"We're basically kind of a young inexperienced football team. We only have 10 seniors on the football team, and the lion's share of those seniors are on our defensive side of the ball. We're breaking in a brand new quarterback in T.J. Yates, a red-shirt freshman that didn't play at all last year, obviously, and several other really young players. Hakeem Nicks, a wide receiver, returns offensively that we think is a very talented player and we're going to count on his playmaking ability.
"We've certainly got to try to discover a running back at some point and time here in the first couple of weeks of the season – a guy that we feel like, or at least two guys that we feel like, can contribute and make an impact as far as the running game is concerned. But it's a young team – we've had a good training camp, we've made some progress and hopefully we'll continue to make progress each week."
What do you know about the James Madison University program going into this weekend?
"Well, I know that Mickey Matthews has done just an outstanding job being there. He's kind of what you'd like all coaches to do – he's had great consistency and continuity, he's built a program that's got a great foundation because they're good every year. Winning the national championship a couple of years ago, being in the playoffs – you can just tell the air of confidence that they play in when you watch them on film. They're very aggressive defensively, they put a tremendous amount of pressure on you offensively because of the scheme that they run. And they've got a lot of talented kids. You can just tell that they're well-coached. Watching their game tapes and stuff -- their fundamentals are very good, and they're good in all three phases."
Is there a big advantage for you because you know what JMU does, and they don't know what UNC is going to do?
"I don't think so. To be honest with you, I don't know what we're going to do. We haven't played one single game with these kids to find out exactly how they're going to play and react under the lights. I think and I would certainly suspect that James Madison, like all teams, are going to self-scout themselves and there's going to be some changes. And as players depart, you're going to create roles for guys that are upcoming players within your program …They've certainly got a belief system in some of the things that they do. They've got a young quarterback also, but they will probably emphasize the run, considerably more so than in the past couple of years just because of the nature of the type of athlete he is."
It looked in fall practice like Bruce Carter was going to be a starter linebacker, but he's behind Chase Rice on the depth chart this week. Can you talk about that decision?
"We have a lot of high expectations for Bruce as an incoming freshman. The three kids who had the opportunity to come in during spring practice have somewhat separated themselves from the other freshmen - it was an enormous advantage for them. We've got a significant role for Bruce on special teams. In week one, as you get close to game time, it's about looking at the experience aspect of it and I thought Chase gave us an opportunity in week one to be sound and make good decisions and with the style of offense that James Madison runs that you are going to really have guys in the game that have a little bit of game experience and have been tested under the fire. We didn't want to put some of these freshmen on such a big stage too early in their career."
How is T.J. Yates coming along in his development?
"The one thing you have to love about T.J. ... he has embraced that idea of 'I've got to work hard and I've got to make sure I know exactly what I'm supposed to and if I do then the other 10 guys in the huddle are going to trust me and have faith that I can make the plays to have a chance to win.' We've got some good young quarterbacks and these guys are growing, but T.J.'s done a nice job."
With this being the first game for your team under you, does that eliminate some of the possibility of overlooking James Madison?
"I would certainly be disappointed if our team overlooked anybody. This is a football team that is trying to create an identity, trying to create a future for our program. I know our coaches and our players all week have talked about James Madison's talent and how good they are are and how well coached they are. Regardless of the opponent each week a high percentage of the success is how you deal with yourself. We're looking for execution. We're looking for things about our football team that has nothing to do with the opponent."
Can you talk about some of the things you've learned about Deunta Williams since you've begun coaching him?
"First of all, he's charismatic. He's got a great attitude. He'd been a receiver last year, so when I first approached about playing in the secondary he said 'Absolutely, coach. If you think that's the best thing for the team.' He's an excellent athlete, he's got a lot of speed. He's got excellent hands - catches the ball well. He's got a lot of range. He looks like the prototype free safety if you were to draw one up. His only shortcoming is in the experience aspect of it and he'll get better every week and hopefully continue to grow into an outstanding safety ... He's a very aggressive kid. Ironically, Tommy Thigpen said he was an MVP [at the Shrine Bowl] as an outside linebacker. Before spring practice when we were trying to identify some of the position switches, Deunta's name came up."