Q&A with Larry Fedora, Part IV

GREENSBORO, N.C. --- Larry Fedora fielded questions from reporters for over an hour at the ACC Kickoff. Read everything the Tar Heel head coach said in InsideCarolina.com's multi-part transcription ...

How concerned are you about your defensive front seven right now?

I’m concerned at positions and mainly with depth. We do have a little bit of experience on that side of the ball. I was told earlier we don’t have the name guy on the defensive front that we’ve had in the past, but we’ve got guys up there that have some experience and have played. At the linebacker position, we’ve got a couple of guys that have played but, again, we don’t have a whole lot of experience there. We’ll see how it shakes it out. I don’t know how concerned I am. I feel confident; I really believe that this defense will be better than we’ve been the last two years.

Because why?

Because it’s the third year in the system. There’s no more thinking about what we’re doing. They know what we’re doing.

Who would you identify as the leader on the defense?

Norkeithus Otis. Easy answer. He’s the guy that makes it tick over there. They all listen to him.

What’s your assessment of the offensive line at this point heading to camp?

That we’re talented but we’re young. You’re not talking about one position; you’re talking about five and all five working in unison together. The type of offense we run, it’s more difficult for those guys because they’ve got to process very quickly. There’s no going back to the huddle holding hands, hearing the play, walking up to the line of scrimmage, processing all of that and what you need to do. You’re asking them to do it in a matter of about 10 seconds and then be able to adjust when the defense adjusts on them - which they’re going to. And then all five of them have to be on the same page when they make that adjustment.

Bentley Spain was banged up in the spring. How well prepared do you think he will be to contribute this year?

That’s a question for us, we don’t know because we didn’t really get to see what Bentley could do this spring because he had the pec strain and the knee strain throughout the spring. He got about five practices, so it’s too early to say for us where he’s going to be when we get into camp.

He’s in the mix to be the starter at left tackle, I can tell you that. I don’t know who Kap would go with right now if we had to start, I’d imagine it’d be [John] Ferranto right now. But that thing is still wide open.

How athletic is Bug Howard and what kind of impact do you see him having?

Bug’s been fun to watch. He plays way above the rim, he likes to get up there and go after the ball. He’s 6-5 on top of that, now he’s got a 39.5 vertical so he can really get up there. Some guys can jump, but they’re not comfortable making plays up there above the rim. He is comfortable. He likes going up and getting the ball at the highest point.

When Bug stepped on campus he was skinny as a rail. Right now he’s still skinny but he’s 208 pounds. You look at him and you think he’s frail, but he’s really not. It’s really been fun to watch how he’s developed physically and to see what that’s going to do for him here in the near future.

How has Quinshad Davis’s offseason been?

Been really good. Quinshad is another guy who came in here and really changed his body. He’s close to 220 pounds at 6-foot-4. He’s had a great off-season, a great spring. He’s one of the leaders in that group. He’s hungry. He knows Eric Ebron is gone and it’s another opportunity for him to make more plays and I think he’s excited about that opportunity.

Last year at this event, you expressed some concern about eating clock with a lead from the 2012 season. How do you think you did with that last year and have you worked on any of that?

It’s hard to remember that we had a lead in very many games. As long as I’m going to be concerned about the offensive line, that’s going to be a concern. Until we gel as a unit up there, it’s going to be hard to say. … When you’re wanting to slow it down, that’s the hardest part. When we ask our guys to go to a huddle it’s embarrassing. I’m embarrassed what it looks like. That’s a hard thing because it’s not what we do. It’s out of their element now. They like going fast because it’s what we do every day.

Does adding the eighth official help you play how you want to play?

One guy is dedicated to setting the ball now. I don’t know all the mechanics, and I don’t think they know all the mechanics of what they are going to do with that eighth guy, but he is dedicated to getting the ball set and getting out of there. If there is no substitution, now you can move it as fast as he can get in and get out. It’s things that we talk about with our players, don’t leave the ball on the ground when you get tackled, get up hand the ball to the official and it’s going to get spotted quicker, so we can move faster.

If there are no substitutions and the ball is there, how quickly can you snap it?

If the end of the play is inside the hashes, you can be under 10 seconds, you can be about eight seconds. It’s going to be interesting to see, with that guy now, it maybe be around six seconds. If the ball goes outside the hashes, it’s usually around 12 seconds. It puts a tremendous strain on a defense and that’s why a lot of defensive coaches don’t like it.

Have you ever charted how many snaps you take in 10 seconds or less?

Here’s the other thing, there are games that you get into and you’re running the offense the way you want it. You’ve got a lead in the third quarter and you want to help your defense out, and you start getting out of that. I’m not caught up in ‘saying, boy, we’ve got to run 85 plays a game - if we don’t do that we’re not successful.’ If all we cared about was the offense, we could do that pretty easily.

But we want to win games. We’re going to do what we need to do to win games. If that means we get out of our element a little bit in the third and the fourth quarter, we may do that.

Do you keep up with what other teams do?

I pay attention to national stats. I look at different things that teams we’re comparable to and where we are. I’ve never been concerned with how many plays do we get in a game. At the end of the year if we’ve run 1,000 plays then obviously that’s more opportunities to score. But also you have to look at the wear and tear of what that’s doing to your defense at the same time.

So what stats do you look at?

For me, I’m looking at turnovers offensively, that’s No. 1. If you don’t take care of the ball you’ve got no chance to win. If you take care of the football, you’ve got a chance to win every game. That’s simple. Beyond that, the only other thing I’m looking at on offense is touchdowns in the red zone and scoring.

Percentages on third down are important to me; we have certain things we want to achieve third-down wise. Because if you’re not doing that you’re not moving the chains. If you’re not moving the chains, you’re off the field. Defensively, it’s red zone. That’s going to be very critical and then explosive plays. How many explosive plays are we giving up in a game? If we can gain more turnovers than we give up, we’ve got a chance to win a football game. Those two things go hand-in-hand. We look at all of our special teams. We’re looking to see if we’re winning the special teams battle. To do that, you’re talking about field position. Are you shortening the field when you’re on offense and are you lengthening the field when you’re on defense with your kickoffs and your punts?

Can Freeman Jones challenge for a starting spot this year?

I definitely think he can. He’s had a really good summer from my understanding. I think he will challenge from day one. We’ve encouraged every one of those freshmen that are on campus, don’t come in here unless you want to play. Come in with the attitude that you’re gonna play right now. At the end of camp, we’ll determine whether you’re gonna play. But come in with the attitude that you’re gonna play and you expect to play.

Do pay extra attention to per play stats as opposed to other numbers? Fans look at total offense, total defense…

In my opinion, total defense isn’t important. No more than total offense is important. There’s really two things you ought to care about, do you score more points and do you not allow them to score more points than you do. You do those two things, because that’s the outcome of the game.

Now, there are a lot of underlying factors: turnovers, how many possessions do they get, what your percentages are on third down, but ultimately who scores the most. If you give up six yards per carry but don’t let them score, then great. It’s about scoring. It’s the only factor that really, really matters.

Were you concerned about the Nick Saban-backed effort to slow down fast tempo offense?

I was really concerned. Then as I started looking into it and seeing what could really happen, and who was going to vote on it, and the committee that was going to make that decision, and who they were and that some of them didn’t play football, yeah, I was concerned. I think it could crop up again, I don’t think it’s a dead issue. I think we won’t be caught by surprise this time. I do not think that it will be a player-safety issue that they try and slide it under.

Check back tomorrow for Part V ...

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