What has been the goal of the past couple of weeks and have you accomplished that goal?
“First of all, going into camp is all about trying to figure out what our football team can do and what it cant do and then try to prepare for the entire season and not for one game. Since camp has been over with starting on Wednesday [of last week] we started focusing on the first game and, since then, that’s what we’ve done.
“The game plan was installed by Sunday. Today was really a polish day for us and we’ll do the same thing on Wednesday and Thursday and I will tell you they’re really tired of practicing against each other. They’re tired of going full speed, but not being able to hit, because they’re trying to take care of their teammates. We don’t want anymore contact than we have to and they’re sick and tired of going full speed and not hitting, so they’re getting pretty chippy out there and there’s a lot of frustration on their part and on the coaches part so it’s getting interesting.”
Where has the team grown the most leading up to the first game?
“I would have to say probably mental toughness is the biggest thing, because the tempo that we’re trying to practice and the way we’re trying to practice – the way we’re doing things, it takes a lot of mental toughness to do it and I think I’ve seen our guys grow a lot through camp. It was a grueling camp. It was very difficult. It was the hardest thing that they’ve done to this point in their lives and I think it is going to pay off in the long run.”
How much work on ‘off the field’ stuff have you done as far as the identity of the team when they’re not just playing football?
“Quite a bit actually. During camp everybody talks about the amount of practice you do, but it’s almost two-to-one as far as meetings and walkthroughs and all the things from when you start at 6:15 in the morning and you put them to bed at 11 o’clock at night and you have them the entire time. You can only practice so much. The rest of it is meetings. The rest of it is talking about the identity of our football team. Who we want to be, how we’re going to carry ourselves, how we’re going to live our lives. Whether it is in the dorms or on campus or on Franklin Street or wherever we are when we’re representing the University of North Carolina we want the Tar Heel nation to be proud.”
It seems like accountability is something you’ve really tried to hammer home with your team. Is that a fair statement?
“That’s a good statement, yeah. We had to deal with a little bit of that today. In a weight workout somebody was late to the workout and so the entire team paid for that and nobody liked that, but anytime you do something there’s a ripple effect to your life. It’s not just affecting you. It’s affecting you, your teammates, your family, the entire Tar Heel nation and so we’re starting to understand that, but that will take some time.”
On addressing week-to-week injuries:
“I’ll tell you how we do it. We do not talk about injuries, so that will be a real short deal for us each week. What I’ll do is I’ll tell if we’ve got anybody that is going to be done for the year and that will be about it. Right now I don’t have anything to say so we’re in good shape.”
On Gio Bernard returning punts:
“If you could put the ball in one persons hands out in the open field, who would you want to put it in? Gio’s been doing a great job with it. I think he’s excited about the opportunity. It’s another touch for him, another opportunity to make a big play and I’m hoping he makes a lot of them.”
On the battle between Marquise Williams and Kanler Coker for the second quarterback spot:
“Both those kids really competed hard and did a good job. Really they worked really well just fighting for that number two spot. There was a great competition going on there throughout fall camp and it seemed like one day it would be one and one day it would be the next, but Marquise finally edged out Kanler at that position, but I would feel comfortable with either one of them going out there.”
On the running back position outside of Gio Bernard:
“If you asked me who improved the most in fall camp I would have to say it would’ve been [A.J.] Blue and [Romar] Morris. Blue lost 20 pounds just coming into to camp to prepare himself for what he needed to do and Blue became the leader of that unit. He’s the most vocal guy in that group. He’s very well respected by his teammates.
“Romar, just watching him and how much more comfortable he was with running the zone, seeing the cutback lanes, putting his foot in the ground and getting north, he really improved a lot too. Both of them catch the ball very well out of the backfield.”
Which freshmen do you anticipate playing for you this season?
“Quinshad [Davis] is going to play for sure. I would say Kendrick Singleton is going to play… Maybe in the offensive line the one I think has a chance would be Caleb Peterson that is preparing. On the back end, you’re going to see T.J. Jiles and Malik Simmons are definitely going to play for us. You’re going to see Shakeel Rashad and you’re going to see Jessie Rogers. Those freshmen will play for us. Now we have others that may play on some special teams, but those guys are going to play for us.”
Have you tried to reach out to former Carolina players and build that community?
“Yeah we have. Actually, we had around 75 to 80 of them back for practice one day during camp. We’re constantly talking to them. We’ve had various guys stop by and watch practice and want them to know that anybody that has ever played the game for the Tar Heels we want them always to know they’re welcome. Come to practice, bring their kids, watch practice, walk around that practice field where they sweated, where they bled and all those old memories flood back into your head. We want the to feel like it’s home, because it is. That’s a tremendous thing.
“And then I’d like for our guys to meet them, because I want our guys to know who built North Carolina. Who are the guys that came before them, what are the stories that they have, what can they learn from them and I think that it’s very important to learn both ways.”
What do you want the game day atmosphere to be like at Kenan Stadium?
“I want every Tar Heel fan when they leave the stadium to say ‘you know what, we have the best game day experience in the country.’ As I went around and talked to all the fraternities and all the sororities that I got to visit with and the student organizations, they all want to have a great game day experience. They talk about seeing these on T.V. and this one and that one and I said we can make it whatever we want.
“Whatever we want our game day experience to be, we can do it. It just takes effort on everyone’s part to get there, to be in the stadium, to have a rear end in every seat in the stadium and to be loud and crazy while you’re there and have a great time. That’s all it takes and so you got to get out of bed, you got to get there, you got to get in the stands early and you got to have fun. If we do that I think everybody will have a good time”
What is the relationship with Roy Williams and the basketball program like?
“It’s been awesome. The very first time I got to really spend any time with him was at the Chick-Fil-A Classic down in Reynolds Plantation in Georgia at the golf tournament. I had a blast with him. I really did. I’m not much of a golfer. He’s a great golfer and I had a lot of fun with him that weekend. Our schedules don’t mix very well, but when we do get a chance to see each other it’s been really great.
“I had him come out and he spoke to our team one night. I said coach I’d love to have you come, but our team meeting is at 9:15 and he said ‘I’ll be there’ and he was there. He did a tremendous job visiting with our players and talking with them about what it takes to be successful.”
How has punter Thomas Hibbard looked so far this fall?
“Tommy’s really had a good fall camp. He’s punted the ball well. We’ve asked him to do some different things with the ball and he’s really responded well, so I think Tommy is on the verge for having a really good year for us.”
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