Letterman's Roundtable

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders hosts a collection of former Tar Heels for the weekly 'State of the Heels' football roundtable discussion.

Buck Sanders – It was an ugly win down in Miami, but a win is a win. I didn't expect that kind of a game, but I'm sure Larry Fedora was quite happy to get out of Miami with a win.

Brian Chacos - Buck, first of all, I'm excited that we got a big-time ACC road win. The biggest plus that I got out of it was that it's a huge recruiting war win for us. To be able to go down there was another huge selling point for Larry Fedora and his staff to go into recruits' houses and now say that we've taken out two of the juggernauts in the Coastal Division with saying that we've taken out Virginia Tech and Miami back-to-back in the same year. I don't know how many Carolina fans would have thought going into the season we would have done it. So, it's a huge recruiting win for us. I think in this year, it's big time for us. That's the biggest take-away I took from this game, which is huge for this staff and this program, I think.

Buck Sanders - I thought the defense kind of grew up on Saturday; that was a big stop, Quincy, that they made at the end of the game.

Quincy Monk - Yeah, it sure was. You saw guys flying on the ball. Trey Boston made a lot of great plays for us, and the rest of the team. I think what you're seeing now, Buck, is that these guys are starting to feel comfortable – I mentioned it last week – but they're feeling more comfortable each and every week with this defensive scheme and defensive packages. You've got these guys flying around the ball and getting more confident. When you play more confident, you can go out there and make those kinds of stops that we saw in Miami. You've got to take your hats off to these young guys stepping up. Going down to South Beach, Miami, it's not really a sell-out crowd, but they went out there and took care of business. Like Chac' said earlier, it's a great momentum for the recruiting trail. As we take over the Coastal, more and more guys are going to want to play for a team on the rise.

Buck Sanders – Mark, there were a lot of big plays on defense on Saturday, but probably none was bigger than Tommy Heffernan's sack at the end of the game that made it 4th and 16. He's really been a real surprise. We've talked about him in the past, but he continues to make big plays.

Mark Paschal - Yeah, Tommy impressed me all game. The whole defense is really impressive; they tackled really well. That's one thing that really stood out to me – is how well they tackled. I mentioned going into this game that they'd really have to focus on winning the one-on-ones, and they did. They made the tackle when it was one-on-one in space and Tommy played a heck of a game; the whole defense played a heck of a game. How about Tre Boston? Absolutely awesome. The secondary has gotten better tackling. It's just been a drastic improvement from the beginning. It's been great to watch these guys grown each week.

Buck Sanders – Scott, let's move on and talk about the offensive line a little bit. Todd McShay and Mel Kiper ranked North Carolina's offensive line as No. 1 in the nation earlier this week on ESPN. They were talking about the best college offensive lines and they picked North Carolina's line over Alabama. That's pretty huge. Of course, people can say what they want, but they have only given up those four sacks; they're making a lot of holes; they're creating a lot of lanes. They have really established themselves over the course of this season.

Scott Lenahan - I think that one thing you can watch that's impressive, at least Chacos can attest to this, is when you watch the offensive line, these guys are so good that a lot of times we're putting these guys on man-on-man. A lot of times that's hard to do. I was watching Cooper this past week, just watching him manhandle a guy one-on-one and not let him get past, which is impressive, especially the kind of talent that Miami had on the inside. You see guys like Gio, he's running the ball, I think there was one run that was 20, 30 yards and, to see the hole, the hole was huge that he had to run through. That's definitely a testament to the offensive line and how well they're playing and how talented they are. I'll say it again, I think Brennan Williams is a sick offensive tackle and he's going to be a big-time offensive tackle in the NFL.

Brian Chacos - Hey Buck, I just want to add something real quick. Brennan William is going to make a lot of money by the time this season is done. He didn't get any pre-season attention like James Hurst and Jonathan Cooper necessarily got, but this kid has had an unbelievable last three games in particular. I just wanted to mention that. In going back, on Gio's first touchdown, there were three pancake blocks from the offensive line. That obviously makes it easier for Gio.

