Scouting UNC: Q&A with coach Butch Davis

Rutgers hosts North Carolina in its biggest test of the young season Saturday at 3:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Tar Heels coach Butch Davis spoke with the media about his team, which has been ravished by NCAA suspensions, and also what awaits UNC when it arrives in Piscataway.

Scouting North Carolina
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Rutgers Stadium, ESPNU
Record: 0-2
Coach: Butch Davis (20-20, four year, 71-40 10th overall)
Offense: Pro-style
Defense: 4-3
Key players: QB T.J. Yates, RB Johnny White, WR Eric Highsmith, WR Jheranie Boyd, TE Zack Pianalto, WLB Quan Sturdivant, DT Tydreke Powell, DT Quinton Coples and SS Gene Robinson.

The Tar Heels lost to LSU and Georgia Tech by identical 30-24 scores, and are dealing with the suspensions of 12 players due to an NCAA investigation, which also caused defensive line coach Johnnie Blake to resign. On Wednesday, UNC coach Butch Davis spoke during the ACC conference call. Here is what he had to say:

Opening statement:
It's kind of good to get into a regular routine. Players off Monday (and) Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice and give our kid a chance to get into a routine and get some momentum. Rutgers is off to an excellent start is 2-0.
But the part of their game where they are playing really well is they're playing outstanding on special teams. They've already blocked four punts. Their defense is rated in the top 20 in the country. They're really suffocating quarterbacks, putting pressure on the quarterback, and in typical Rutgers fashion, they've got a physical running back (Joe Martinek) that is pounding the ball.
The one thing that they added to their arsenal that they didn't have two years ago when we played is a little bit of a Wildcat package. (Mohamed Sanu) has really given people some fits with that.
Having two weeks to prepare, I'm sure there's going to be a lot of unusual things. You've got to be prepared for all kinds of fakes in the kicking game and new blitzes, and probably new formations. It'll put our kids to the test.

Can you give recollections of first meeting Rutgers coach Greg Schiano?
In the interview process, I really truly felt that he was very detailed, meticulously organized. Having known Greg now for quite a while, and even when I was out of coaching, I got a chance to visit his practices and spend some time in their facility, all those things clearly were true as a defensive coordinator for me and now as a head coach.
He's done an awesome job. He's turned that program around, really built it year-in and year-out. They're highly competitive, they do a good job of recruiting, so all those things I saw in the first couple of hours have all come to fruition. In the offseason we talk, and we spent some time together on the Nike trip and caught up, but during this week we probably won't talk until before the game. I consider Greg a very close friend and somebody I have a great deal of respect for."

Is Rutgers' Wildcat similar to other teams' Wildcat package?
It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on our defense because of the versatility of the guy that you're snapping the ball to. He's an excellent athlete. He's thrown a touchdown pass. He got to run one in.
And everybody has their own variations, and they mix it in with a variety of personnel groupings. Some teams will run it with an open formation and four receivers, and some will do it with tight ends in the game, which makes it a little bit more difficult because of the potentiality of creating more gaps. It's something that's been a good addition to the offense.

Has Johnny White earned the starting spot this week?
He has been the starter for the first two ballgames we played, and we feel like he's put himself in contention to challenge Shaun Draughn for that position. I think there's room for both of these guys to play, and help our offense going and keep a fresh guy in the game.
(Draughn) has to get himself back to game-playing condition. There's a tremendous amount of difference from practicing as scout team player and running the other team's offense and getting hit in ballgames and getting into the flow of the game. What we did with Shaun last week was a very good step for him.

Any feel about whether UNC will get anybody back this week?
We kind of made the statement if and when we ever find anything out from the NCAA, we're certainly going to be the first people to …we'll probably put up billboards on I-40 and announce it. We'd love to get ‘em back, but as of right now, the team that we played with against LSU and last week is the team preparing this week against Rutgers.

At a certain point would you rather know who will be on your roster rather than have it be an uncertainty each week?
We've kind of made that decision before the week going into the LSU game that look, anybody that might be added to the roster at any point of time in the season, we've got to be prepared to play with the guys that are currently playing in these games.
We'd love to get any of those other guys back but if we don't, we've got to prepare every single week and that's where our focus is, and that's why I just made the statement that someone who gets (cleared) Saturday morning, six hours before the game, there's a lot of limitations to what they can actually help you do.
Somebody that gets added to the roster Saturday morning, six hours before the game, there's a lot of limitations to what they can actually help you do."

What does the active use of the tight end bring to UNC's game plan?
It's by design, to be honest with you. I've been fortunate that all the places I've coached, probably for the last 20 years, have included at least one, if not two, very talented tight ends on the football team and the roster at that time.
What we're trying to do is build a complete offense, and Zack (Pianalto) is a unique talent and complements all the other pieces of the puzzle. You don't want to try and win with one particular guy.

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