Fedora touches on spring topics
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Following UNC's practice Wednesday afternoon---the first of the new spring season for the 2014 Tar Heels---head coach Larry Fedora engaged in a customary press gathering.
Fedora, well-known as a high-energy coach, was excited about getting back on the field and starting the transition from the high of the end of the 2013 season into getting ready for the new season later this year.
"It was fun to be back out," Fedora said. "To be back out on the football field doing something football related, I think it was fun for all the players, the old coaches (and) the new coaches. Everybody together."
Fedora welcomed three new coaches to his staff in recent weeks (running backs coach Larry Porter, offensive playcaller/tight ends coach Seth Littrell, and quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf), and while he acknowledged that it was a bit hectic for some of them in the beginning, he's confident they'll get the hang of the tempo and speed at which the team works out.
"I think the transition (with the new coaches) has been really well," Fedora said. "I think the guys have done a nice job. They understand what's going on. Two of them today were a little wide-eyed moving and getting from drill to drill, but their players know what's going on, so they'll get them there."
The Carolina program has also welcomed in five new true freshmen who enrolled in January (safety Allen Artis, cornerback M.J. Stewart, tight end Brandon Fritts, offensive tackle Bentley Spain, and running back Elijah Hood).
"We're in shorts, and they (the true freshmen) always look good at this time. But they're a little big-eyed too, because it's a different tempo of a practice than they're used to. But they all have skills. All five of them have skills, and they will all get better as they go," Fedora said.
The Tar Heels have not been shy about playing first-year players under Fedora, and he's fully confident that some of these guys will help UNC this coming fall.
Brandon Fritts, one of just two scholarship tight ends on the UNC roster this spring, got work with the second-team offense on Wednesday, while the rest of the newcomers worked into third-team rotations behind the more experienced players on the first day.
"I think all five of them could help us," Fedora said of the freshmen. "And that's why I think they've taken advantage of the opportunity and gotten themselves here early, and they're working extremely hard. All five of them could really help us."
As is his customary approach early in spring practice, Fedora was non-committal about any of the position competitions other than to acknowledge that every single position is up for grabs over the next few weeks.
Everyone of course wants to know how the competition is going between quarterbacks Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky, but Fedora isn't ready to go there.
"It's way too early to talk about all that. I'll have a better idea coming out of the spring where we are at that (quarterback) position," he said. "As a team, we're competing at every position. There were guys that were starters in 2013 that they had to go out and take the first snap today, because they were the starter, but this is the 2014 team."
"We're going to go fifteen days and try to find out who our starters are in those fifteen days. And at some positions it will be clear and some it won't. We'll just have to go from there."
UNC did have multiple players switch positions during the offseason, as Fedora pointed out.
"Tyler Alberts went to tight end. (J.J.) Patterson went to the offensive line," Fedora said.
Others who made moves during the bowl practices and offseason months include senior defensive back Tim Scott, who is transitioning from cornerback to free safety, and sophomore Clint Heaven, who is moving from safety to linebacker.
In the case of Patterson, who started out as an offensive tackle as a newcomer back in 2012 and then spent his redshirt freshman season of 2013 on the defensive line, his move back to left offensive guard is more out of necessity.
With Caleb Peterson shelved this spring coming off shoulder surgery and two other interior offensive linemen from 2013---centers Russell Bodine and Jarrod James---no longer on the UNC roster, it was imperative for the Tar Heels to bring over a defensive lineman to the offensive side, and Patterson was the natural choice.
"We need offensive linemen. We don't have much depth," Fedora said of Patterson's move back to offense. "We started him over there the first year, and we needed to get him back over there so maybe we can have two lines for the Spring Game."
Patterson, as well as others up front offensively for the Tar Heels, are likely to get reps at multiple positions this spring in order to get as many guys as possible some seasoning.
"They (the offensive linemen) all will (move around). (Coach Kapilovic) will move them in with the 'ones' and the 'twos' throughout the spring, so they'll all get equal reps."
Fedora also touched on senior defensive contributors Travis Hughes and Brandon Ellerbe, who were neither one at Wednesday's practice.
Both players are currently not working out with the Tar Heels, as Hughes remains suspended, while Ellerbe is not currently enrolled at the University.
"Nope, not at this time, he (Hughes) is not doing any team activities," said Fedora. "Ellerbe is not with us this spring. I expect him to (come back), yes."
During the post-practice press opportunity, Fedora was made aware of the fact that the NCAA tabled a proposed 10-second rule change that would have dramatically slowed down the sport and made things considerably more difficult for spread offenses to operate in the matter that they've grown accustomed.
As one might expect, Fedora was pleased to hear that particular piece of news.
"Oh, good. That's great. That's good news (the rule was tabled)," he replied.
"I was concerned, yeah. I was definitely concerned, especially when we first found out about it. I was really concerned. In fact, I started getting phone calls from coaches around the country, and I started making phone calls to other coaches around the country."
"The word spread pretty fast, and I think we made sure that we used the period that we had to give our thoughts to the NCAA. We did that through the website. If it didn't pass it's a good thing. I think it's good for college football."
Fedora concluded by talking about his unique opportunity to drive the pace car at an upcoming NASCAR event at the Martinsville Speedway in southern Virginia.
"I'm going to drive the pace car at Martinsville. That's going to be fun," he said. "That's what they told me (that I'm actually driving the car). That's why I'm scared."
Fedora made light of the opportunity while also expressing concern that he may not be nearly prepared to drive a high-performance car on a track as he is getting the Tar Heels ready for a football game.
"I told them (the NASCAR officials), 'When that flag drops, is it okay for the pace car to stay in front for three or four laps?" Fedora said to laughs from the media members.
"I'm excited about it. I was up there last year and that race up there is really exciting. That's the first time I had been to a short track. There's some action going on the whole time, so that's a lot of fun. I'll probably be scared to death when I get out there. I'm talking big right now, but I'm sure that I'll be scared to death that I'll screw something up."