Early on I think it is going to be tough, from the experience part of it. Those guys knew the system. Even though we have some guys that have been in the system a couple of years, they still lack the on-field experience. Those guys (Aiken and Borders) brought a lot of experience to the table.
Early on I think it is going to be difficult for a couple of receivers to adjust to the hot routes and things like that. Hopefully, with Coach Tranq (offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill) beating it into their heads every day during the spring and then fall practice, somebody will step up. I know Jarwarski (Pollock) and Derrele (Mitchell) both got a good number of reps this year, but we still are going to need somebody else to step up.
Of the guys coming back, who do you see stepping up into the "go to" role that Sam Aiken had last year?
Jarwarski (Pollock). When you got a guy like a Jarwarski, with his talent, you got to get him the ball. He can make so much happen after the catch. I think if I had to say who was going to be the "go-to" guy going into this year, it would be him.
Some of the younger receivers, like Ian Firestone and Daunte Fields, aren't well known because they have not played. What did you see from them last year in practice?
I really didn't get to throw to them too much, because I was always working with the older guys, but from the chances I did get to work with them, I see a lot of potential in those guys.
The thing about our system here is, no matter how much talent you have, if you don't know what to do, you won't play. The mental aspect is what I hope those guys can grasp. If they do it, we will be deep at receiver, with a lot of talent. I think they both have a chance to step up.
There are a couple of young guys who did get to play last year, Wallace Wright and Derrele Mitchell, I think they both told me last year their goal was to be better than Sam Aiken. Are those guys, plus the other young receivers, putting in the same effort that Sam did?
No. As of right now, no. I have been here with Sam for three years, and just to see where he came from the beginning to now, he has just worked so hard. I just don't see it (the same effort) in those guys right now. I try to talk to them every day; I try to tell them, "In order to be elite, you have to put forth the effort. Sam came from nowhere and blew up. In order for you to do that, you have to put forth the same work ethic he had."
I don't see it right now, but hopefully, it will come along.
Do you follow recruiting? If so, are you excited about the wide receivers coming in?
Yes, I follow recruiting. I had a chance to see a couple of guys in the All-Star games, and I was pretty impressed with their performance. If they can come in and grasp the mental aspect before some the guys we have here now, I don't see why they wouldn't be able to play next year.
They all have the physical ability. I am definitely excited. These guys are coming in with good size. Sam had pretty good size himself, but when you look at guys 6-5, 200-plus pounds that can run pretty well, you have to be thrilled to have those guys on your side, so I am really excited.
There are a couple of running backs that transferred in to UNC, Rikki Cook and Chad Scott. What sort of impact do you think they will have on the offense?
I expect a tremendous improvement. Those guys have college experience on a big-time level. With Chad coming from the SEC and Rikki coming from the Big East, you can't beat experience. And with the natural ability that those two have, I am just excited because I think a running game is all that this offense has been missing. It is a key element, and I think with those guys and addition to what we already have, we will have a really strong running game.
I think Rikki can play both fullback and tailback. When we go into some of our one-back sets, I think that Rikki could be the back there. He has good vision, and he is tough to bring down. He can run. We tried that out a couple of time with Madison (Hedgecock) last year and it didn't work out. I think that "big back" element in our backfield will help us.
With Chad, he is a change of pace guy. He's fast, man, is he fast! I think with Tranq's knowledge of the game he will know how to use Chad, sometimes put him in as a slot receiver, and throw little screen passes to him, things like that.
He catches the ball so well. I had an argument yesterday with him about who has the best hands on the team, I told him that I have the best hands, and he think he does (laughing). So he is real confident, he's ready to go.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part III