How is the health of the cornerback group?
They were beat up during the spring. From my understanding, Tim Scott was strong all spring. Jabari (Price) didn’t go through much of spring, but he’s ready to go from my understanding. T.J. Jiles is going to have a cast on his wrist from some bone that hasn’t healed there, but he’ll l be able to play with it. Malik Simmons will get released at some point during camp is my understanding. We’ll have to be smart during camp. Also now you’ve got Desmond Lawrence that’s come in, you’ve got Brian Walker, those are guys that are going to be competing for those jobs. That’s when you get into that fine line; how hard do you push them to get that competition but also at the same time how do you get them there August 29 being healthy?
Do you have any advice for Dave Doeren in his first year in the area?
Dave doesn’t need advice from me. He’s come in and fit in well. I’ve met Dave a few times and seen him at some different functions. Seems to be a great guy and I’m sure he’s doing a great job with his program. Who am I to give advice? I haven’t done anything yet.
Do you still keep a countdown clock for the N.C. State game?
I know how many days there are until a lot of things.
Are you sure your defense will be better this year?
I’m going to expect our defense to be better this year. Usually your team meets your expectations. We’re going to expect more out of them even though we lost some really good kids. They have a better feel for what we’re doing. They’re going to be more comfortable and I’m going to expect them to play smart, play fast and play physical.
What are some things you can point to last year, as far as decision making, that you’d like to see Bryn improve on?
Early on he threw some balls that he didn’t need to throw. Part of game management for a quarterback is understanding those situations. Hey, it’s 3rd and 14, you’re trying to force that ball in there and you throw a pick and you really don’t need to. It’s OK, in that situation on 3rd and 14; the chances are less than 25 percent that you’re going to pick it up. We’re OK punting the ball. You either want to score, kick it a score or punt the ball to the other team. If you do those three things on offense, you’ve got a pretty good chance. You put them in a position where they’ve got to go the long haul to get where they need to go; your defense is going to play much better. And so if we do those three things, score, kick it a score, or kick the ball, punt it to them and make them go the long haul we’re going to be OK on offense. And that’s what Bryn got better about as the season went on.
Do you keep stats like that, 3rd and 14, chances of successes?
Yeah, sure we do. We have certain expectations on 3rd and short, 3rd and medium, 3rd and long, what we want our team to accomplish. If they accomplish those things we put ourselves in a position to win a football game. The first thing is just don’t turn the football over. If you don’t do that, you’ve got a chance to win the game, right there. That simple enough. Just don’t turn the football over, take care of the football. Bryn did a better job of that as the year went on, so he knows if we just take care of the football - if we don’t convert any third downs, but we take care of the football we still have a chance to win a football game.
What’s your approach to non-conference scheduling?
I still have to figure out; I don’t think the selection committee knows yet, if strength of schedule is going to be the most important thing. I still think wins are going to be more important than strength of schedule. I don’t want to schedule yourself out of that opportunity also. I think time will tell what the committee is actually looking for because I don’t know if the committee really knows yet.
How tough is it to balance a non-conference schedule?
Scheduling is very difficult nowadays. You’re trying to make sure you got enough home games to please your fans. But at the same time, they want quality opponents. It’s got to fit the schedule, who is willing to come the same year you need them to come and vice versa. Bubba’s got a great philosophy about it; he and I spend a lot of time talking about it with the rest of the ADs in our program. We want to bring quality opponents into Kenan Stadium. To do that you’ve got to be willing to go to their place, they don’t just come, you have to go back. Making it all fit is a very difficult puzzle. We want to play quality opponents every year.
How concerned are you that the perception of a league is going to determine who gets left out?
I think the ACC perception-wise is great. We’re in a great position. If you think about what John Swofford has done with the league this past year and everything has happened, he has done a tremendous job. The league is stronger now than it’s ever been and it’s only going to get stronger. If you look at our non-conference scheduling, it’s tougher than any other league out there. We’re doing the right things if we’re going to close the gap on what, perceptionally, is out there with the other league.
Would you like the idea of nine conference games?
I think having eight conference games gives you more flexibility in your non-conference games and what you’re trying to accomplish. I think if you go to nine and it makes it that much more difficult.
Would you like to play a game in Charlotte frequently?
I would love to. We have a great fan base in Charlotte. I think it’d be awesome to play at Panthers Stadium there every so often. I think that game against South Carolina in ‘15 will be awesome.
Would you like to see that every year, opening in Charlotte?
It’s got to fit our home… we have to make sure we have enough home games. I don’t know if I want to give up home games to go to Charlotte for our fans. There’s something special about playing in that stadium, our kids love it and our fans love of us playing in that stadium. Occasionally, I think it’s’ really good for us.
How much is changing the perception of the ACC now about winning?
That’s what it’s about now. You look at the opening weekend with the ACC and the games we’re playing that opening weekend. That’s a big weekend for us. We can make a lot of hay that weekend, perceptionally, across this country.
Could A.J. Blue be a guy with more opportunities to breakout this year?
If you go back and you really look and break down when A.J. Blue was on the field and you watch what he did when he was out there, it was pretty dang good. Everybody says, ‘Well, Gio is gone what are you going to do?’ When Romar Morris was out there he made some big plays for us. They just didn’t have the same opportunities that Gio did. Gio was on the field the majority of the time because he was so productive. And our guys understand that, if you produce you play.
