from the previous coaching staff, who did things one particular way and all of a sudden, here comes another [staff]. I've been in on six or seven of those, and it's always tough. But these kids have just embraced everything that we've asked them to do – from the classroom, to workouts to the way that we practice, the tempo and all those kinds of things.
If there was any one thing that needed to be changed initially:
No, not really. Because I really didn't spend a great deal of time even looking back in the past. I just went in and I said, ‘guys, look, this is the vision, this is what we would like to be at some point in the future. This is what we will be – a great football program with class, we want to graduate players and we want to have guys that play with passion.' I just told them that this is the way our coaching staff – this is what we believed Carolina football should be about. And they've just bought into it and they've jumped on board. They've done everything that we've asked them to do.
On talking about national championships in his first meeting with the players:
Again, it's part of the vision. All of my experiences, and I've been so very fortunate to be in some great situations – the national championship-caliber teams at Miami, the Super Bowl teams – you have high expectations. You want to talk about winning. You want to talk about goals, because it gives the players an aiming point -- this is what we hope to achieve and aspire to. How are we going to get there? Well, that's the process. This is what's got to happen over a period of time. Players want to play, and it's important that they want to play in big games, and that they want to play against great teams and play on great teams. I think that's part of the competitive nature of great football players.
On the in-state rivalries:
Coming to Carolina is unique, because there are so many different schools in your own backyard. This is a new experience. When I coached at Oklahoma State, we had OU 90 miles away down in Norman, and at Miami, obviously with Florida and Florida State, but they were hundreds of miles away. Tallahassee is almost not in Florida, I think it's actually in Southern Alabama. You run into coaches and you run into their alumni at the grocery store and at the gas station – somebody's got a Duke, or a Wake Forest or NCSU something, so it's a little different experience.
His goals for the first year:
Of all the things that I would like to think that will be accomplished the first year is that our players, the ones that are there currently and the ones that are coming, that they will trust our coaching staff emphatically. And part of that of that is the enthusiasm, the passion that they see you playing and coaching with, and in the preparation. And I know this – you can't win without it. If the players aren't excited and their hair's not on fire about coming to that facility every single day, then you're in for a long season, and probably a long tenure.
On breaking down players:
One thing the players have to realize is that there is accountability. There is no way that you can correct things that you need to win without being shown. But you don't have to have your pride and the character challenged, [and] you don't have to be stripped down emotionally to learn some of those lessons. The greatest tribute for all coaches is for somebody to say that you're a great teacher, because that's what coaching really and truly is. It's all about teaching. You hope that the players respect that, and I think that these players will.
If opposing staffs have used his health in recruiting:
I don't know – I have no evidence of that. I would like to hope that no one did, because I feel great. If they did, then they made a mistake.
Strengths and weaknesses of this team:
I think the strengths of the football – ironically, it's one of the most unique situations in all of the restorations that I've been involved in – the strengths are both in the offensive and defensive line. Not only is a significant amount of the most talented players that we have on the team in those two areas, but also the most depth. We've got maybe as many as seven, eight, nine offensive linemen that we think have an opportunity to become really good football players, and most of them are very young. And the same can be said about the defensive line, with the exception of the fact that the defensive line has a couple of seniors. Kentwan Balmer, Hilee Taylor, and Kyndraus Guy are all three seniors. I would love for those guys to be juniors and have two more years.
Probably the biggest weakness is the fact that there's not a lot experience on this football team. Kevin [Best, UNC Football SID] was telling me the other day that we have 84 players on scholarship right now, and I think 51 of them have never played in a college football game. That in and of itself is enough to keep you awake at night. I haven't sleep very good since Kevin told me that. But it is what it is. With only ten seniors on the football team, this year we're going to be a young and inexperienced football team, which in some respects is good, because a lot of lessons that we're going to learn this year, and a lot of the things that you would like to do as the incoming coaching staff is going to impact this football team. They're going to get to use that for two or three years, as opposed to having 20 or 23 seniors and six months later, all of the hard work is out the door. I'm actually okay with the fact that it's a young team.