"Our first opinion of spring practice is that it went pretty much the way that we thought that it would. We've got, for the first time, a little bit of position competition in some places. One of the main goals and emphases that we had going into the spring was really trying to build some depth defensively and certainly some depth in our offensive line. There were some positive things that came out of the spring [and] there were some disappointing things.
"One of the disappointing things was the number of offensive linemen that were injured that didn't get a chance to participate that we are counting on. It'll certainly be a rush against time to get some of those guys healthy for training camp. That will have an awful lot to do with the growth and development of our offense. Our coaching staff was pleased, and I think for the most part after the 15 days we were able to come out of that spring healthy with no additional injuries. I think that was pretty important for us."
Do you feel any pressure to win a certain amount of games this fall?
"There's all kinds of different steps as you build a program, and certainly, recruiting is a big part of it; who you play and how you perform, getting on television for football games, those kinds of things really impress recruits. Trying to pick a number that defines what's going to be success or failure – you never can do that because you don't know who is going to be healthy for the entire season.
"I think one thing that we've come to the conclusion here is that we just play them one game at a time, try to play as hard as we can, win that particular week and then move on. The last two seasons we've been able to avert some major disaster because of injuries and some of the adversity that we've gone through and been able to go to bowl games. Hopefully we'll continue to build on that and hopefully each season will get a little bit better."
It must help that there's less hand-holding with so many veteran players knowing what you expect from them…
"Well, I do think so. Going into our fourth year together, we've got an awful lot of guys, especially on the defensive side of the ball, that have played a lot of football and they know the expectations that we have as a coaching staff and how much hard work and preparation goes into having a good season. Just because somebody says that you've got some talented players and you're a pretty good football team, that doesn't mean that you're going to have a good season. You've got to go earn that. You've got to go out and play and you've got to prepare to play well. There are an awful lot of talented teams in the ACC this year. There's probably a half-dozen teams that probably have more talent than us. We're going to have to be prepared to play well this year."
On T.J. Leifheit:
"He ended up having surgery. He had gotten injured during his high school career and he was one of our freshmen that entered Carolina early. He had never fully recovered from an injured ankle from his high school career and he kept trying to play through it. So finally they did a scope and realized… They had attributed it initially to a high ankle sprain, but it ended up being a little more severe than a high ankle sprain. He actually had a little bit of a stretch and a tear in a ligament and they ended up doing arthroscopic surgery. He's back and he's up and around, but it's going to take another 6-8 weeks of rehab and treatment for him to get well."
Was Ryan Houston sitting out of spring practice for academics more of a precautionary move or is there any danger of him not being able to play next fall?
"It wasn't precautionary. It was legitimate. He needed to do some work academically. He needed to spend a significant amount of time… He attended meetings and he stayed with all of his lifting, but we just felt like the additional time to be able to spend with tutors working academically to ensure the fact that he was going to be able to get back on track... He's getting close to the opportunity of getting his college degree, and the higher you climb the ladder certainly, the more difficult some of the classes [become]. We just felt like it was prudent on our part to make sure that he did that."
On T.J. Yates and the offense:
"I'm not sure that any quarterback in America would have had the opportunity to play as well as they were capable of playing, given the set of circumstances… We had three freshmen wide receivers, three freshmen offensive linemen, we had lost some unbelievable talented wide receivers that had started here for three years. Zack Pianalto, our starting tight end, missed a significant amount of time and we lost three running backs, so you want to talk about a patchwork offense. Regardless if it was T.J. or any other quarterback, it was always going to be a work in progress every week last year to try to be as productive as we possibly could.
"I will tell you this – I think that T.J. had probably his best spring since he's been here and since I've been the head coach at Carolina. He's really worked. He understands that the quarterback position, it is absolutely necessary for that person to go out and to play well. Play smart and the get the ball in the hands of the right guys, get us in and out of the right plays, change the protections and certainly, he enjoys a little bit of an advantage over all of the other quarterbacks in the program because he's got a lot of experience. But having said that, he knows that he's got to produce and he's got to go out and play well.
"It's a lot harder to build an offense, in some respects, than it is to build a defense, because it requires so much efficiency and so much cohesiveness. With four defensive linemen, three of them can do one thing exactly right and the other one can do something a little bit wrong, and it probably doesn't negatively effect the outcome of the play. But if you've got five offensive linemen and one of those guys makes a critical mistake and blocks the wrong guy, it's a sack or a quarterback hit or a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. So you've really got to get your offense to where they play well as a group, and that's something that we're still working on."