I’m excited about A.J. getting the opportunity to go out there and produce, because the guy has some very good talent. Right now if I had to grab one guy and say, hey like Kevin Reddick was the heart and soul of the team last year, A.J. Blue has stepped into that role. He’s that guy that can crossover from offense to defense and guys are gonna listen to him when he talks.
He’s a power back. He would just as well run through you then try to make you miss. When he drops his pads and punishes the tackler, he’s pretty special.
How will you handle the situation with T.J. Logan’s arrival and if he’s good enough to play this year?
We’re going to find out in camp, we’re going to give him an opportunity. We get in camp and those guys know they’re competing for a job. That’s why when they come in in the summer, you better learn as much as you can so when you get to camp you’re not learning the offense, you know it, so you can compete for a job. If you don’t, you won’t be out there playing. Now it’s learn it through the summer so that when we get to camp you can compete for a job and show that unit is better when you’re on the field. If you show that, then you play.
Were you surprised you were able to get Logan?
No, I expect to get all the great players in the state of North Carolina, that’s what we expect. When we start doing that, start getting all of them, college football will be great in the state of North Carolina, I promise you that.
In the past decade 55 to 60 percent of the top players in the state have been going to out of state schools? How do you change that?
It’s about building relationships, continuing to build relationships with high school coaches in the state, making sure they have access to everything they need within your program. And then it’s winning, it’s atmosphere, creating an atmosphere that those kids want to play in. If we provide the opportunity to reach every dream and every goal they have, they’ll come to Carolina.
I think we’re making progress. We’ve definitely made a lot of progress since we got there. We’ve still got a long way to go, we’re not there, but we have made a lot of progress. My staff has done a tremendous job reaching out across the state, building relationships with coaches in a short period of time. They will continue to do that and it’s only going to get better.
You’re already pretty close to your commitment limit already for the 2014 Signing Day. Would you like to have most of your commitments in place before the season starts?
Actually, when Signing Day happens I’d love to have them all committed the very next day, but it doesn’t happen that way. I’ll take them anytime they come. We have to do a great job of evaluating, that’s the key. It’s not necessarily what someone ranks them or what someone else thinks about a young man, it’s what we as a staff, through our evaluation process, it’s what we think about them. It’s also getting the guys that fit what we do. There are some really good football players out there that may not fit what we do and we may not recruit them. It’s not a slight to them; it’s just they just don’t necessarily fit what we’re looking for.
Then you’re also, you got to manage your roster. You can’t take 15 running backs just because you have a bunch of great running backs in the state. You’ve only got so many scholarships. You have to pick and choose wisely, then you have to do a great job of building relationships with them and convincing them they can reach every dream and goal right here at Carolina.
How many people are involved in that evaluation process?
We have area coaches; they’ve got to sign off on a kid in their area. Then we have the position coach, then we have coordinator and then we have me. You could say four, but before it gets to me, we’re going to look at that kid as a staff, so that everybody in the staff room is on the same page about how we feel about that kid. But ultimately the buck stops with me.
Is an example of how a great player might not fit within the scheme, say a down tight end. A tight end that’s primarily a blocker or is not a frequent pass catcher, doesn’t necessarily fit in your system, although they might be a great player…
Great example. You get a kid out there that’s 245-pound kid in high school, he’s probably going to be a 265-270-pound tight end that’s one of those point-of-attack, crush you kind of guys. Not necessarily what we’re looking for at tight end. He may be recruited by every school in the country, but we may not spend a lot of time on him because he doesn’t really fit what we do.
You may find a quarterback that’s got the great arm but has no mobility at all. The traditional 6-foot-6 pocket passer, that’s not necessarily what we’re looking for in our offense. We may not go after that kid very hard. Some people may get mad that we’re not, but we still have to do what we think is best for our program.
Conversely, there are some positions you have that players fit into that they might not on a traditional team…
We’re looking for those hybrid positions, that Bandit, that Ram. Also, running backs. I don’t need that 6-foot, 240-pound running back in this offense necessarily. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take one, but I don’t need to build it all around those guys. You’re going to see some variety in what we take in running back. One thing we’re always looking for is speed. But we’re also looking for production; we’re looking for a guy that can catch the ball because that’s a big part of what we do with our running backs. They have to be able to catch the football in our offense. Some of those guys that are playing in the “I” or you turn around and handing it to the ISO or the power or you’re tossing it to him on the sweep don’t always necessarily have the hands that we’re looking for in what we do.
Would you have recruited Bryn?
Yeah, we would’ve recruited Bryn because he makes all the throws. And if you go back and look at him in high school, because I have, he was mobile to do what we want to do and he is right now. Unfortunately, I think the year before we got here he had the bone spurs in both ankles and the guy couldn’t move a lick. Nothing bad about that, he was out there playing and probably most kids wouldn’t. So that tells you a lot about what he’s got inside of him. That’s the thing that you can’t measure. If you had a measuring stick on what’s inside that chest, it would make our jobs a lot easier. If you ever find something you can measure that on, you guys need bottle it up and sell it. And then you won’t be sitting here with me.
(Check the site on Wednesday for Part IV …)