Pinehurst, NC – UNC head football coach Larry Fedora took questions from the media on Tuesday at the ACC Kickoff. The full transcript is below:
Q. Watching your teams at Southern Mississippi, the first thing that jumped off the TV screen was special teams play. The dual challenges you face this year replacing your punter and place kicker, then trying to re-spring Ryan Switzer like you did two years ago.
COACH FEDORA: First of all, to start out with the punter and kicker, that’s always tough to do. We take a lot of pride in what we do special teams-wise. We spend a lot of time on it. We’re not ready to designate a starter in either of those positions right now. Those guys will continue to compete all the way through fall camp, then we’ll make a decision going into that first game. Ryan Switzer, I think what a lot of people found out that maybe a lot of people didn’t know, first of all, Ryan Switzer is an extremely good return guy, but Ryan Switzer doesn’t do it by himself. Those other 10 guys on those punt returns have to do their job for him to have the success he had the year before. I’ve got to do a better job of making sure those guys understand their importance along with the returner.
Q. Marquise Williams and Jeff told a really convincing story about efforts they’ve taken to be vocal leaders, mend some of the wounds in the team. Have you seen that?
COACH FEDORA: That’s something we addressed when we came back for the second semester, were the issues and problems we felt like we had on last year’s team, what caused us to not have the success we wanted to have. Then we owned all of those problems and held each other accountable for them, then went from there. One of the things our guys felt, we needed better leadership on our football team. We’ve really spent a lot of time with these guys building team chemistry and leadership throughout the spring semester and the summer. Both of those guys have taken quite a bit of that responsibility and put it on their back, which is a good thing.
Q. You seem to be fairly active on Twitter as far as coaches are concerned. How do you use that? You even had the Latin phrase on there that said, Let them hate so long as they fear. Why that?
COACH FEDORA: I am active on Twitter. I think to be successful in recruiting, you’ve got to do the things that the kids are doing. I spend a lot of time on it. It is me. Nobody else does it for me. Then I’ve got four kids that are all active on it. So that’s always good. They’re always throwing things out there to make fun of me. It’s always fun to see what they put out there. ‘Oderint dum metuant’, it’s a phrase that I saw about 15 years ago and liked the phrase. Just stuck it on my Twitter handle.
Q. This year you open up the season with South Carolina. What is your outlook on that game?
COACH FEDORA: My outlook, I think it’s a tremendous amount of excitement. I think it’s great for our conference to play a team from another conference, another great team from another great conference. So I think that’s exciting. It’s exciting for our fan base. We’re starting to have a little bit of tradition of playing South Carolina versus Carolina, to do it at a neutral site, where half the stadium will be Carolina blue, half the stadium would be crimson or red, I’m not sure what they call it. It should be a lot of fun. I’m excited about it. We have some time to get there, though. We really have to address our team and not really worry about South Carolina right now.
Q. You are going to get a lot of garnet tweets.
COACH FEDORA: Garnet, sorry (smiling).
Q. Assuming Chizik does what his reputation says he’s going to do with the X’s and O’s, are you confident he still has the talent level on defense to make a 180 here?
COACH FEDORA: Yeah, I don’t know if 180. How do you measure how much better we get? I don’t know. I think we’ll be a better football team, I really do. I’m excited about this group. We have some seniors in this group that I know are great teammates, that care about the team, wanting to be successful as a football team more than they do individually. So I think what Gene brings to the table is the renewed confidence in those guys I think is the biggest factor I’ve seen to this point, is that Gene has a very determined teaching progress of the way he wants to teach the defense and the philosophy of defense. If you talk to Jeff Schoettmer, any of those guys, you see the confidence back in their eyes. I think that alone is going to make us a better football team.
Q. Talking about team chemistry yesterday with Marquise Williams and Jeff, what can you say about the environment now and what have you done as the head coach to make sure everybody is together and focused?
COACH FEDORA: You’re constantly trying to create a certain culture that you want. For me that culture, part of that culture is what it means to be a good teammate, to actually care and love your teammates. I do mean love, where you truly care about what’s happening in their life on the field and off. When you have that, you’re going to give that much more for that guy on your right and your left. When you do that, you got a chance to be a good football team.
Q. You recruited heavily in the triad. What kind of impact do you think T.J. Logan and Jalen Dalton as well?
COACH FEDORA: Jalen Dalton has been with us since January. A big 6’6″, 280-pound defensive end that we were excited about getting. He has fit in really well. He got a tremendous amount of reps this spring. Some of that was necessity, some was injuries. But it was really good to watch him grow. I’m expecting him to contribute and help us as a football team. You can’t expect a freshman to come in and dominate. T.J. Logan, this should be a big year for him. We have all offensive linemen back. Nobody talks about that. We had one returning starter last year. This year we have five returning starters. There’s a lot of confidence up front. Along with that, you’re going to be good in the running game.
