"That was one of the things, there was so much experimentation last year during training camp as the freshmen came in. I think we pretty much have everybody lined up where they need to be. We really, truly, during this training camp, we've got to find a No. 2 and No. 3 running back -- I mean that is really really critical. We've got to try to make sure that we've got someone gifted enough as the No. 2 quarterback. Somebody, that if something happens to T.J. [Yates] -- who's healthy now, his shoulder is good -- we've got to have somebody else that our team and everybody else has confidence in that can go in and win. And I'm concerned about our corners. I think our safety situation, we're reasonably confident -- we've got some kids that've got some talent at safety. But corners is still up in the air, we moved two former running backs to corner, just to get more speed on the field."
When you first came to Chapel Hill, what did you see in your players' eyes?
"Hunger. I mean they were really, truly hungry to win. I would give them a ton of credit -- everything that our coaching staff has asked them to do, from a standpoint of commitment to lifting, to working out to really becoming a football culture in that building, they've done everything we've asked them to do. As a coach that's all you can really ask them to do."
Why did you say that basketball wasn't the best idea for Greg?
"It was good for him -- he didn't get a chance to play as much as I'm sure he maybe thought he was going to or would've liked to -- it was good from a conditioning standpoint. But, it would've probably been better for him to have been over lifting, watching film and working out with the football team the entire time. It was a good experiment and Greg wanted to try it and he did. It validated what an athlete he is. Selfishly speaking as a head football coach, it would've probably been better for him to be at the football offices."
Would you be reluctant to let him play again this year?
"We'll talk about it. He would have to have a significantly greater role. If he was a fifth-sixth guy playing 20 to 25 minutes … I love basketball, I played basketball in high school -- but for him to be the 12th or 15th man and to play 20 seconds in the end of five games, I think he's smart enough to make that decision and I don't have to make it for him."
What's your judgment on how good the ACC is?
"I think it's good. I think it's extraordinarily competitive. I think that there has been a period of time right now, obviously, where Florida State hasn't been quite as good as … I mean you look at their success in the 1990s and the early 2000s and there wasn't a lot of people wanting to play them. You could argue that there are eight or nine schools in this conference that are as good as anyone in the country. There are ebbs and flows with every conference. I think it's highly competitive."
Is it reasonable to assume that the experience so many of you have had in the NFL, has helped in college. What are some of the advantages you gained from the NFL and conversely why haven't many college coaches had more success in the NFL?
"Well, the last part of that, the goings of the NFL it's all about timing, salary cap, it's about being in the right place at the right time. The coming back, so many coaches have great success, because you really learn a lot about football. You play double the games, you're talking about coaching 23 to 24 games a year. You come back to college, you're coaching 12 and it's like double the experience. I will tell you this, though -- I still believe that coaching in college, in some respects, is still more challenging than coaching in the NFL. Because so much of the NFL is about packages, it's about concepts and it's there's not a lot of variations.
"I know within or own conference the vast array of different styles and schemes. From Wake Forest and now with Paul Johnson going to Georgia Tech. You're talking about in three days you've got to try to get ready for just a totally, absolute, all new different type of offensive scheme. Where in the NFL, once you've got an established team and once they learn the concepts of the West Coast offense … there are 23 teams that run a version of the West Coast offense. So the plays are all the same, it's just repetition. It's a lot harder coaching in college challenge wise."
The spread offense has now become a trendy way of doing things in college. Do you see that filtering in at the NFL level?
"Oh, I don't think so. There're always going to be versions of multiple three and four wide receiver offenses in the NFL. But the athletic aspect of the quarterback doing an awful lot of running -- you can't afford to have $100 million tied up in Peyton Manning and have him lose his career by running as the quarterback.
"Our own personal offensive philosophy at Carolina, we want to try to run a pro style offense, defense and special teams because we think that it will attract great athletes that want to get to the next level. We want Troy Aikmans and Tom Bradys and those kinds of kids at quarterback -- those kinds of kids that you can win national championships with. And that those kids know that you're going to get great exposure and the next step to the NFL is not a big step. I think it helped dramatically with Kentwan Balmer last year in our program. He was, you know, maybe a late-round draft choice -- some people said free agent. And he ended up going in the first round just simply because I think he benefited from the scheme defensively that we were doing and people could draw the conclusion of how good he can be on the next level."
What's your opinion on the idea of an early Signing Day?
"All for it -- yeah, I'd love to see it. I don't know specifically what the date is for junior college, I want to say it's maybe like the third week in December. To me that would be a perfect time, they already have an existing time for junior college players and I'd love to see an early signing day in December. I would be adamantly opposed to, as the SEC had originally talked about, maybe one in the summer time before kids ever get to be a senior. I would not be for that. I think the early one gives you at least three recruiting opportunities in the month of December to have kids still make official visits. So many coaches have probably got from 12 to 14 committed players before Christmas. There's about a four week period of time where everything comes to a grinding halt and you still have to find a way to write kids that you know are already committed. Then you could work on the last six or seven when you come back from the national convention."
