Q&A with Dave Huxtable, Part I

<i>Inside Carolina</i>'s Buck Sanders sat down with North Carolina defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable for an exclusive one-on-one interview. This is part one of four to be run all this week here at <i>IC</i>.

At what point in fall practice did you realize how much the team was going to struggle on defense last year?

I'll be honest with you, I really didn't have a feeling that we would struggle. I was upbeat and very positive and thought that despite the injuries that we had in fall camp, kids missing practice, that we would still be able to go into the season and play good defense. Even after losing Eric Davis, and having to play Kendall High, a true freshman at nose [tackle], I still felt we would be able to play solid defense.

Did you feel at some point that some of the game plans you had been working on would have to be changed, and that your strategy would have to be changed to accommodate the losses in personnel?

We were always feeling that we had to tweak something here or there to take best advantage of our personnel. When you have the number of injuries that we had, kids missing practice during the week and maybe having to play them on Saturday, you couldn't get too far away from what you were doing, just because of a mental learning thing.

It was difficult from that standpoint and I am disappointed that we didn't play better, but we really didn't let the personnel we had dictate our game plan. Again there were some things that we had to tweak some, but we didn't let it dictate as far as what we were going to do as a game plan, with who we had to play with.

Jacques Dumas was voted as the ‘Most Improved Defensive Player' at this year's banquet, who gets to choose these awards, the players or the coaches.

The players vote on some, but the coaching staff votes some others, most of those the coaching staff votes.

Before the season began, Coach Bunting expressed some concern about Dumas' progress. Did he win this award because at some point the ‘light bulb' went off for him, or just because he gained in experience as the season progressed?

I think he was gaining some experience, I think it was more of an experience thing than anything else. With the experience I think he gained some confidence. There was a stretch where Jacques played very, very, well. He still has a long way to go, but there was a stretch where he played very well and I think it was an experience/added confidence thing.

In a perfect world, would you have red-shirted Kendall High last season?

Most definitely. My hat is off to Kendall, he went out there started eleven straight games for us as a true freshman at a very difficult position and he went out and he fought and he scrapped and he clawed and he did a great job for us. And he is going to be better this year because of it. In a better situation, in a perfect situation, you would have loved to red-shirted that kid and let him have been with Coach Connors [UNC Strength and Conditioning Director], and be in that weight room getting bigger and stronger, and coming into spring ball getting ready to play for us as a red-shirt freshman.

How much will that experience help him next year?

I think there should be a great improvement. Again, a lot of it is going to depend on how much Kendall works at it. Going out there and being a starter for eleven games and getting that experience, I think that is so valuable. Now he gets to take that experience and use that as an advantage going into spring football and coming back into fall camp. The things that he learned out there on the field with the game being faster, the tempo being faster, the people he played against being bigger and stronger.

Now, if he uses that to his advantage in this off-season in that weight room, knowing his weaknesses, what he has to do to be a player at this level, that can only help him this next year because he has been there before. Someone being red-shirted, being over there on that scout field against the offense and not being out being out there between the lines on Saturday, doesn't really know what it is all about. He's been there now; he knows what it is all about, he knows what his strengths and weaknesses are now, what he needs to do to be a player at this level. He is working on those things right now.


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