“Ready or not, it’s here. The season is here. We’re in game week mode. The kids have worked extremely hard, we had a really good camp and now we’re fixing to find out a little bit about who the Tar Heels are this year.”
Will Gio Bernard return punts?
“I think so. If we went out there today Gio would be returning the punts. He’s done a nice job, he’s handled the ball really well, he’s made some good decisions and if you get the ball in his hands that is another time out in open space that he has an opportunity to do something.”
How much progress have you seen from Bryn Renner from the start of camp to now?
“First let me say how far he came from starting back in January and spring ball… to where he started out camp. It was very obvious how much he worked this summer and how hard he worked on improving as a quarterback in this offense over the summer and now he’s even gotten better throughout camp. Bryn will be the first one to tell you he’s not where he wants to be yet and I’ll sure as heck tell you that, but he has come a long, long way.
“The two things that I talk to him most about at this point is taking care of the football and managing the game. That’s it. Those are the only two things that I want him to worry about. Taking care of the football and managing the game. If he does those two things then we’ll be fine. Obviously the offense will only go as far as he’ll take us or as far as he’s willing to take us and I know this, that guy’s got a lot of fire in him. He’s got a lot of ‘want to’ and so we’re going to be fine.”
How far along is he compared to other first-year quarterbacks you have coached in this system?
“I would have to say… compared to Austin [Davis] his first year, Zac Robinson, Chris Leak, Wes Counts, he’s as far along as any of them. He probably has more physical talent than all the others and I would say mentally he’s as far along as any of them at this point in his career.”
On freshman wide receiver Quinshad Davis:
“Quinshad was late getting out just getting cleared medically. That was interesting to watch that process, because for most young men when you’re not cleared and you’re standing there in a pair of shorts and coach is telling you to make sure you get mental reps and make sure you’re learning what to do and then you get out there and 90-percent of the time they have no idea what to do. Quinshad was different. Quinshad prepared over all that time period when he was not being able to do anything he was learning what to do and so I was proud of the fact that he was able to do that and in a short period he’s shown he has the talent to help this offense so he’s definitely going to play for us this year.”
On freshman defensive end Jessie Rogers:
“Jessie has come in and is a very mature young man. He was able to handle the coaching. He was able to handle the workload. He’s got some really good endurance. He’s got some football savvy about him. He understands the game and so the workload that Deke [Adams] put on him, he was able to handle. A lot of freshmen aren’t able to handle those things, so he’s going to back-up Kareem [Martin] and is definitely going to play in the game. There is no doubt about it.”
On freshman Bandit Shakeel Rashad:
“You come out of the summer and Shakeel is one of the strongest guys on our football team as a true freshman. I believe he had the highest power clean on the team at about 375 [pounds] or somewhere in that area as a true freshman. He can run. He’s coming off the knee injury from the spring so he didn’t go through spring with us, but he’s really done a nice job this camp. Rashad is going to work himself into the lineup throughout this year on defense and on our special teams.”
What did you learn from Saturday’s mock game?
“That we made a lot of mistakes. A lot of mistakes and I’m glad we weren’t playing on this past Saturday. But that is why we do it. We do everything as far as how you’re getting out of bed in the morning, when you come down to the meeting, what you’re going to look like. You’re not going to look like you just got out of bed. You’re going to be alert and you’re going to be ready to go. Every single detail was covered in that day and we did it all. For the older guys it was like ‘why am I doing this’, but everything had to be done. Every single thing.
“Traditionally when you do something like that the focus isn’t always where we would want it to be as a coaching staff and therefore you see the mistakes that are made throughout the day and on the field and so then we are able to come back and say that is why we’re doing this, because the mistakes that were made today we can’t allow those mistakes come next Saturday. It was a great experience for everybody involved actually.”
What have you learned about this team and group of kids since you were hired?
“The biggest thing is probably they’re hungry. They’ve been hungry for somebody to care about them. They’re hungry for something positive to happen in their lives. They’ve been eager to please. They want to do things the way we ask them to do them.”
On the team's focus in practice:
“The focus for us, I want you to understand, this week is... we haven’t spent all of our time focusing on Elon. Our focus has been on North Carolina. Our focus has been on the Tar Heels and who we are, because we don’t have an identity yet. We won’t have an identity until after the game Saturday. Trying to figure out who we are and we’ve talked about the different keys to victory on offense, defense and special teams and what it’s going to take to win the football game and if we do those things we’ll be successful. If we don’t, we won’t. It’s a very simple game so as long as we do the things we asked them to do we’ll be alright.”
What do you hope to see out of the defense on Saturday?
“First of all, I want you to see them flying around. I want them to play with great energy. I want it to seem like there are 13, 14 defenders on the field. Guys are flying around so hard they’re enjoying playing the game. They got to be great tacklers and when they get there I want them to get there with an attitude. We got to limit any big plays. They’re going to have some, I understand that, but we got to limit it and we got to create turnovers. If we do those things then we’ll be a good defensive unit on Saturday.”
What do you hope to see out of the offense on Saturday?
“Number one, we've got to take care of the football. If we take care of the football that gives us a chance. We got to play with fanatical effort and tempo. That’s really big for us and I mean fanatical. That’s really important. We got to execute in the critical situations. We’re talking third downs, fourth downs, red zone, score zone. We have to out-execute the opponent in those situations. Again, we do those things, we’ll be okay.”
Is there any extra excitement for you with this being your first game as head coach of North Carolina?
“I am overly excited about being at the University of North Carolina from day one when Bubba [Cunningham] graciously offered me the job to be the head football coach here, so that hasn’t changed. The excitement level hasn’t changed. I couldn’t be any more excited, but this is something that I do and I’ve been doing for 26 years. I can tell you I have the same knot in my stomach that is way down low every game week from day one since I was a player and it’ll move all the way up to my throat by the kickoff. That hasn’t changed and I hope it never does. I’m really excited, but it is our first opportunity to go out there as a football team and show the Tar Heel fans who we are.”
Has it been decided which coaches will be in the box upstairs?
“Yes it has. On offense, Blake Anderson is in the box and Randy Jordan is in the box. On defense we’ve got Dave Duggan in the box and I believe he’s the only one on defense. We have obviously our [graduate assistants]. We’ve got GA’s up there offensively and we’ve got GA’s defensively that are up there, but that is it.”
Follow IC on Twitter @InsideCarolina.
Like IC on Facebook InsideCarolina.