Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Mike Fox and his Tar Heels opened their 2012 season over the weekend with a series win against Xavier. Inside Carolina caught up with the head coach on Monday ...

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Can you give your impression of the opening series, which included starting the season with a doubleheader due to weather concerns ...
"The weather is always an issue early and we are glad that we made the decisions that we did. It is nice first and foremost to get our season started. I know our players are excited. I thought we had a great crowd for the opening game on Friday and that was appreciated. I thought Xavier was a very solid team and we had our hands full with them all three games. From our standpoint we are happy to have won the series and gotten our season going and gotten some guys on the field for the first time in their college career to see how they are going to do. So all in all I thought it was a great weekend for us."

Can you discuss the improvements that you have seen in Kent Emanuel as a sophomore. Right off the bat I noticed his pick off move to first has really improved...
"Kent is a hard worker. He wants to be really good and he is very mature and very smart and understands that last year is all over with and the higher expectations that people have of you and the more responsibility you have being a Friday guy the harder you have to work. You have to continue to get better. He is a strike thrower and will always give us a chance to win. He certainly has worked on that part of his game holding runners, because he saw last year people could sort of guess with him and read him on that high [leg] lift and steal bases against him. He didn't like that so he has worked on that part of his game and you are right it has improved."

Last year I went and compared your career statistics with Tommy Coyle's and saw a number of parallels. Can you discuss the improvements of your junior shortstop?
"Well first and foremost there is no comparison between Tommy Coyle and myself. Tommy Coyle is like ten times the player that I ever hoped to be. I think that Tommy Coyle is a sensational player. Tommy's best trait is that he does not let anything phase him. The opponent, the weather, the crowd, television, whether he got a hit, struck out, made an error. He has that unbelievable trait of just being in the moment. You can see it in the dugout and you can see it everything that he does. He does not sweat anything that is going on. So when he gets in the box he is locked in on one thing and one thing only - the next pitch. That is a great trait to have in this game and it shows his maturity. I think Tommy has gotten faster and will do very well for us playing short and has a great feel for the game and savvy. I think in everything you want in a player - he is one of our best players because he can beat you with speed, he can beat you with his defense. He can beat you with some power every now and again. He can beat you with a walk or a bunt for a hit. He really is a terrific player and he has done nothing but get better since he arrived on campus."

How important is your comfort level with your coaching staff, with Coach Forbes entering his seventh year, Coach Jackson in his fourth and Coach Woodard in his second back at his alma mater?
"It is a stability thing for one. You are right that having coaches from year to year and over time is a little bit of a comfort level. You know each other and understand one another and respect one another. It does not mean that you will always agree or that we will always be thinking the same thing. We are all on the same page with what we want from our players and out of this program and what we expect out of ourselves and each other. It allows me as a head coach to really delve out responsibilities and allow these assistant coaches to make decisions and important decisions. I think that helps them for their future and it certainly helps during a game and making decisions. I respect and trust them all greatly. We have a great time together as well. I think we are very respectful friends and colleagues as well as members of the same staff. I consider us all equals and that is a good feeling to have."

Can you speak to the depth of pitching on the roster this season and the ability to change roles on the staff as needed?
"We have a lot of arms. I mean we have a lot of arms and there is no doubt about that. I think that every season you are always a work in progress with a pitching staff. You have guys in a certain role in the past and your staff takes on a new dynamic expecially when you throw a mix of freshmen in there and then you have guys improve and you are deciding upon certain roles. It is always that way. I think this weekend is certainly unusual as we did not expect to give up as many runs and hits as we did against Xavier. I think they had as good an offensive approach as about any team that has rolled in here -- especially early in the season, and I told their coach that. One thing we showed our pitching staff is that we will use you. We will bring you in, in any and every situation. You may have one batter or you may have one inning or two or three innings just depending. Things will kind of settle out. We kind of did the same thing last year in 2011 and I remember 2010 being the same way. 2009 was not quite so much because we only had two or three established relievers on that staff and now we have more. So it keeps everybody working and we will see how it all plays out but we will use our bullpen as we have to and we still think it is one of the strengths of our team."

Are you okay with Jacob Stallings catching a lot of innings as Matt Roberts recovers from his elbow injury? Also can you update Roberts's injury and Adam Griffin's ankle injury?
"Jacob has proved last year that he has some stamina -- and to catch a double header on Friday. Two long games and one went deep into the night and then having to turn around the next day to catch a one-o'clock game that turned into a four hour game and a crazy second inning. You worry about that not so much the first weekend but I brought that up to our team about Jacob catching all three games. Matt is slowly working his way back and is able to hit live and swing, which is the most important thing as far as his elbow is concerned, and his throwing is coming along. I think we will have Matt back available here pretty soon. I have not talked with the trainers so far this week. Adam with his fractured ankle will be a ways away. We will just rely on the trainers to do their rehab and keep going with the X-rays and they will tell us when he is able to get out of the boot and get back working."

With limited depth when it comes to position players, it appears Brian Holberton's versatility will be very important this season ...
"Holby came in as a catcher but played pretty much everywhere in high school. Obviously with the catching we have when Matt went down we had Holby catching almost every scrimmage. We have three catchers on the roster. So it is nice to be able to have him certainly as a catcher in our program and he has worked hard to become a better outfielder. We don't really need him in the infield this year as we did last year. Brian wants to be more than a designated hitter and he wants to be able to help us and to continue to improve and I think he understands that. Brian reminds me a little bit of Sean Farrell. Sean Farrell came in here and did not really have a position and was versatile but did not have a position that was going to keep him on the field defensively. Obviously he played because he was such a good hitter but wanted to play every day defensively and made himself into a really good left fielder so I made that comparison with Holby and I think he wants to be in that same role."

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