Scott Lenahan - Did you see the holding block they had when that big moose, No. 76, actually pancaked the defensive back and they called it holding and called the play back? I think it was in the third quarter. He actually pancaked the guy and they called it holding; it was unbelievable.

Brian Chacos - It was a terrible call. I did see it.

Buck Sanders – Matt, Bryn Renner was humming right along in the first quarter, making everything look easy; they're marching down the field; they get a touchdown; they get the ball back. They're marching down again and then he throws that pick on the one-yard line – made a bad read and threw a pick, that's how I saw it. After that, he really didn't seem like the same guy.

Matt Baker - I wouldn't call it a bad read; he just ... That was just a throw he knows he couldn't make; it wasn't in his read; it was a last second, second thought throw. You can't make those down in the red zone because the field gets tight and that's exactly what happens – those balls get picked off. Linebackers come from inside and take those balls away. But, you're right, he was a little off his game this weekend. I think he did a good job of managing the offense; some days quarterbacks are just off. It's funny you mentioned it. I was driving into work on Monday and Mike and Mike in the Morning were talking with Jaws about Andrew Luck and Jaws was talking about how sometimes, as quarterbacks, you're just out there warming up and the ball is just not coming off you hand right – whatever you try to do, it just doesn't feel right and you're a little bit off. That's absolutely true as a quarterback – some days you just ... one or two games a year, you just don't have it. Andrew Luck had one of those games Sunday. I think Bryn had a little bit of the same issues on Saturday but to still get a "W" out of that is pretty good.

Buck Sanders – Let's move on from the Miami game and talk about Duke. I've been looking over some of the numbers, comparing their numbers from this year and looking at their schedule and results. This is not your typical Duke team, just from looking at everything that I've seen. This is a better Duke team, I believe, than I've seen probably since Spurrier left. They're not that good, but they're better than what they've been in the past. Chac', would you agree with that?

Brian Chacos - They are, Buck. But, let's not be too quick to give them so much credit. They haven't really played anyone. But, they're opportunistic. They've got an unbelievable receiver – let's give this kid credit – Connor Vernon – he's had all these ACC records. Coach Cutcliffe is an unbelievable coach. He's spent his time in the SEC and has done some fantastic things. Obviously, Peyton Manning coming and spending his time off-season with the guy says a lot, but let's not give them too much credit. I think what we're going to do, obviously, is continue to establish the run and go into Durham on Saturday night and take care of business. Before everyone looks at Duke's record and thinks that they're much improved, if you look at their schedule and who they've played, they really haven't played anyone. If you look at Virginia, Virginia has just had an awful season. Beside Stanford, they really haven't played a single team that's worth even mentioning. So, before we give them too much credit, let's just hold off a little bit.

Matt Baker - Last time we didn't give a team very much credit, it was Wake Forest, and, they stuck it to us on their home field. So, I wouldn't be so quick to discount any teams here.

Brian Chacos - Yeah, but we didn't have Gio. I think if you looked at this team now, Baker, than the team we were at Wake Forest, I think it's night and day between this Carolina team now and that Carolina team then.

Matt Baker - I agree with you. But you know this is the game Duke circles on their schedule; it's at their place.

Buck Sanders – It's a night game, it will be a big game for them.

Brian Chacos - Yeah, but the question was, is Duke much improved? Duke has improved, but let's not be so quick to think that they're top of the heap or they're really that much improved from when Spurrier ... when they won the ACC Championship. They're close to being bowl eligible for the first time since, when, the 1990s?

Buck Sanders - Eighteen years.

Brian Chacos - Yeah, whatever the case; it's been a while. For them to now try and be bowl eligible, and if you look at the rest of their schedule, it's a nightmare. Let's just not be too quick to give them too much credit.