Why are there so many more early commitments now?
"I wish I knew the answer to that, because it is totally new. When I left Miami, you were lucky if in the summer prior to a senior year you could get one or two kids committed. Penn State was kind of on the cutting edge-- they were the first school that really got a dramatic number of kids to commit at their summer camp. One of the things that is totally different now, more kids are traveling now than I've ever seen. It's not uncommon to have a father and son show up, knock on the door in Chapel Hill and say we're going to take these five or six days and drive up and down the east coast. You never heard of those kinds of things. I think the familiarity of kids maybe wanting to get the pressure off -- what you hear from players is ‘I want to enjoy my senior year. I want to go through my senior year, play with my team and not be encumbered with all the phone calls and letters from 60 schools when I'm only interested in four."
For a summer signing period, how much money could you guys save not having to recruit for the next five months?
"Well, you would still be going out. The legislation still says you get 42 days of evaluation during the season, so you're going to take your 42 days. How much of that would be spent on kids already committed? A certain amount of it. How much of it is spent on kids that you're still looking for -- that last six, seven or eight? And I'm going to speak from the standpoint of putting myself a year ago, it was already hard enough to recruit kids. If you take a job, if a school has a turnover in the coaching staff and the brand new staff gets there in December, let's say that Signing Day was in July before, who are they going to recruit? All the kids are gone. I know it was a huge benefit for us with kids like Marvin Austin. If that would've happened a lot of the kids that we ended up signing would've never been available to us."
Do you like the BCS system as it is?
"I like the way it is. I love the bowl games. I like the fact that kids get a chance to be rewarded for having a great year and going 8-4 and 7-5 and getting a chance -- you know, for your fans, alumni and the families of your players to go to bowl games. I'd be crushed if the bowl games, somehow, someway, were eliminated over the next six, eight or 10 years."
Is there a better way to crown a national champion within the bowl system?
"I started coaching in 1973. I think back to all these years and there are very few years in that span that it worked out that the right team didn't become the national champion. If you are getting it right 97 percent of the time, the other three percent -- of which happened to us probably the year we didn't get a chance to play Oklahoma, no one should complain more than me -- but, I still believe that what we're doing now is probably better than taking the eight best schools and everybody else you're done for the year. Because that's what will end up happening; the bowls will go away and that'll be the end of it."
What kind of input do you have on recruiting budgets, in terms of how much it is and where it goes?
"We discuss budget and recruiting and stuff. I try to be extraordinarily respectful about how money is spent, because we don't want to be extravagant. In the grand scheme of things I think that ‘s one of the things that's good is that there is a lot of access to athletes within driving distance and a lot of kids from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. We're not put in a situation where we have to get kids and get coaches and fly them all the way to the West Coast all the time. But, they make me aware of what the budget is and we try to not abuse it at all. We've never brought in our full 56 recruits. One of the things that's an issue is that a lot of schools are starting to complain about schools bringing kids in and using their last couple of weeks of the recruiting season for next year. So they're bringing in a lot of underclassmen, bringing in juniors for junior days and we haven't even gotten to Signing Day."
What was your offseason like -- were you able to take some time off?
"This was a blessing this year just from a health standpoint, obviously. It was a very difficult year for our family. My wife is a saint, I mean she just … to go through the year she had to go through with myself and her brothers and trying to find a place to live. I won't say that life has turned completely back to normal, but it was certainly a lot better spring and summer time than previously. We had a chance to spend time with family. Life's a little bit more normal than last year and we're very grateful. I saved about $400 on haircuts last year, so we reinvested it."
What's your place-kicker situation like?
"That's a big concern … I mean, as a coach one of the greatest senses of satisfaction -- and I had it at Cleveland with Phil Dawson and I had it at Miami my last couple of years with Todd Seavers and I had it last year with Connor Barth -- when you know you've got a kicker that reasonably inside of 50 yards there's almost a 99 percent certainty that he is going to make it, you take some chances field position wise and trying to put points on the board early in the game. And that's a real concern this year -- we have no one who has kicked in a game before. Jay Wooten, who is a red-shirt freshman, is a young man that we're going to take a look at and we're still not 100 percent settled with that. Connor's younger brother, Casey, is coming to school as a walk-on and was a very gifted and talented kicker in high school, so we're going to take a long look at him.
"We feel very good about the punter, Terrance Brown. If we just let him kick the ball, I've got to think he would be in the top 10 in the country, maybe top five. He can absolutely murder the football, but we asked him -- because of some of the youth and inexperience and who were on special teams -- to do an awful lot of directional kicking. He sacrificed sometimes 10 yards per kick just to try and compensate for the fact that we weren't as talented, athletically, with some of our coverage units.
"The other part of that equation is the snapper and the holder both graduated. That's something that we've got to do a lot of work on in training camp to find someone. Lowell Dyer, who we put on scholarship in the spring time, who is either going to be our backup center or starting center, is a really competent short snapper. We just have to find a kicker and hopefully we'll find one in training camp."
(Check back Tuesday for Part III...)