BUCK SANDERS – The major question going into this game is the intensity and focus of the team. Obviously we didn’t see that last week against East Carolina. How do you guys feel about the team actually taking another team lightly or not seeming to bring the same intensity level and how much does that play into the outcome? We’ll start with the newbie first; we’ll go to David.
DAVID BOMAR – As far as last week goes, you’ve got to give credit to ECU for showing up the way that they did. You can’t go out there and expect somebody to just fall over; this game is all about intensity and that starts with the players. You’ve got to be up to play this game. I don’t know if that’s coming from leadership of the team or what, but that’s on a player level. You’ve got to be ready to play. I think the coaching staff has a lot of control over the focus, but I think you’ve got to look at the individual players. You can’t play this game without being intense. If you’re not focused on what you’re doing, you’re going to get your backside handed to you. It’s definitely all about intensity and you can’t play well if you don’t have it.
BUCK – Jeb, what are your thoughts about it and how did you handle that when you were playing? Did you look to the leadership to get you ready to play or was it something that every individual player has to take responsibility for?
JEB TERRY – You’d hope every player individually holds himself accountable to the team and gets their minds right and focus to get ready to play each week. But, at the end of the day, you’ve got to understand these are 18-, 19- and 20-, 21-year-olds so sometimes they need to be prodded and pulled along. A lot of that is leadership with the team; a lot of that is the staff too. Echoing what we said last week, we said that ECU was going to come in here and play. I guarantee you that Coach Connors was in there taking sandpaper to his shoulder taking off that North Carolina tattoo all week. He was in there telling them exactly what they needed to do and I guarantee you he had those guys excited for the game. So, it’s on the players; it’s on the staff; it’s on the program as a whole. You can’t just look to one guy here or there to make sure you bring the team up to speed. It’s part of the culture of the team. It’s always a risky run when a team gets to a level where they expect to be good, expect to be competitive every game, and expect to go out and win, that level of complacency comes in and you’ve just got to make sure you dial up that focus week in and week out. These guys have that responsibility across the organization.
BUCK – Matt, I’m going to go to you for this next question. Bryn Renner has been spotted wearing a walking boot this week. Obviously they’re not really going to tell us whether he’s going to play or not; he says he expects to play; the staff says they expect him to play. However, Marquise has been getting the majority of the snaps in practice. What do you think the implications are for North Carolina if Renner is not ready to go and Williams starts?
MATT BAKER – I guess if that’s the case, we’ll see what Marquise is all about. I’ve been one of Bryn Renner’s biggest fans. I think he would be the first to admit he is struggling this year; everyone else has been kind of pointing the finger and pointing out how Bryn’s been struggling, even though his stats have been okay. Like I said, he’d be the first to say that he’s struggling. But, if he can’t go then you’ve got to move on. And, as someone who has spent a lot of time at North Carolina as a backup quarterback - unfortunately I have a lot of experience in that - we’ll see how Marquise Williams approaches the game; we’ll see how he approaches his job as the backup quarterback. To be the backup quarterback, you don’t get all the reps in practice. You have to be the guy that puts in some extra film time. You’ve got to prepare like you’re going to be the starter every week. Being a college student, it’s not the easiest thing – sometimes you lose focus in that. I know early in my career, there were times I did lose focus on that. So, we’ll see what his preparation is. I know we’ve seen him in the red zone, some third downs and doing read zone, but we’ve never seen him when it really matters for a whole game. We’ll see what he’s made of if he has to go. I think the offense doesn’t change; I think we obviously use a little bit more of quarterback pulls on the zone reads than we see now with Bryn, but the same plays will be called.
BUCK – Quincy, I want to ask you about Logan Thomas. Thomas is not . . . I wouldn’t call him the best passing quarterback in the league, but he does a lot of with his legs. He’s likely to run the ball a lot. North Carolina has had trouble getting the guys on the ground this year, at times, missing tackles. What do you think they can do to get Logan Thomas on the ground? How do you think they’ll approach that?
QUINCY MONK – Well, first off, they’ve got to be able to wrap up the tackle. We’ve seen it this year – the guys have been in the position, but simply aren’t making tackles because they’re either lunging, or not just coming up and taking the player down. Logan Thomas is a big player; he’s a big athlete. In order for us to bring a person like that down, it’s going to be a collective effort because he is a big guy. You’re not just going to have one guy – one linebacker, one corner back, one safety – able to take this guy down. It’s got to be a multiple effort from all parties. They’ve got to have the mindset that we’re going to gang tackle; we’re going to hustle; we’re going to sprint to every ball, no matter if it’s on the other side of the field. 'I’m going to be in on the play every single down' because that’s what it’s going to take to bring a guy like that down and bring that sense of urgency with this ball club.
We know what particular situation we’re at now, as far as our losses and our win total. This is a major game for us. It’s a game we cannot take lightly because its another test in the Coastal, it’s another test in the ACC, and it’s . . . I hate to use the term, but it’s a must win situation for our team, We’ve got to put it all on the line for 60 minutes – not for a half, not for a quarter – you’ve got to play 60 minutes of hard, competitive football with a lot of aggression. That’s how you’re going to be able to stop a team like Virginia Tech.
BUCK – David, what are your thoughts about that? How do you think they’re going to approach defending Virginia Tech? Is Logan Thomas a major threat? What do they have to keep their eye on Saturday in Blacksburg?
