As UNC’s second-year head coach has often repeated in recent months, he emphasized that his football program has “a long way to go” to reach his expectation level.
Fedora’s message to his team following the spring game in April was succinct: “Guys, we’re an average football team right now. Very average. But that’s okay. We don’t need to be ready to play right now.”
Fedora noted that the third phase of the season – summer workouts – was critical for the success of 2013 as that period of time is when team chemistry is formed and leaders emerge, all without the helping hand of the coaching staff.
He also stressed to the Rams Club boosters on hand that the 2012 season was merely a starting point.
“I don’t want you to think that last year is what we’re trying to achieve,” Fedora said. “It’s not. We don’t get credit for 8-4. Nobody really cares about that anymore because that was ’12. We’re in ’13 now, so we expect our offense to play better than they did last year, we expect our defense definitely to play better and we expect to be better on special teams.
“That’s what we’re shooting for each and every year, so we have got a long way to go, I assure you.”
When asked what the biggest challenge for the defense would be next year, Fedora quipped, “Besides Georgia Tech?”
“We’ve got to get a lot better on defense,” he continued. “We understand that. I’m going to expect us to be better next year even though we lost our two best players in Sylvester Williams and Kevin Reddick. But the guys coming back understand the scheme now. I don’t know if we’re going to be as good athletically on defense as we were this past year, but I’m going to expect us to be better because we’re going to understand the scheme.”
The most effective way to improve the defense, according to Fedora, is through quality recruiting.
“We’ve got to do a great job of infusing our team with defensive talent here in the near future,” he said.
The first question Fedora fielded revolved around the running back position as the UNC coaching staff works to replace second-round draft pick Gio Bernard.
“Right now, I don’t know if we’re going to be running back by committee or running back by one,” Fedora said. “I don’t know that yet. If we had to go tomorrow, I’d say A.J. Blue would be the guy that would start, but Romar [Morris] is going to play quite a bit and I would tell you that Khris Francis is going to play. And then as soon as we get this kid in from Greensboro (T.J. Logan), there’s no telling what’s going to happen with him.
“So I feel pretty good about what we have at the running back position. Is it going to be Gio next year? I don’t know. But I am excited about the future of the running backs that we have.”
Kevin Reddick was slotted as a first-round draft pick by ESPN.com in May 2012. In the weeks leading up to the 2013 draft, Reddick had dropped several rounds, but most analysts thought he would be a steal if he somehow fell to the sixth round.
Fedora told the crowd that he was disappointed, surprised and shocked that Reddick wasn’t drafted last weekend, adding that he didn’t understand because of the linebacker’s senior season and his work at the NFL combine in February.
Reddick, however, has never been one to employ self-pity.
“I talked to him immediately after the draft and I was worried about what to say to him because I knew he was going to be down,” Fedora said. “And he said, ‘Coach, it really doesn’t matter. I’m signing with the Saints and it doesn’t matter because I’m just going to use this as motivation and I’m going to prove to everybody that they were wrong. I’ve been doing that my whole life and it’s not going to stop now. I’m going to go in there and I’m going to bust my butt and I’m going to do a great job.’”
Fedora commented on other Tar Heels that had signed free agent deals, such as Erik Highsmith and Casey Barth, before learning from an audience member that sixth-year senior Devon Ramsay had been picked up by Tampa Bay.
“I didn’t even know that,” Fedora said upon hearing the Ramsay news. “That’s awesome. That guy’s like 36 years old… He was so old that we’d have staff meetings and I’d have Ramsay come in and we’d ask him questions about what we ought to do.”