Q. You have an outstanding quarterback coming off a substantial injury. He’s a physical guy. You can use him so many ways. How confident are you that he’s fully recovered and durable to play his style of football?
COACH FEDORA: Marquise is 230 pounds. He’s a big, physical guy. He likes to run that way. You can’t take that away from the kid. You can’t ask him to be apprehensive. You can’t ask him to be cautious. You got to let him play the game the way he loves playing the game. If you go back and look at last year, a lot of those runs weren’t call runs for Marquise. Those were his decisions to run the football. I don’t want to take that away from him. I want to have more production from the runningbacks which will take off a lot of the load from Marquise.
Q. About Marquise, how much does he feel like he is the unquestioned leader of this team compared to last year where there were spells where he would be pulled out? How much is he confident this is going to be his team this year?
COACH FEDORA: I think Marquise is very confident this is his team. He’s going into this season knowing that he’s the guy. He’s not competing for that job right now, so to speak. But he understands that it’s his team. He’s got complete confidence in what he’s doing and he understands the entire concept of what we’re trying to do philosophy-wise on offense. He understands all he has to do is keep moving those chains. He keeps moving those chains, takes care of the football, we’re going to have success.
Q. You lose a tight end, but beyond that, you have a tremendous number of receivers returning, you talked about the runningbacks. You have a quarterback who has run the ball 333 times. Do you see Marquise using his skill players maybe a little more this year?
COACH FEDORA: I think so. The reason that Marquise did that last year was because of the lack of experience on the offensive line. So now as those guys have more experience and he’s more comfortable with them, I think you’ll see him distribute the ball a little bit more. What we do offensively, it is on the shoulders of the quarterback. He makes those decisions. Basically when we call a running play, that running play is tagged with a pass. He makes the decision whether he’s going to throw it or hand it off based on what the defense is doing. Some of these instances, I think Marquise will make some different decisions.
Q. With this full cost of attendance, how does that affect your recruiting going forward?
COACH FEDORA: You know, that’s a great question. Cost of attendance is a big buzz word across the country right now. How teams are going to use it in recruiting, I don’t know. Also it’s a very fluid amount, so that amount changes from year to year. It’s going to be difficult. I really don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know if teams are going to use it, if they’re not going to use it. I think everybody assumes the worst. I think they think that’s all it’s going to be based on. I don’t think that’s the reason kids are going to make decisions on where they’re going to go to school, I don’t think it going to be based on a couple thousand dollars. I think it’s going to be based or should be based on that this is going to be a lifetime decision, what is going to be best for me when football is over for me, what kind of job am I going to be able to get, what kind of network is that going to plug me into. Those are the reasons I think guys are going to make decisions.
Q. You mentioned Marquise, it being his team. For you as a head coach, is it important for the quarterback to e kind of the go-to guy on the team or can it be somebody else?
COACH FEDORA: I don’t know for other teams. I know in our system the quarterback has to be the guy. He has to be the guy because he makes too many of the decisions. Everybody is looking to him. Everybody is looking to him, especially on the offensive side of the ball. So it’s very important that he is vocal. It’s very important that he is the leader. Not necessarily by example, because I don’t really believe in that. I believe it’s more about influencing the guys around him. He understands that he is that guy. All of our quarterbacks that we recruit, that we bring in, they understand that is the role of the quarterback on our team and it has to be. So if you’re not a vocal guy, you got to learn how to be vocal. It’s very important for us.
Q. You had so much success on offense, defense was the issue last year. Does that plan how you frame fall camp?
COACH FEDORA: First of all, let me tell you, I thought we were average on offense last year. We weren’t great on offense by any means. Our guys will tell you the same thing. They know that. We may have been better than the defense, but we were not great by any means. For us, it will be a great challenge for our team to make drastic improvement on both sides of the ball and in the special teams which is very important to us. We know we have to get a lot better to reach the goals we want to reach. For us offensively, the number one thing is we got to take care of the football. If we take care of the football, we give ourselves a chance to win. Defensively we got to stop creating turnovers. Special teams we need game-changing plays. We make one game-changing play on special teams, the special teams gives us a chance to win.
Q. Fifth in the coastal. Seems a little bit low. What is your reaction when you saw that?
COACH FEDORA: I didn’t see it. So thank you (smiling). When did that come out?
Q. This morning.
COACH FEDORA: This morning. Well, I didn’t see it. That’s good. That sounds good to me. That would be great. For me, I don’t care where you pick us to start, it will be about where we end. Probably based on what we did last year, that’s probably a pretty good place for us to start. So we’ll see what we do.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
COACH FEDORA: You bet. Thank y’all.