The coaches from Ohio State, 14 staff members in all, attended North Carolina's practice on Wednesday. The OSU staff sat in on meetings, and there was an exchange of ideas. North Carolina head coach Butch Davis said that he and his staff will visit some other schools after spring practice. Which schools might they visit?
"I'm not going to say," Davis said. "Sometimes there's a hidden message in what schools you visit." Davis did indicate that because North Carolina's spring practice began early, they would be visiting schools "in the West and in the South" where practices start later than UNC's. Davis also noted that they would "split up" as a staff, with some members visiting different places instead of visiting a school en masse, as did the Ohio State staff. It is a practice that Davis has encouraged since his arrival at UNC.
"Between the 2007 season and 2008 season, I visited with 11 different coaches, from high school coaches, to Division III coaches, to 1-AA coaches, to 1A coaches, to NFL coaches," offensive coordinator John Shoop said this offseason.
Defensive coordinator Everett Withers may have let the cat out of the bag a bit during an interview conducted by Inside Carolina in January. Withers has a coaching friend, Dave Schramm, who coaches at the University of Utah.
"I was so fascinated by the way they played against Alabama I want to go visit those guys," Withers said of Utah. "I want to go visit them because they played as inspired and as fast and as physical as any team I saw all bowl season. I've been intrigued since watching that game about going to see those guys, see if they will let us come in and visit them and just pick up ideas."
While these visits with other coaches are useful in terms of exchanging ideas about X's and O's, that's not always their only purpose. Organization is such a large part of football -- how you organize as a staff and share responsibilities, how you organize practice, recruiting, and all the different facets of coaching are all areas in which the UNC staff will be seeking fresh ideas.
"Some of (my) visits were ‘How do you deal with the hashes, these hashes are a little bit different than I am used to,' some of those visits were, ‘How do you schedule your week,' the weekly schedule in college is so much different than the weekly schedule in the pros," Shoop said. "Each one of those conversations, from high school coaches to NFL coaches, I found helpful and I think showed up in this season, the 2008 season."
Withers explained, "It can be about how they organize their game week, how they organize their practice plan. Sometimes it is just a tweak here and there that can get you over the hump, that can get you another win, that can get you playing a little bit better defense. It is about investigating all the things you can investigate."
While the UNC has a staff with a lot of experience, in college football there are always new ideas in everything from teaching fundamentals, to organization, to X's and O's, and Butch Davis has made it part of the program to ferret out those new approaches to see if they are something his staff wants to implement.
Other Butch Davis Quotes of Note
On wide receiver Dwight Jones -
"One of the things I think Dwight Jones has done a good job on, we've tried to change his running style a little bit. Jeff Connors has done a great job working and developing the speed, trying to lengthen his stride, and trying to get him to run a little bit more with his shoulders over his knees and I think that has helped him. I think he's learning to break defensive backs' cushions down a little bit quicker, and he's in a better position to get in and out of cuts, instead of running. In high school, he was able to just out-physical everybody and run pretty much straight up and down, and we're trying to lower his center of gravity a little bit and he's doing a good job with that."
On early-enrolled freshman Joshua Adams -
"He really wants to be in a position to make the play, uses his God-given athletic ability to jump and catch balls. He tracks balls very well, he has outstanding hand-eye coordination, and he's very, very, smooth. He's one of the more polished high school kids that I've seen come into a program. He's very good at getting releases, I think that is a really good byproduct of the fact that he went to a lot of camps throughout his high school career, he got an awful lot of good coaching, and coming in, he's kind of ahead of the curve a little bit. Playing at some of those Army All-American games and those things, he's used to going against some highly competitive good situations and he's not intimidated by jumping out here as a true high school kid and jumping in against guys three or four years older than him."
On the transition with the new assistant coaches -
"So far I think it has gone very smoothly. I think our players are starting to develop a real trust with these guys and recognizing how good of coaches they are, that they've got some things that they can really help our players get better. The chemistry has been outstanding. They work really well with the other coaches that are already here and they bring a lot of energy to practice. [Wednesday] was one of the best practices we've had since I've been at North Carolina. The energy started at the very beginning of practice and it went for two hours and twenty minutes and it never let up. It was just full speed, full throttle. I think the players take a byproduct, they watch the coaches, and you see Allen Mogridge running around, and Sam Pittman, and those guys – when the coaches are on a high level, the players tend to practice that way. (Kaufman's) teaching and fundamentals, he's really taken those linebackers to another level."