DAVID – I think any time you have a mobile quarterback, you’ve a game plan for that. I’m sure the coaches are doing a good job – they’re aware of it. You’re probably going to have some guys assigned to him in whatever coverage they’re in. You can be sure they’re stressing that during practice this week – who’s got the quarterback. Guys coming off the end have got to be watching out for Thomas and they’re definitely stressing keeping an eye on him. You’ll probably see some guys spying on him, linebackers looking out for him. He’s just an extra threat. I think that’s going to be, maybe something, a little wrinkle that we can throw in this week too, if Marquise gets in the game. Maybe they’ll have to do a little of the same for us too.
BUCK – Jeb, the running game . . . actually I thought at the beginning of last week, they got some good runs out of A.J. Blue then, later on, not so much. How do you diagnose the running game? We’ve talked about that before on the Roundtable, but how do you diagnose what you’ve seen through four games in terms of lack of production in the running game?
JEB – You can’t point to one thing or another but it’s a collection of things that I think we can’t put it all together right now. It’s calling stretch plays to the boundary with A.J. Blue and, I can tell you right now, let’s not do that. Let’s pound A.J. Blue; let’s run powers; let’s run counters; let’s run between the tackles and then let’s try to leverage some speed on the outside. I think we’ve got to be more personnel-specific when we’re calling certain run plays.
I think part of it is people aren’t scared of our passing game right now and they’re able to load up the box more than we anticipated. Last year I felt like our offense was a bit more open and we were getting down the field and making the safeties play back, getting people on their heels, which opened up the run game even more. Both feed off each other. I think it’s hard to delineate between a running and a passing game versus the collective offense. But, the thing is, we really have got to stretch that defense deep, I think, make them respect us on the outside, not just Ebron down the middle. We’ve got to let our horses run on the outside and throw some deep balls so that people stop cramming the box on us and making it too difficult to do. At a certain time, you want to try and pound it; you want to try and establish a tough mentality, but you’ve got to help yourself. There’s no use doing the square peg in the round hole. Like I said, there’s a lot of things going on. It’s fixable – that’s the thing -- we have the talent, we have the offensive line, we just need to start retweaking some things and look at how we’re mixing up all the calling, in my opinion.
BUCK – Matt, do you see things the same way?
MATT – I do, actually. I completely agree with Jeb and the call he mentioned with A.J. Blue. We have two running backs and, unfortunately, Romar was hurt last week. We have two running backs – two main guys, two different runners. We don’t seem to use them to their strength as much as we should. A.J. Blue – I’m glad he’s on our team – he’s a good leader for the team, but he’s not the dynamic running back you’re looking to hand the ball off or pitch to on a zone read to find the hole and make the cut. He’s a downhill guy; you’ve got to find him a hole and let him run through it, let him get face-to-face with a linebacker. Romar Morris is a little bit different where he can run a little bit more of the zone read. But, I completely agree that we have to play to our best strengths. Jeb hit the nail on the head when says our vertical passing game isn’t much of a threat. That never helps your running game.
BUCK – There were a couple of passes though, Matt, to Quinshad Davis last week deeper down field, I thought. I thought that opened up a little bit last week more so than the week before.
MATT – Yeah, as I recall . . . when you go out and you throw a fade, it’s not as much – you need something over the top of the linebackers, something across the middle. You need a dig, something to make the linebackers think. It’s more the linebackers than just throwing a fade up. A fade, you’ve got your safeties, your corners, but when you make the linebackers start to think and you start to give them a run fake and throw it over their heads, now they’re thinking a little more. Now, as soon as you drop that ball down, they’re not coming in at you. They don’t have to worry about a run fake to a fade ball; that’s not their concern. So, some stuff in the middle of the field and when we throw to Ebron we open up the middle of the field and that makes a difference. I’d like to see more end-breaking routes from our receivers at the 10-15-yard end routes, to try and loosen up those linebackers up a little bit.
BUCK –What are your thoughts about playing at Virginia Tech.
MATT BAKER – I might be the only one of us to have played there. That game will be burned into my memory forever. I remember. That was my last college football game. We played well; we had a bowl game on the line. It was the last game of the year for us. We played them tough the first half. I think we had a field goal blocked and maybe had some drops there in the first half. But, they came back and rolled up a lot of yards in the second half. It’s an incredible place to play. We played a night game. Like I said, having that being the last game of my college career, it will forever be ingrained In my head. I remember walking into the locker room thinking I was able to hold it together and, as soon as I got under that tunnel, I just started crying like a baby. For me, that’s a place and a game that I’ll never forget. It’s a good place to play – good crowd.
QUINCY – Buck, I want to add something. I want everybody to understand the even though we’re starting off at 1-3 right now, there’s still a lot of football left to be played. Jeb, Matt, and I were on that team in 2001 that started off 0-3 and the next game we had to play Florida State. So, I think it’s very important for these seniors to make sure they take control of this team to make sure they understand that this is their last year in a Carolina uniform. We want to make sure that we go and put everything out on the table. So, I’m looking for Renner, I’m looking for Kareem Martin, I’m looking for these seniors to take charge and let these young guys understand, 'this is my last year in a Carolina uniform and I’m not going to let you down; I’m going to put everything out there.' So, they’ve just got to have the control in the locker room. Also, the coaching staff has got to understand that there’s still a lot of football left to be played, we've just got to correct some of the errors that we’ve made in the first four games and just try and get better each and every game.
Matt Baker quarterbacked the Tar Heels in 2005, while amassing the 9th-highest season passing yardage total in school history. Following his UNC career, he was a member of six different NFL teams.
David Bomar walked on at UNC, ultimately earning a scholarship and a starting safety spot as a junior. He was named National Defensive Player of the Week in 1999 after recording 19 tackles vs NCSU, including the game-winner at the one-foot line.
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.
Jeb Terry was a three-year starter on the offensive line, earning Second Team All-ACC honors in 2003. He was a fifth round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay and played four seasons with the Buccaneers.