Buck Sanders – I didn't mean to make them into the Green Bay Packers, but they're improved. It's not just their wins and losses, it's just their numbers overall. If you look back to 2010, out of the 17 categories that the NCAA tracks, they were dead last in the ACC in eight of them. They're not the 2010 team. They're not putting up those kind of really, really stinky numbers.

Brian Chacos - No.

Buck Sanders – Quincy, one of the things that impressed me is that it seems like North Carolina, on the defensive side of the ball, they come into each and every game with a very specific game plan. 'Ok, here's how we're going to handle Virginia Tech, we're going to stone the run and make Logan Thomas beat us with his arm.' Against Miami, 'ok, we're going to take away the deep ball come hell or high water and make them beat us with the underneath stuff.' That's getting to be something I look forward to seeing almost every week. I know that every team probably tries to do that, but they're coming up with a specific game plan and they're going out and executing it – at least they have in recent games. Quincy, would you agree with that?

Quincy Monk - Yeah, I would definitely agree with that. You've got to give credit to the coaching staff on that. They're identifying the other team's strengths and coming up with a specific game plan to make the team one dimensional. Like with Virginia Tech and Miami, they had been watching a lot of game tapes so you kind of see the tendencies and where they've been successful. What Carolina is doing now, is making different schemes, like we used to do with making packages, to make sure that we keep an opponent more one dimensional. When you make a team one dimensional where they can only do a pass or a run, then you can pin your ears back and try to fire off their tendencies. When you do that, you take the air out of the other opponent's chest. On the defense side, that's what you want to do – you want to make sure that the offensive team to a point where you're not really having to second-guess whether it's going to be a run or a pass – you know exactly what they're going to do. It just makes you play that much faster and you can make plays when you know what the other team is going to do.

Buck Sanders – Mark, I think that the game plan that they had in place for Miami defensively will work pretty well against Duke as well, probably should work better because Duke can't run the ball at all, they're horrible running the ball. So, do you see North Carolina implementing the same game plan, just not letting themselves get beat deep and making Duke focus on an intermediate passing game?

Mark Paschal - First, there's a couple of things I want to say about Duke. I don't care what you say, they're much improved; they're not the typical Duke team. This is a huge game for them; it's at night. They haven't had the Victory Bell in quite some time. And, I hope the Carolina Tar Heel team right now takes as much pride as we did in securing that Victory Bell and making sure it comes back to Chapel Hill. I hope this football team doesn't go into Duke lightly because they're going to throw the ball around; they've got some explosive receivers. They've got a quarterback who has been there for a long time and done a very good job this year – I know he's been injured a little bit. But, they jump out and they stunned Virginia Tech last week and, yeah, they ended up getting beat pretty bad by Virginia Tech, playing up in Blacksburg is tough for anybody.

I think they're going to go into the game with a game plan to key on getting after the quarterback – make him get rid of the ball – the longer that he has to sit back there and go through his progressions and find open guys running through the secondary, the more effective they will be. I see us taking a very similar approach. Second, the Miami game had that umbrella-type defense but we're not going to get beat over the top; we cannot give up explosive plays, and try and keep everything underneath us and just continue to tackle the way we tackled the past couple of weeks. I think we'll have an outstanding defensive effort against a more talented Duke team than we're accustomed to seeing. Regardless guys, let's be honest – Duke plays us really tough, no matter their record, no matter how many wins or losses either team has – Duke plays Carolina tough, especially at home. We've had too many years over there where we won by a field goal, we blocked an extra point, whatever it may be – this is going to be not just a walk in the park – I don't see it being a walk in the park, it just never seems to be with Duke.

Buck Sanders – For the record, I'm kind of on Mark's side of this argument instead of Chac'. Scott, where do you fit in here?

