CHAPEL HILL--- UNC head coach Larry Fedora spoke Saturday afternoon in his Media Day press conference, spending over a dozen minutes breaking down the Tar Heels as they get going with the early days of this summer's training camp.
"The season's here. That's a statement. I mean, it's here," Fedora said in his introduction. "You know, it's time to get back in with these players and get going. It's been hard not getting to be around them all summer. So to get them back to camp and to be around them again, it's been a lot of fun."
Coaching transitions in sport always bring about a certain new culture around a team, and the transition of coaches in Chapel Hill in recent months of course has been no exception.
As Coach Fedora and his staff settles into the Kenan Football Center more with each passing day and the Butch Davis era becomes more of a distant memory, Fedora's way of doing things is becoming more and more the norm.
Some of the new things Fedora has instituted around Kenan Stadium are policies forbidding earrings and hats being worn inside the building by the UNC players.
Some would say these rules aren't necessary, that they're superfluous guidelines from an old-school bygone era that don't apply to modern times and modern players.
But others would argue that these simple steps are a much-needed charge of discipline within the Tar Heel program that was painfully missing during the highly-permissive Davis Era.
"I don't know if they've embraced it the same way (as I did as a kid), but you don't give them much choice with rules," Fedora said. "Those are habits. That (not having earrings) was the way I was raised, so it's easy for me because I've been doing it my whole life. You're trying to change some habits that guys have, and that doesn't happen overnight."
"I'll still see a guy with his hat on in here. He forgets. They're kids. They'll forget or they'll see me and they'll immediately see if they've got them (earrings) in. They don't even know. But I know they're thinking about it, because when I see them, I notice that they're thinking about it, because they see me. So hopefully it will rub off on some of them."
Fedora contends that getting the players to buy into his old-school philosophies on discipline and doing things a certain way has been among the least of his worries.
"One of the easiest things, the kids have bought in from Day One," he said. "They've just had excitement and enthusiasm eagerness to get going. That hasn't been a problem from the beginning. And in each phase they've shown that they're willing to do whatever we ask them to do."
MEETING OFFSEASON CHALLENGES
Coach Fedora says that he felt good about where the team stood coming out of spring ball, but he and his staff challenged the players to meet several goals during the late spring and summer months.
"I really haven't tried to comfort anybody," he said. "We challenged them. When we left off in the spring we thought we had accomplished our objectives in the spring. And then we challenged them to see how far they could go the rest of the spring and through the summer."
"Then we would know where we would need to pick up in camp, and that would determine how far we could go through this camp."
Specifically, the coaches wanted several players to lose significant weight, and for the team as a whole to log heavy hours in the film room studying UNC's schemes to retain and build on all the information they soaked in during the spring season.
"All the coaches are very satisfied with their 'recall' (of information), and how much more they had picked up (during the offseason)," said Fedora. "Just watching them in the drills, how they do the drills, they're so much farther along than they were during the spring. That's really nice."
The fact that several of UNC's bigger guys like Travis Bond and Sylvester Williams shred off substantial weight speaks volumes to what Fedora was saying about the players buying in.
"You've got guys like (Travis) Bond who's lost a tremendous amount of weight," Fedora continued. "I think every one of the guys that our nutritionist decided we needed to lose weight, and how they were going to do it, all of those guys did what they needed to do."
"I don't know if any of you have tried to lose weight in here---you've got to decide that you're going to do it. It can't be just because Coach (Chris) 'Kap (Kapilovic) or Coach (Deke) Adams is saying, 'Hey you need to lose weight,' because if they don't decide to do it, they're not going to lose weight. And so that just tells me that much more about how much they bought in."
"For Sly (Williams), we tell Sly we wanted him to weigh 300 pounds and he walks in (for camp) and he weighs 300 pounds. That means it meant something to him, and that he did what it took to do it, because it doesn't just happen. Weight doesn't just melt off you."
