That is going to help us out a lot. Those five guys up front, that's where everything starts. With them having experience, and with me knowing their weaknesses and strengths, it will help me to be better in the pocket.
As far as knowledge of the offense, those guys know the offense like the back of their hands. When I am up there and need to audible a play, I won't have to worry about specifically talking to one guy, saying, "You need to do this or do that." We will all be on the same page. That's what we need.
Those guys work hard in the off-season, and they are dedicated. It is just a thrill to have five guys coming back as starters.
Next year will be your third year working with Gary Tranquill. How does that impact your comfort zone with the offense?
When he first came in, he told us that it would take a while to master his offense. I think with him being the type of "hands-on" coach that he is has really helped me out. With me going into my third year playing, I know the offense like the back of my hand now. I can really start to give him my opinion about what I see out there, and what I think will work. I think he really didn't trust me with that early on. With him seeing me learning the offense a little bit more, he'll put a little bit more trust in me with the offense.
With the pro-style offense that we run, we can open up a lot more things, and give teams a little bit they haven't seen yet. Knowing this offense is really going to help us out.
The time you spent watching from the sidelines after the injury at Virginia, did that help you in any way?
Definitely. I got to see a lot of things that I couldn't see from the field. I could see the tendencies of the safeties, where the linebackers play, how they play. Those are some things you can't see when you are out there on the field. I tried to take the knowledge that I got from being on the sidelines and put that into my game. You can learn so much from just watching.
How is off-season conditioning going for you? What would you like to accomplish in strength and conditioning before spring practice?
I just want to get my body in a position where I can stay healthy. This my third summer coming up with Coach Connors and I pretty much have a grasp of what he expects out of us. My goal is just to stay healthy. Just to build my body up so it can be like a machine.
I got hurt a little bit my freshmen year with my knee, but it wasn't anything that sidelined me. When you have injuries, you can't play. When you can't play, you hurt your team. So my main goal is just to stay healthy.
North Carolina starts the season with Florida State. Does that help you and the team focus in the off-season?
I think so. Knowing what those guys did to us when we went down there last year, that's going to be a little added motivation for us.
Just to open the season with a big-time opponent like that – opening game, everybody is going to be excited, what better opponent to come in than Florida State?
The last time those guys were here, we upset them, and hopefully, we can do the same thing again.
Talk about the Duke game. Do you think the team, and the fans, gained more respect for you because you returned to the team, played through the injury, and finished the season with a win?
I think so. I think I put away any questions anyone had about my commitment. The doctors told me I could easily re-injure my thumb and it the injury could be permanent. I think I showed the guys that I really am dedicated. That I would do anything for them.
Did that experience heal all the wounds that perhaps started this time last year?
I hope so. People may still have that question, but for the most part I think I silenced everything. I went out there and risked almost my whole career for one game. I think that says a lot about my dedication to this football team.
Most football players tell the media that individual records aren't important to them. You have to be aware that you are likely going to break every passing record in the UNC record book. Do you ever think about the individual marks you have set?
I know about them, they publicize it a lot around here. I try not to think about it, but the guys on the team always bring it up.
But I am proud of what I have accomplished so far. I hope to be in the record books one day for having all the quarterback records, but like you said it is all about wins. My record here as a starter isn't pretty. Records are nice, but I would rather have the wins. If you have the wins, it makes the records even sweeter.
Do you expect next year's offense be better than last year's? Why?
I think you will see a lot more versatility in the offense. We don't have that big, go-to guy, that big-play receiver out there. I think you are going to see a lot more running the ball successfully.
For the past couple of years, we haven't been anywhere near the top of the rushing stats in the ACC, I think that is something we are going to focus on a lot on this spring.
I think you will see a lot more running, a lot of screen passes, just getting the ball into the hands of our playmakers, and letting them do the things with the ball that they can do.
I think a good running game adds to the passing game. If you can get the running game established, that will bring people up into the box to try to stop the run and that will open the pass up. That may allow you to break a few big plays every now and then in the passing game, and the numbers (in the passing game) should be about the same.
Hopefully, one of the backs we have will help take the pressure off me. A lot of teams when they play us, they don't even worry about the run. That helped my passing stats, but at the same time, the interceptions go up, with a running game, the yards (in the passing game) may be down a little, but they probably will be about the same.