North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora spoke Wednesday morning in the weekly Atlantic Coast Conference football teleconference about this week's challenge from East Carolina, his relationship with Pirates offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and his own offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, as well as the Tar Heel running game and what needs to happen for UNC to improve on the ground.
Read the full transcription of Fedora's Wednesday comments to the media below:
We are looking forward to getting back to Kenan Stadium, playing in front of our home crowd. I know Ruffin McNeill will bring a very hungry and talented East Carolina team, so we know we have our work cut out for us.
What do you feel like are the characteristics of a great offensive coordinator, and when did you start noticing those with Blake (Anderson)?
I think it's a guy that first of all has a great presence with the unit. I think that's very important. A guy that can handle an entire unit, and can motivate an entire unit. Philosophy has to fit---that's very important---and the personality of the guy is very critical, and how he relates with players.
As far as a play-caller, I think play-calling is overrated a lot of times. I think most of the work is done throughout the week in the game plan and putting together a good game plan, and from there you just get a feel about a person.
Blake and I have been together for a long time, and I have complete confidence in him.
In terms of your offensive emphasis this week in practice, where have you spent this week to try to improve?
Shoot, I hope we improve in every area, because I don't think there's any area on the offensive side of the ball where I think we arrived. I mean, if you go back and look at that second half (against Georgia Tech), we were inept in every situation we were put in offensively. We've just got to play harder. We've got to execute. We can't shoot ourselves in the foot. And every guy on that field, all eleven, have to give a little bit more on each and every snap.
Did you privately think before this season that without Giovani Bernard, UNC wouldn't be as productive an offense?
No, I didn't. I really expected our offense to be more productive just going into our second year. And I still believe that. I still believe it's going to be. And I'm going to expect us to be.
How well do you know Lincoln Riley over at East Carolina? I guess you guys are sort of cut from the same Texas cloth......
I knew Lincoln when he was out at Texas Tech, and did a nice job out there. And then actually I visited with him a little when I was at Southern Miss, and then he joined up with Ruffin (McNeill at East Carolina). So I've known Lincoln. I know he's a young coach that started out there (at Texas Tech) in Mike Leach's system, and really did a nice job with them. And now he's brought it to East Carolina and he's doing a heck of a job over there.
Did you guys interview him for a job when you were at Southern Miss at one point?
Yeah, I actually did---I sure did. I brought him in there (to Hattiesburg) at one point and thought about hiring him. I actually did. It was a position (coaching opportunity).
Just talk about playing against East Carolina this year. On film, they seem like a high-powered offense. What are you guys going to have to do on Saturday?
Well, we're going to have to play really well on defense. Obviously, it starts with getting some pressure on the quarterback. We're going to have to get some pressure on the quarterback. But you really have to stop the run. You've got to stop the run and make them one-dimensional, and then you've got to get pressure on the quarterback.
And then after that, it's tackling in the open field. I mean, they're going to get the ball out in space and you're going to be in one-on-one situations a lot of times. So we've got to get a lot of guys running to the football playing hard, and if we do that we've got a chance.
Talk about this rivalry between East Carolina and North Carolina........
When you play an in-state team, you've got guys on your team that played with guys on their (East Carolina's) team, or played against guys on their team in high school, and so they have relationships. And any time you have that scenario, it's going to be a little more intense. You're going to have guys that have histories with each other.
And then you've got the fans. You've got the fans on the Eastern side of the state that are obviously East Carolina fans. They're sprinkled around, and so there's a lot of bragging rights in play.
Eric Ebron caught 40 passes last year, but can you talk about how he's playing this year? Has he upped his game a little bit? Is he better?
I think first of all, the guy is really talented. I mean, he really is. He can make plays, and unfortunately there were a couple more that he had later in the game (against Georgia Tech), he could have made those plays, you know. And probably a little bit of that is just that we played him too much because of the situation. We needed to get him rested a little bit better so he could have played better towards the end of the game. But he is so talented.
He can block at the point of attack. He's physical enough to do that. He runs really good routes, and he's got great hands. I mean, he really does. He has a knack for making that catch that seems to be really hard, and when he's making those catches he usually is getting the tar knocked out of him.
He does a great job of concentrating on the ball and not worrying about his body. He's definitely a threat in every situation that we're in.
Obviously last year Giovani Bernard was your big-play guy in the running backs. Can you talk about your running back situation right now, and what you're doing to make up for his absence?
We really haven't changed. The philosophy has been whoever is the hot guy, that's the guy that's going to go. Unfortunately, we just haven't had anybody that's gotten hot.
Part of that is a combination of the offensive line blocking on the perimeter. The backs seeing the reads, seeing the cuts. All those things. We have a combination of problems there that we've got to get solved. And then somebody needs to start making those plays so they can stay out on the field longer. We're looking for somebody to do it. It's hard to do that when you start playing multiple guys.