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Opening Statement -
"First of all, this is really a fun time for football coaches and a football team. It's the one time when you can focus on the little bitty things and the fun things about coaching, with no objectives of game plans coming up. It's a great time for your football team to improve. A major emphasis we're going to have throughout the course of the spring is fundamentals. We want to leave spring practice with our first, second and third-team players being as fundamentally sound offensively, defensively and special teams as we can possibly be.
"The other thing that I really enjoy about spring practice is the competition. It's taken a couple of years to build the program to have enough quality athletes that there's legitimately decent pressure put on players to be starters, second-team players or role players; that hopefully we'll have enough competition in the spring where guys will have to really challenge themselves and push themselves.
"Schematically, there are things we want to accomplish as a coaching staff. There are things we've talked to the players about that, as a football team, we need to get better. Reoccurring themes over the last two seasons -- we want to be a smarter football team, we want to be more explosive on special teams. There are things we've done reasonably well but with not enough consistency.
"You're going to see an awful lot of teaching throughout these 15 days of practice. The way the NCAA [mandates], today and Wednesday will be just in helmets and shorts - no physical contact, but an emphasis on speed, flying to the football, intensity and effort. As we get into the more physical aspect of it, then we'll get a chance to really challenge our players.
"Jeff Connors, who runs our strength and conditioning program, had a full eight-week cycle coming back for the second semester to work with our players. He felt that in his 23 years of coaching, this was the hardest-working group of players he'd been around in 23 years. The eight weeks they ran, they lifted and really held themselves accountable for getting ready to have a great spring practice."
You've spoke about competition - with your starting left tackle graduated and you've got two true freshmen who just enrolled and will compete at that position in James Hurst and T.J. Leifheit ...
"You want to talk about baptism under fire, 'Welcome to Division I college football and Robert Quinn.' It won't take long for those guys to learn about what college football is all about. But both of those kids are gifted, they're big, they have all the intangibles, but by no stretch of the imagination on day one or day 15 will they be at a point where they need to be by the start of September. But they'll get a lot of good chances with Carl Gaskins being worked into that mix before the spring is over with. It'll give them a chance to practice and they'll get better every day.
"All the good football teams I was ever on, there was great position competition - and there was great competition within the football team. The team got better because of the matchups they had in practice. The receivers got better because there were great DBs, offensive linemen got better because there were great defensive linemen. If we can continue to have that kind of an attitude, I think it'll really help our program."
The University clearly has made a commitment to market the football program nationally, with the latest being the Spring Game on ESPN. Do you think it becomes the fans' responsibility to do their part?
"I think it takes a collaborative effort out of everybody. It takes the coaches, it takes the players, it takes the student body, it takes the administration, and it equally takes the fans. Fans and alumni need to get behind it. If you want something to be good, it doesn't fall solely on any one group. ... I think everybody shares the responsibility. The administration is doing their part by allowing us to do some of the things we've been able to do - having a Thursday night game, adding to the stadium - but it does take people showing up to the games, selling out the stadium and hopefully when we go to Atlanta we'll have 35,000 of the 70,000. It gives people an insight to how important football is to Carolina."