"There's some sacrifice and eating right and doing things the right way, which these guys have done, so Im proud of them."
Coach Fedora still can't go through a full press conference without somebody asking him about the NCAA sanctions and the ever-present academic scandal that has continued to make news this summer.
While many continue to be focused on UNC football's immediate past, Fedora's focus is concentrated on the present and future.
"(There's) no more baggage and no more handicap, because really once it all (the NCAA sanctions) came out we just addressed it and moved on."
"I don't know if anything new has come out," Fedora said. "I think a lot of things get brought up constantly. That may be the frustrating part is that it hasn't died yet. But eventually it will. With the team and the staff, it's long behind us and we've moved on. But eventually it will."
The fact that UNC can't play in the ACC Championship Game and won't play in a bowl this winter regardless of their regular season record might make it easy for some people to totally discount Carolina's 2012 season.
But a favorable schedule combined with a large number of returning players has given impetus for some respected media outlets, including Phil Steele's widely-respected preseason magazine, to project the Tar Heels as a favorite in the ACC Coastal.
Naturally, Fedora's expectations aren't diminished in the least by UNC's postseason limitations, although he admitted there was a direct impact in recruiting because of the limited scholarship numbers.
"(Diminished expectations) For who? Whether it should or not, it (my expectations for the team) are not going to be tempered. It doesn't change the way we look at it as coaches."
"We've just got fewer players, and so there's a smaller margin of error with the players that we recruit."
"It just is what it is. You can't cry about it, so we're going to have fewer (players) and we've got to get the job done. I don't think anybody cares one way or the other. They just want to see the results," Fedora continued.
"I think (Bill) Parcells used to have a saying, 'Don't tell me about the pain. Just show me the baby.' Nobody really cares about all that (the off the field limitations). Let's just see you win."
Much has been said about the UNC football's relationship with the academic community in recent years---and how a potential gulf in that relationship helped lead to some of the problems that led to the University's NCAA issues.
For his part, Coach Fedora is looking to build strong relationships with members of UNC's faculty, and while he acknowledged it will take some time, he's optimistic that the situation will improve over time.
"I don't know if you can do it overnight or in the short time I've been here, but I've started building some relationships with as many of the faculty as I can. And hopefully I'll be able to do that in a certain amount of time," he said. "And I hope they will see eventually we'll hold people accountable for what they do, and we're going to try to grow these young men into full-grown men."
"I will say this. On any college campus in the country there's probably not as close of a connection with the faculty and the athletic department as a lot of people want to think there is," Fedora added. "The two don't interact a lot."
"There's a lot of times where the (athletic) department, you're over here coaching football and you don't get to spend time with the faculty. And they don't come over here (to the UNC football offices). So you don't get to know each other as well. Hopefully we will be able to build a relationship as we go."
ODDS AND ENDS
THI has confirmed various tidbits in recent days regarding certain players, including Fabby Desir no longer being a member of the UNC roster.
Fedora also touched briefly on a few injuries as he finished up Saturday afternoon's media opportunity.
"Any injuries that are holding guys out? Yeah, we've got some," he said. "Quinshad Davis hasn't been cleared medically. "Brennan Williams hasn't been released yet from something he's been recovering from, from the spring. Shawn Underwood---those guys are getting reps but they haven't been released fully."
"Devon Ramsay hasn't been cleared yet medically either, and he's not in camp with us right now because he hasn't been cleared," Fedora added. "Fabby---how do you say his last name?---Desir has chosen to go elsewhere."
Fedora was also asked about rumors that he was throwing around a bunch of weight---as much as 350 pounds on the bench press---that was impressing his players a great deal in the weight room.
"They shouldn't spread these myths around," Fedora joked to some laughs from the media assemblage. "I don't know what that does (for the team). I try to get a workout in myself every once in a while."
"Why do you want to ask me about that? Let's talk about the players---let's not talk about me!"