Scott Lenahan - I'm with you Buck. I never agree with Chacos on anything. But, I'll definitely disagree with him here, as well. He doesn't know what he's talking about (laughing). The thing about Duke is they always play us tough. Mark hit the nail on the head when he said that. Whenever we play them, even if they are terrible, they maybe won half a game that year, and we were bowl eligible, we were going to a bowl game, somehow they always bring it right down to the wire. We had to block an extra point, I remember Kentwan Balmer, they brought it right down to the wire and Kentwan blocked an extra point to keep us in the game. So, they're always going to bring their best. One of my buddies, they used to play for Duke, was texting me and he was really upset about the game being played in the middle of the season, which I didn't mind too much. So, I know that that even shows me how important this game is to them and how, historically, it's been important to them. So, I guarantee they are going to bring all they have. Like Baker said, they're going to circle the wagons and fire at will.

Buck Sanders – You know, Baker, I know you and a couple of the other guys, Chac' and probably Scott, may have been involved in that 45-44 game in 2006 and Duke wasn't any good then. So, where do you stand on the whole Duke deal?

Matt Baker - Yeah, exactly, Paschal had it right, they're going to come out with everything they have. It's not a game you take lightly. At the end of the last game, I was thinking about Duke already, and that's a trap game right there – you go out and beat Virginia Tech, beat Miami, people are starting to talk about you, Mel Kiper is calling the offensive line the best in the country, which I agree they probably are, this is a trap game right here, if there's ever such a thing. We have a lot of things going for us right now. N.C. State, who's our big football rival, the following week – we better not take this game lightly because they'll come out and punch us In the mouth. I don't know if we'll be able to recover at their place. But, yeah, I think I'm on everyone's side but Chacos here – we better not take them lightly.

Buck Sanders – Everybody seems to have out-voted you Chac'.

Brian Chacos - I'm not going to defend myself. I never said this was going to be an easy game.

Matt Baker - Oh, now he changes it.

Brian Chacos - No, I'm just answering Buck's question. Buck said this was a much improved Duke team and it obviously is because of their record. But, a lot of you guys aren't living in the local market where you're hearing about Duke and how great Duke is, like they're a second coming ... they're like an ACC Championship threat this year. It's ridiculous how much praise they get around here in the local Triangle markets – it's unbelievable. So, I was answering that question.

Scott Lenahan - You're right. We're just giving you a hard time.

Matt Baker - You're so sensitive (laughing)

Brian Chacos - I was just answering the question, but unlike you guys who are scared to go out on a limb, I think we're going to go into Durham, I think Coach Fedora is going to have the guys ready, and I think we're going to win by at least 17 in Durham. So, unlike you guys who are afraid to go out on a limb and make a prediction, I think we go in there and win by 17 and it's not even a game.

Buck Sanders – Well, I know how to get predictions right and that's to not make any. You can't be wrong if you don't say anything.

Brian Chacos - I'm confident enough of our offensive line to go in there and take care of business, Buck.

Buck Sanders – All right guys, it's been great. That's going to wrap it up for now, talk to you next week.


    Featured Lettermen in Today's Roundtable

  • Matt Baker quarterbacked the Tar Heels in 2005, while amassing the 7th-highest season passing yardage total in school history. Following his UNC career, he was a member of six different NFL teams.

  • Brian Chacos's UNC career (2001-06) included 35 starts at offensive tackle, a selection to the Lombardi Watch List, and All-ACC Academic honors.

  • Scott Lenahan manned the center position in Chapel Hill from 2003-07, overlapping two coaching regimes. Nicknamed 'Tank' for his weight room exploits, he earned the top senior honor on the '07 Tar Heel team.

  • Quincy Monk recorded 247 tackles at linebacker during his Tar Heel career from 1998-2001. He was drafted into the NFL and spent three seasons in the professional ranks.

  • Mark Paschal captained the Tar Heels in 2008. As a middle linebacker, he led the team in tackles prior to a career-ending injury and didn't miss a game in his four-year career up until that point.

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