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CHAPEL HILL--- Just six days before North Carolina starts year two of the Larry Fedora era with a tough road game at South Carolina, the UNC head coach spoke with reporters inside Kenan Stadium Friday.
"We've had a very productive fall camp. We've got something like 23 or 24 practices under our belt. We are where we are, and we're ready for this first one."
"Typically at the end of camp they're tired of hitting each other. They're ready to hit somebody else and find out who the 2013 Tar Heels are."
On the improvements of Bryn Renner from a year ago:
"It's not even close in the camp last year (how much better Renner has gotten). His decision-making. The leadership he's providing. The knowledge of the offense understanding when he needs to make the throws, when to punt, how to manage the chains and win the football game. Big difference from last year."
On the depth at middle linebacker.....
Nathan Staub or Jeff Schoettmer are both in the mix at middle linebacker, and 'if we had to go today,' Schoettmer would be the starting middle linebacker.
On whether UNC has any thoughts on winning the season opener for the ACC.....
"(Conference pride) isn't something we don't really get into. We talk about it's the next opponent. That's all we focus on. These players have no control where the other team comes from. It's more about this is the opponent. We're not going to play the conference, just the one team. That's not something we talk about. We haven't talked about league versus league."
On the excitement of opening against the Top 10 team like South Carolina.....
"The fans have been excited about it since this game was put on the schedule. A lot of people have wanted to talk about it, and that's been part of the excitement. That's provided extra motivation in offseason conditioning and spring ball as incentive to push harder."
On playing South Carolina more often.....
"I think we're already starting the process (of playing South Carolina) more by playing them in Charlotte in 2015. I don't see why we wouldn't (play them more). Could it become a regional rivalry, border war? I think it's a good thing."
On the new tackling/player safety rules in college football.....
"I'm all for doing anything that's going to enhance player safety. I think we all are. How do I feel about it? I'm worried about it. I'm worried that we're putting a lot on the officials in a very bang-bang kind of moment, and when in doubt, they're supposed to throw the flag. And if the coaches aren't concerned, they will be when a guy is ejected."
"From a defensive standpoint, you're talking about lowering your target area. You don't want to take chances. The NFL is lowering its target range, and when you do that you're going to have more injuries below the waist, and those are devastating injuries. Those are career-ending injuries."
"You've got big, fast, strong guys running into each other full speed. Things are going to happen. I don't think you can totally take all the injuries out of the game. I just don't think you can do it. I am for preventing concussions and keeping these players safe, but I just don't know how this is going to work out, because it's going to be a judgment call by the officials."
We've watched video. We've had officials watch video and talk with our guys. There's a fine line, when you take the aggressiveness out of a guy in a situation, you risk him getting injured. It'll be interesting to see how it's processed around the country this year.
On Jadeveon Clowney:
"I'm not looking forward to it (Clowney vs. Hurst). The guy is a great player. I'm long beyond the one play from MIchigan. That guy makes plays, and he's a major factor. I am glad that James Hurst is going to be over there, but I also am not naive to think that's the only place he's going to line up. He's probably going to line up everywhere and be put into position to have success against our offense."
"First of all, you understand you're not going to shut him (Clowney) down. He's too good of a football player."
On Eric Ebron:
"Eric Ebron handled the summer fine. I've been putting pressure on him since the day he got here. My expectation levels are going to be high, and they're going to continue to be, because I think he responds better that way."
"You're not going to take a happy-go-lucky kind of guy to make him a serious guy, and we don't want cookie-cutter guys. We want him to be who he is. He focuses different than Bryn Renner, but each kid is different. The main thing is that you don't want one kid's personal plan to affect another kid's personal plan."
On limiting big plays this season.....
"I have seen improvement (limiting big plays), and we've worked a lot on tackling in the open field, because spread offenses, that's the whole premise is create as much space as possible, and let's see if you make the tackle. We've done a lot of tackling in the open field. You've got to understand what you're doing. Know your job, and do your job."
"The only way you gain confidence is gain success. I do think our guys feel better about where they are than where they were at the end of last year."
"Kendrick Singleton, he's probably the leader in that room (the wide receivers position group). He's extremely hard working. He gives you tremendous effort all the time. He's starting on all four special teams. He's dependable in anything we do, whether it's blocking, running a certain route, catching passes, whatever.
On the right tackle position....
"Jon Heck is going to start at right tackle against South Carolina, and we'll take it from there."
On Connor Shaw and the South Carolina running game.....
"Connor Shaw is probably the returning leading rusher (for the Gamecocks), but I promise you they're going to run the football, and they don't mind running the quarterback."
On the advantages of a challenging season opener on the road.....
"The advantages are one, it promotes a sense of urgency in the offseason, in the summer. You understand you don't have a game to warm up. You've got to be ready right now. That helps in creating that sense of urgency, and it also gives you a better idea of where you're at, and where improvement needs to be made."
"It's obviously tremendous for exposure for what we're trying to create with our program with the Tar Heels, nationwide."
On the newcomers......
"We never know how those true freshmen are going to perform. You go through camp and try to identify the guys who have been dependable through camp. We'd like to know he's going to do it, and he's prepared to go, but some of them are seventeen and eighteen years old. There will be nerves involved, and some of them won't play the way they normally play."
On T.J. Logan......
"He is still hobbled right now. I don't know if he will make the trip (to Columbia)."
On South Carolina's defense.....
"South Carolina did a good job last year stopping the run against Clemson and taking them out of their comfort level, and when you're doing things you're not used to doing, it creates problems."