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 – Guys, it's a three-game win streak by North Carolina – a good, solid win on Saturday against Virginia, they've got Pittsburgh coming up – the three games that they won, Boston College, N.C. State, and Virginia in a row, those were games that we thought, at the beginning of the season looking ahead, that they would win. This game in Pittsburgh is going to be a little bit of a horse of a different color. Jeb, talk about that for a minute.

JEB TERRY – Well, Pittsburgh is coming off that big win against Notre Dame. They're obviously riding pretty high themselves right now. But, we have a lot of confidence going into this week, a three-game win streak is not something you come by all the time.

I know our guys are feeling confident; they're feeling what it takes to be successful on the football field. When you're confident in your skills and your game, then you can play free and reckless; you can really get after the ball carrier and your man, your assignment. That's key to winning. I think it's going to be a good match up.

We're playing there, so that's always going to add another element in the mix. They play in the Steelers' stadium, Heinz Field, which the field is going to be nasty. I've played there professionally and it's just, this time of the year they've got a lot of games going on there. So, the field is going to be torn up. It's going to be a little bit slower track then we're used to, so I think we're going to have to grind it out. I'd love to see T.J. Logan get the layman's share of carries this week, really feed him the ball, 20 touches should be realistic as we go in there and try to grind this one out. Keep the momentum going and close up the season on a really strong, powerful note.

BUCK – Quincy, over this past three-game stretch, and even dating back a little to the Miami game in some ways, the defense has really started to play better. How do you account for the increase of productivity, other than, perhaps, the opposition that they faced?

QUINCY MONK – It's simple. These guys, like you said, starting off with the Miami game, are more poised and taking care of their assignments. Earlier in the year I saw a lot of guys missing tackles, making poor reads in the coverage, and also not taking care of their gap responsibilities in the run. From the Miami game, I think you're starting to see those guys play a lot more confident.

Like Jeb said, when you're playing with confidence, you can play a lot faster on the field. We're creating a lot of turnovers as well. When you create turnovers, you give the offense a lot more chances to get more touches on the offensive side. I think it's a combination of those guys starting to feel as a complete unit, playing together, flying to the ball, and making sure they don't have too many linemen miss reads and coverage.

Once you're on the field and start making plays, it's contagious – guys are starting to make interceptions, stripping the ball, and sacks. Once you start building on that, everybody wants to be a part of that. Every game they're getting better; every game there's somebody stepping up. We've seen leaders on the field making plays and it's contagious. So I'm thinking these guys are going to continue that streak because we've built on three wins. You've also got the Miami game where we actually played very well and didn't come out with a win. It's just a domino effect when the guys are continuing to keep playing hard, you're going to see the thing we're doing right now – and that's win.

BUCK – David, along those lines, follow up on Quincy's comments. The Tar Heels are certainly playing a lot better in the secondary. As a former walk-on . . . North Carolina has got a former walk-on playing for them this year, Dominique Green, that has really turned some heads. What have you seen from Green and the rest of the secondary members that have got them playing a lot better? They've only given up one touchdown and had eight interceptions in the last four games.

DAVID BOMAR – Well, I think he's done an outstanding job. As a former walk-on, you're kind of playing with a chip on your shoulder all the time; you've got something to prove. I've enjoyed watching him and how he's got a nose for the ball – with a lot of enthusiasm. He's out there making plays. It seems like he knows where to line up and he's going 100 miles per hour. I think that's a credit to him and working hard. I think it's great for the team. He's in there getting playing time and pushing everybody to be better.

Like Quincy said, things started picking up around the Miami game. I think there was leadership; guys stepped up. Sure Green was part of that, but also Tre Boston and Jabari Price. The coaches probably went back to the basics a little bit, simplified things and challenged these guys. I heard that they were doing a lot more tackling, which is great, in practice. I think some guys really had to look inward and figure out whether they were going to fight or fold. It seems like they've come out swinging. It's been a pleasure to watch them fight and grind it out. I hope to see more of the same.

They've just got to continue building on their past successes. I think what Jeb said was great. They've had some success against the run. I think they've limited some of the big plays. I think if they keep that up and keep putting the pedal to the metal, good things will happen.

BUCK – Jeb, one of the things that you can't help but notice when you're watching UNC football, I don't want to dwell on this too much, but the holding calls, they just seem like they come in a flurry. I'm not going to be a conspiracy theorist about it, but a lot of holding calls going against North Carolina in that offensive line.

JEB – Yep. If you're an offensive lineman, basically, if you're not holding on every single play, you're doing something wrong. The goal of this game is to beat the guy across from you by whatever means necessary and knock them on the ground, get them on the ground and keep them on the ground and do it again the next play. That means you've got to grab them, throw them and do whatever you can to do it; that's what it means. At the end of the day, it can really be a trivial call.

The ref might catch you one play with your hand on the outside shoulder pad – maybe he's pissed off at you because you mouthed off to him the play before . . . A referee can call holding literally every play in football, hands down. Quincy knows that as a linebacker, if I've got a linebacker coming in my back gap, I'm going to snatch him as fast as I can and clamp him in tight. Those guys are fast and they hit; I've got to protect my quarterback. Holding is a part of the game. Guys end up getting really good at it. They can conceal it and hide it. It does seem like we might be on the short end of the stick a few times. I feel like they literally come at the worst possible time, right? I have zero concerns about it as part of the game; it's a real subjective call. Yeah, we might have had some against us, but we'll get them back in turn; it usually works out about 50-50. I encourage our guys to hold the hell our of their opponents if that means protecting our quarterback, because we all know how important the quarterback is. Rather a hold than a blindside sack fumble and six the other way. So, it's just a fact of the game.

