Has taking over this program thus far been easier than you thought it might be, or harder, or can you even judge?
I don’t think it’s been easier or harder. If it’s going easy, I’m going to make it harder. As long as you’re never satisfied you’re always going to be pushing yourself to do something better each and every day. Not only do I talk about it with our team, but our coaches also, you either get better or get worse - every single day of your life. You don’t ever stay the same. So, we’re constantly challenging each other, players and coaches, what can we do to make this program better today? Or it’s going to get worse, one or the other.
I don’t think it’s been easier or harder… we’ve got a long way to go. We’re not there. We’re not where we want to be yet and I don’t know how long that’s going to take. But I do know we have a plan, we have a process, we’ll work it and we’ll get there.
On the recruiting front, what’s your goal or plan of attack on not letting in-state guys get away?
We just ordered a huge fence that will go up around the entire state, with barbed wire on top. That’s the deal is to put up a border around the state and not let anybody in and keep the players here. It’s definitely one of the things that we’ve made a priority.
We have got to keep the great players in the state of North Carolina here in the state. I told them the other day at the clinic, I don’t care what school you go to. If you grow up in the state of North Carolina and you’re a great player, you should stay in the state of North Carolina, whichever school you choose. There are a lot of great schools in the state of North Carolina.
That’s No. 1. Now how do we do that as a staff at the University of North Carolina, we have to put a product on the field that kids are excited about, kids want to play in that system. That they realize they can reach every dream and goal right here close to home where their friends and family can see them play each and every week. That’s a big deal. To be able to walk out of that locker room after playing in Kenan Stadium and your mom and dad be able to hug you around the neck and tell you what you did good and what you did bad.
For you to have the opportunity to reach your dreams and goals at a place where you family can have that college experience with you, is something that I don’t think a kid should pass up or want to pass up.
What did you learn about the challenges of recruiting at Southern Miss when you had two SEC schools in the same state?
You better go to work every day. You cannot take a day off in recruiting. It’s always been my philosophy that you identify who the great players are and then you recruit the heck out of them. You don’t listen to people say ‘You can’t get him, his daddy went to this school so you’re not going to get him’ or ‘These schools are recruiting this guy so you’re not going to get him.’
I know one thing - if you don’t recruit him, you won’t get him. There’s no way you’ll get him if you don’t recruit him. So you do your best, you go out and you recruit. You work your butt off, you build relationships with the players and their coaches and the families and then you let the chips fall. You’re going to get some and you’re not going to get some and that’s just the way it is. You can’t get your feeling hurt and you can’t let it bother you, you’ve got to just keep moving.
Was recruiting in-state one of the things you talked with Coach (Mack) Brown about before you took the job?
That was one of the things that I asked him, if there was enough talent in the state of North Carolina to get it done. He assured me that there was. The key is getting them to stay. He said it took time for him to get that to happen too. Towards the end when he was here, he was getting the top kids in the state and they were staying here. Again, it’s an evolution. It won’t happen overnight, even though that may be frustrating on my part, that it doesn’t happen overnight, and I’m pushing coaches every day to make sure it happens. It takes time. You can ask my wife, I’m not very patient.
How good are the athletes you’ve inherited?
We’ve got some good athletes, some good players. The problem is that we don’t have enough of them. There’s not enough depth in our program right now where I feel comfortable. I don’t know when that will happen. You’re not going to go through the season with 11 on offense and 11 on defense and 11 on special teams - it doesn’t work that way. Building depth is the key to your success on your football team.
Where is the lack of depth most noticeable?
Offensive line. Defensive line. Linebackers. Secondary. Wide Receiver. Running Back. Quarterback. Punter. Kicker. Holder. And deep snapper. Other than that, I left the tight ends. We got some quality depth at tight end, so that’s the position I feel comfortable with right now. But you’re an ankle away from not having any depth there too, that’s why you have to have it. Weird things happen each and every year… crazy things happen, they’re kids. Building depth is very, very important.
?Is the new offensive system a good fit for the personnel you have this year?
I think we’ll make it a good fit. That’s the key, taking the offense or the defense or the special teams philosophies and molding them around the talent you have. If we’re good football coaches -- which I hope we are, I’ve got a great staff -- our staff has to do a good job of figuring out what we have, what kind of talent we have and then mold the offense, defense and special teams around those guys so we can take advantage of what they can do.
How are the offensive linemen both mentally and physically adjusting to the speed of the new offense?
I always enjoyed walking off the field with those guys at the end of spring ball, because they’re just like (exhales). I love messing with those big guys like that because… Hurst, we were coming off the field, it was like the seventh day of practice, he said ‘Coach, I’ve had more reps in seven days than I had in 15 last year.’ I said, ‘Well get used to it, that’s what it’s going to be like, that’s just the way it is.’ What you saw of them was make progress each and every day and by the end of spring there was a comfort level there.
It takes time. We’ll go back in fall camp and it’ll be tough on them again. If we can get the temperature high enough and all those things that we need to have a tough fall camp. We’ll see how it goes.
Do you want to have a situation where one quarterback is on the field 95 percent of the time, or do you want a backup playing maybe 20 to 25 percent of the time?
It depends. It depends on whether he deserves to be out there getting some reps. Building that depth is very important. So, if something happened to Bryn the next guy has to be ready to go. You can’t just sit back and say ‘Well we lost Bryn, the season is over with.’ The next guy is an ankle away from leading this football team.
Probably the hardest job on the football field is being the backup quarterback. Because mentally you have to prepare yourself to go play a game. You have to know the game plan inside and out just like you’re going to be the starter, knowing that you may never step on the field. A lot of kids can’t do that – they’re not mature enough to handle that. You see, you notice it, when they get thrown into that situation… they fail. Then you get the ones that, they get out there, and they make it go. And then you know how special that kid was, that he was able to prepare himself week in and week in out and was ready to go when they needed him.
Could you address Marquise Williams, and what you’ve seen from him?
Marquise has got plenty of talent, and really, what we do the offense fits Marquise. Now, it’s just Marquise has got to play better than Bryn does. If he wants to be on the field, he’s got to be better than Bryn.
We don’t do it any (differently) than the way Xerox does it or IBM or whatever. You’ve got two guys, one guys making sales and the other one’s not. Guess what? This one gets treated better, this one gets a raise, this one gets to go on a family vacation paid for by the company. And this one? 'Hey, you stand over and watch.'
Check back Monday for Part IV…