Coordinators' Monday: Notes, Quotes & Pressers
CHAPEL HILL – Monday during the football season not only means that North Carolina Coach Mack Brown meets with the media, but so do his coordinators.
Offensive coordinator Phil Longo and defensive coordinator Jay Bateman followed Brown on Monday morning meeting with the media via zoom to discuss what they learned about their units in Saturday’s 31-6 win over Syracuse.
Here are some notes, quotes and the full videos from what they had to say:
Phil Longo, Offensive Coordinator
*Sam Howell threw two interceptions with one a tipped pass and the other a pass thrown downfield that Mack Brown described as a poorly thrown ball. Brown was pleased with how Howell handled himself after the picks, especially the one that was more on him. Longo was pleased as well.
“You know, that that whole, that whole atmosphere that developed in the game on Saturday - and this is a coach speaking trying to find the best possible lesson to learn from an adverse situation in a ball game - but throwing the deep ball and hitting the explosive throws down the field last year was something we excelled at we did a good job of executing that stuff,” Longo said. “So much so that I think that's just the weekly expectation, probably not just from this, the fans, but media and the staff, and especially our players.
“And so, this was a game that obviously, Syracuse makes you earn scores. They weren't going to give up the big play. They drop and rally to everything underneath (and) force us to throw the football underneath, force us to run the football, force us to throw the screen game. And when you do that, you play together eight, 10, 12-play drives, you're not going to score in three and four, which happened so often last year.
“And I personally think we're going to see a lot more of that this year, because teams are going to want us to have to earn it. And you know, you push us to a 10 or 12-play drive and you're hoping that we make a mistake or that we turn the ball over that we commit a penalty. The more plays we have, the more opportunities there are for something to happen in favor of the defense. And so I think it's a strategy we're going to see more of, I think it's a situation that we learn from Saturday, we know that we're gonna have to be patient at times and take our shots when they're provided.”
*The offensive line had some rough patches during Saturday’s game but also pulled it together in guiding the Tar Heels to scores on four consecutive possessions in the second half salting away the Orange. Overall, Longo was pleased with the guys up front, even though the unit didn’t have perhaps its best player in Josh Ezeudu.
“You know, we went we went into the game with seven guys, we play those seven. We’re really happy overall with their performance in the game,” Longo said. “And probably the thing that impressed me the most was their ability to maintain or improve their level of play as the game went on. So, we had a we had a couple Mas (missed assignments) that cut shorts some drives in the first quarter. We got off to a good start on the first drive. The o-line did a really good job on a number of those plays to get us down there, helped us overcome a fourth-and-seven.
“We had two drives in the first half that probably got stalled by MAs. But, you know, they kind of settled down at halftime and I answered the call in the second half, and I thought we were really, really consistent. And there were some really good continuity between the six and seven guys that played up front and overall is a much better opening day for the o-line than it was last year.”
*The Fox brothers on the defensive side of the ball are making a name for themselves, but on offense, the Brown brothers may have started that process Saturday, too. Every UNC fan is familiar with Dyami Brown, but they were introduced to Khafre Brown in the opener, and he did well. The redshirt freshman played 29 snaps catching three passes for 35 yards.
“We started the brown brothers to get the game going with the questionable status of Beau Corrales last week…,” Longo said. “Khafre impressed us with some really tough, contested catches. He did a good job in his route running. I think there's areas of the game that showed up because of his inexperience and the fact that he hasn't started or played out there yet. But (he) did a really good job in camp, one of our more improved receivers, younger receivers from last year and you're gonna see a lot more Khafre as well this season.”
*Asim Richards had very limited experience last season but was tabbed the starter at left tackle last winter and has not only kept the job but has flourished. Saturday was the sophomore’s first start and he played every snap until the reserves entered the game when the Tar Heels built a big lead. Longo was quite pleased with his play.
“Asim is somebody we really have to depend on,” Longo said. “He's very, very athletic, he's the kind of tackle you want to recruit and you want to have in the program. You wish they all look like he did. You know, aside from just his physical stature, he's really talented. He uses his hands and his feet well, he's an intelligent offensive lineman, he's done a good job of learning the system in a short period of time and he answered the call in his first game. And because of his work ethic and the way that (offensive line) coach (Stacy) Searels is developing him, I think he's only going to get better as the year goes on. And we probably have a really, really good left tackle for a number of years to come. So I'm happy about him.”
Jay Bateman, Defensive Coordinator
*True freshman Kaimon Rucker played 25 snaps and had an impact when he was on the field. The official scorer did not credit him with a sack but PFF did. He was also credited with a QB hurry. How does Bateman think Rucker the defensive end/linebacker played in his debut?
“We wanted to get him in a little earlier, we kind of thought that way about a couple of guys. And the way the game was going, our rule of thumb is when they (opponent) get the ball in deep, we want to go with our first unit and it kind of happened that way a little bit.
“I think Kaimon is going to be a really good player. He was really physical when he was in the game. I think he had a sack – I think it was one of those where we tackled him for zero (yards) but it was a little bit less than zero. I think he did really well. He’s going to continue to play and play more.”
*The Tar Heels had just two down linemen in the game a lot of the time versus the Orange, so what went into that?
“We feel like Tyrone (Hopper) and Kaimon Rucker, and Tomon (Fox) and Chris Collins are playing at a really high level and we’re going to play those guys more as ends, and right now it’s a little more of a four-man structure than a three-man structure, so I think that’s kind of where we are right now with it.
“But, Kaimon kind of plays a little bit of both, Tyrone kind of plays a little bit of both, Tomon plays a little bit of both, so going forward, I think that will kind of be what it is.”
*UNC fans finally got to see Kyler McMichael in a Tar Heels’ uniform Saturday, and he played well. He played 49 snaps in his first game action in nearly two years after playing at Clemson as a freshman.
“It was great to see him play as much as he did,” Bateman said. “Here’s the deal with corners, you don’t talk about them, it’s a pretty good day. So everybody’s like, ‘Kyler played, he played pretty good, nobody talked about him.’ That’s pretty good because he was in man coverage a lot.
“Kyler is really talented, he’s going to get better every day. And again, he didn’t play football last year, he was on the scout team and did a great job helping those guys. We kept him in meetings, but it’s not the same. He’s got a ton of ability, I’m really glad he’s here, he’s going to play a ton.”