BUCK – Quincy, how about that? Did you get held when you were playing college ball as a linebacker?

QUINCY –- Man, you can get held on every single play if you allow it. I just knocked them down every play (laughing). I mean, come on. It's easy. Like Jeb said, they can call holding every single play because it's a strategic play for the offensive linemen and tight ends to make sure they get their hands in close. When they do that, they can grab your jersey and refs can't really see it. Literally they can call it every time on the field. It's when the guys have their hands outside the shoulder pads where it's very visible for the referees – that's when the holding calls are normally called.

It's unfortunate, like Jeb said, we've caught a lot of bad breaks from the first game of the season to the last game; it's just unfortunate we're just getting these penalties at the wrong time and it's really costing big plays, but that's part of the game. We've got to correct some of those things that we're doing; those are coachable moments. So, when we get the next play, we know exactly how to block better and to make sure our hand placements are in the right way. We're still growing as a team. So, I know these things will be corrected by the coaching staff.

BUCK – David, as a former defensive back, what have you seen from Marquise Williams, in terms of the problems that he might be able to give a secondary? We know that he can run the ball, but how does that change what the defensive back is looking at?

DAVID – Well, you know you've got to play your responsibilities. Everybody has got to be doing that on every down, but it just makes it harder because somebody has got to account for the quarterback.

The worst part is when you're seeing there's a pass play going on and you're covering your man, you're kind of expecting the ball to be out of his hands in a certain amount of time. You've got a good feel where the receiver is, but once you get scrambling and the quarterback gets outside, that receiver changes where he is – he's coming back to the ball.

That extra time that the quarterback has with his feet to get outside the pocket, it takes away the rhythm of the play and you really have to be aware of where your receiver is that you're covering, as well as trying to figure out where he's trying to get to. Also, if you're in the zone coverage, you need to be aware if somebody else is coming into your zone. So it definitely makes it difficult – you've got a mobile quarterback to extend the play. That's where you hope your defensive line and linebackers can get in there and cause some problems and bring them down.

BUCK – Jeb, this game coming up against Pittsburgh, you've already talked about it a little bit in terms of, they're coming off a big win, they are also trying to become bowl eligible. If they win on Saturday, that would make them bowl eligible. The Tar Heels are fighting for bowl eligibility. Particularly for the seniors on this team, how important is it for them to get to a bowl? Besides the seniors, the extra practice time they would get at a bowl game, what does that mean?

JEB – A bowl game is critical for the foundation of our program as we continue to build and get on the national scene. Everybody looked at this year as a huge, paramount year for success. Not only do we want a winning record, but we want to go to a bowl game; for the seniors who have been through a lot on our program and continue to build on the excitement that's growing right now. To get a win at Pitt would be great – a great feather in our cap. It means a lot.

I'm not one of the guys that think extra bowl practice goes that long of a way, especially if we're not playing in a late bowl game. Yeah, it's good; it helps refine some of your guy's skills. Going to a bowl helps you go into the spring game that better with that much more excitement. I'm ready to continue to build and build and grow. This is about building a program; it's not about a flash in the pan; it's not about any of that.

The recruiting – all that stuff matters – the winning record and going to that bowl is so important. So, I hope that everybody has got their eye on the prize; it's not just right now; it's next year and the year after that. As you know, UNC continues to just try to gain a foothold on the national scene like we're capable of doing and always have been capable of doing. These next few weeks are incredibly pivotal because we could go 4-8, or 7-5, or 5-7. So, I can't say enough about these next few games. It's probably the most important stretch of games we've had here at Carolina in a while.

BUCK – David, this is going to be the final question for the Roundtable. I wanted to ask about the addition of Pittsburgh to the ACC. North Carolina how has some history, at least, Boston College has been in the league since 2004, although they're not in UNC's division, but Pittsburgh is going to be in the Coastal Division. They're going to be one of the teams that North Carolina has to face every year. It seems like North Carolina has a rivalry with almost every team they have in the Coastal Division. Is this going to be just one more of them?

DAVID – I think we've got our traditional rivals. Like you said, it seems like everybody is a rival these days. It's certainly a team we've played in the past. To me, it would just be another game. I think those things kind of play out over time. If we take care of business and Pittsburgh takes care of their business and we both end up doing well down the road, we'll be seeing a lot of each other and these games will continue to mean more and more. That's something that will develop over time.

I think that our guys just need to be focused on winning the next game. I think we've got some good momentum going into this game. I like what Jeb said about this next stretch of games being really important for this era of UNC football. We've got a chance to go out there and become bowl eligible, do some things for recruiting, have a story to tell recruits, and have a feel-good feeling for the fans that have come out and supported everybody.

It just continues to put UNC in the light of being on the brink of really good things to come. Not only that, as far as a story to tell, I'm really proud of those guys. They can finish out and become bowl eligible and, low and behold, win a game in the bowl game, and finish out, I think that's a great story.

These guys really faced some adversity in the middle of the season and I've been really proud of the way they bounced back and found it within themselves to come out and play hard. They did it against Miami. They came out with a loss, but they showed up again against Boston College and came out with a win. I heard Coach Fedora make a point after one of those games saying that we've just got to keep working hard and doing the right things and good things will happen. I think that's what they've been doing and it's a credit to them.

It's a good story to tell recruits; it's a good story to tell your players; it really motivates them. If Pittsburgh is a rivalry or not, I think this is another important game and I'm excited to see us win this weekend.


Featured Lettermen

  • 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.

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