"We're miles away from where we were last year at this time, just with guys understanding the tempo of practice. We're so much more efficient. We're getting so many more reps in practice right now and guys are understanding they can do it and still survive. So that's been a really nice thing, and on top of it all, we actually know their names this year and that's been a big plus. And they know ours. So they know what to expect and we know what to expect from them.
"I think we've done a much better job after a year of recognizing strengths and weaknesses in each player and then trying to work on their weaknesses and put them in a position of strength so they can be successful."
How important is that individual knowledge of individual players?
"It's very critical. In my opinion, that was probably worth two losses for us last year, just not really knowing our guys well enough. It's hard to do in a short period of time and to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. They couldn't overcome the poor coaching they got in those two games, so hopefully we can do a much better job of that."
What were you able to learn from the scrimmages?
"The first scrimmage in Charlotte was not near as good as the one the other night, and the reason being is that it was the first time the coaches moved off the field and let them play. We just let them do it, let them run the show the same way they're going to do in a game. And you had guys looking around. We didn't have a whole lot of communication. There wasn't a lot of energy; there wasn't a lot of passion and enthusiasm. You talk about that and you start weaning them and making sure they understand they've got to lead themselves when they get out on the field.
"This past weekend, on Friday night in Kenan, we had a much better scrimmage all the way around."
Have there been any specific players or specific position groups that have really stood out to you?
"I'm not going to sit here and say that one position has stood out over another or that a single individual has really stood out. I think we've got a lot of guys that have gotten better this spring, but we've got a long way to go, a long way to go. But I do think we've gotten better as a football team."
How is the running back position playing out as you try to fill the void left by Gio Bernard?
"I'd say this spring that Romar Morris and A.J. Blue have really come on and are having a really good spring. I think Romar has been the guy that's really stepped out there. He's really explosive and he's the guy that can take it from goal line to goal line on any snap. Blue is more of a bruiser. He's more of the leader along with Bryn [Renner] on the offense right now. You're seeing good things out of both of them… I don't know if we'll have one single guy that will do it, but I'll promise you we will get it done."
Who's been auditioning for the punt return role?
"Khris Francis has been back there. Romar has actually been back there. We've had Tim Scott back there. And Reggie Wilkins. Even though he hasn't been able to go through spring, he's still been back there catching punts. That's still a work in progress. We didn't make a decision on Gio until we came out of camp last year, so I feel comfortable doing that. We'll have somebody that will get back there and do a good job."
We've talked a lot about the chrome helmets from the N.C. State game last season. Is that something you're aiming to do consistently in the future?
"We're trying to make a decision on how we're going to do that in the future, but we're going to have an alternative uniform and alternative helmet each and every year. We're going to continue to do that along with our base stuff. I'm always interested in tinkering with it and messing with it and I know the players really like it. On top of it all, the recruits really like it, so that's what it's about."
Do you work up a review of each season? If so, what were your takeaways from 2012?
"Yeah, we break down every aspect of everything we do, from each and every game to each and every player to every situation that happens in each of the games. It's called quality control. We sit there and do that in all three phases and try to break it down to get an idea of where we need to make some changes, where we need to tweak things so that we'll be better.
"After looking at it all, you've got to take care of the football offensively. We've got to do a better job of that. If we create more game-changing plays on special teams, we'll be better in that phase. Probably two of the phases were better than the other two phases. We've got to get the other two up to par. And then defensively, we can't give up the big plays. If we don't do that, we've got a chance to win more football games next year."
How do you go about filling the rosters for Saturday's spring game?
"What we really try to do is get some continuity amongst our units so that when we put five offensive linemen out there, they're going to work together as a first unit or five offensive linemen as a second unit... We will break them up this week and drop the roster off on Friday and then they'll know which team they're going to be on."
Who is vying to step in for Casey Barth at placekicker?
"We've got four guys that are really competing for the job right now, but I would have to say that probably leading the pack would be Thomas Moore. He's had a really good spring. He's been consistent. The ball's coming off his foot good. He's got some confidence in what he's doing, which is very important. If we had to go out there today, he'd be the guy to go."
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