Listen to Audio (3:45)
** As Withers stepped out of his golf cart upon arriving at Navy Fields for his weekly media availability, the large contingent of reporters on hand hurried to surround the man who had been named interim head coach seven weeks ago.
Withers endured his first battering of NCAA-related questions following the organization’s visit on Wednesday morning and emerged no worse for the wear.
When asked if he was concerned about ineligibility issues or if he expects to have to sit any players on Saturday, Withers responded: “Not at all.”
“We’re expecting to have our full allotment of players.”
Withers indicated that everybody was scheduled to practice on Thursday and that because of that fact, there had been no distractions related to the NCAA’s visit.
Withers directed any further questions about the midweek visit to the NCAA.
** As long as reporters continue to bring up North Carolina losing 10 straight ACC openers, Withers will continue to shoot down those questions rather efficiently.
“We study history so we don’t repeat it, but we try to make our own and I think we did that last year up there,” Withers said. “We just want to continue to get ready for one game at a time and play.”
** Senior defensive end Quinton Coples earned first-team All-ACC honors last season at defensive tackle, but now will have to repeat that feat from a different spot on the line this season as he returned to end during spring ball. After totaling 10 sacks in ’10, the Kinston, N.C. native already has two in his stat line after two games this season. His head coach believes he has room for even more improvement.
“I think Quinton’s got a lot of talent, a lot of natural talent,” Withers said. “The biggest improvement is just his knowledge of the game and playing at a high level each week. I think he’s gotten so much better through this training camp and through the first two games, so we just hope he continues on that path because he has a chance to be a dynamic player.”
Coples’s experience on the interior last season has enabled UNC to move him around this year in various packages.
** Wide receiver Josh Adams continued his streak of being a topic of conversation during weekly media availability that’s dated back to training camp. The sophomore wide receiver, who is recovering from ANCA Vasculitis, will be listed as questionable for Saturday’s game.
“It’s just that when a guy has been out so long, you have to get him back in game shape before you can put him out there,” Withers said.
** Running backs Ryan Houston and Gio Bernard each have a start under their belt this season, but the red-shirt freshman appears to have the inside track to securing the starting role against Virginia.
Withers told reporters that “there’s a good chance” that Bernard would get the nod, before adding that it will be a game-time decision.
** Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu hauled in 13 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown against North Carolina last Saturday, including a late-game flurry that had Tar Heel fans scratching their heads as to UNC’s coverage.
Scarlet Knights quarterback Chas Dodd threw in Sanu’s direction 22 times and completed five of his six passes to his standout receiver on third down, notching four first downs. Nine of those 22 passes occurred in the fourth quarter as Rutgers attempted to rally from a 24-15 deficit.
In that final stanza, Sanu caught five passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. His biggest gain of the day, however, was an 18-yard completion.
Withers detailed UNC’s coverage against Sanu during his radio show on Wednesday night.
“What you try not to do is let him get behind you,” Withers said. “I think some of the stuff that happened to us – we got caught with our nickel back on him in man-to-man in certain situations, which is a tough cover. The other times they isolated a linebacker on him and that’s a tough cover. What you want to do is get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands to where he can’t find him. We didn’t do that enough at times, especially on third downs. They did a nice job of trying to isolate him where the quarterback could find him – not outside and deep, but short in those linebacker zones…
“As long as you don’t get the ball thrown over top of you, you’ve got a chance. We always talk about living another down. We didn’t feel like they could go the long distance on us and score. That’s the big deal. I know people don’t like to hear bend but don’t break, but sometimes when you’re playing good receivers, that’s going to happen.”