UNC head coach Larry Fedora spoke with reporters Wednesday in the ACC weekly teleconference as the Tar Heels prepare to take on Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon in Kenan Stadium.
We're excited about getting back out on the field with this team. The way we walked off the field the last game was very exciting, and I think our players are biting at the bit to get back out there and play together. We're going to have a tremendous challenge this week with Georgia Tech coming in here and what they have to offer. So we're interested in finding out where we are as a football team.
T.J. Thorpe got hurt in training camp and it looks like he's probably going to redshirt. But how has his development come back? We've seen him in practice running routes. What's he been like getting back to where he was?
Well, I think he's closer. He's been -- what he's been allowed to do now is he's been released to run routes. He actually jumped in the other day when we were doing reverses there and throwing balls to him. He's not supposed to be doing that yet, but he's biting at the bit to get back out there. But he has been released to run routes against air right now with no balls thrown to him. I think he's progressing and on pace for doing what they want. I look forward to getting him back full speed.
They've been playing both their quarterbacks a lot this year and particularly last week. Just wondering how you go about preparing for (Vad) Lee and (Tevin) Washington?
Well, you really can't change what you do. I mean, you only have time to prepare for the offense and not for a particular player. The offense is very difficult to defend, and you only get a limited amount of reps and you've got to do a great job of assignment discipline and making sure your guys understand what they have to do in each situation.
So for us, whether it's Tevin Washington or the Vad Lee kid, we're going to have to do a great job against either one. The offense itself is what creates the problem.
Do you feel you have an advantage by getting an extra week to prepare for that offense?
Well, whether we have an advantage or not, I don't know. It's given us some extra time and extra practices. It's something that's much needed when you face that style offense. I don't knee if we have an advantage, but we are utilizing our time as well as we can.
With this game and Tech trying to stay on the field with their offense and keep you guys from being on the field, what do you expect from this game in terms of possessions you might be able to get in this game?
Well, that's going to be interesting. From studying them, I don't know exactly where it is. But it's somewhere probably 9, 10 possessions, maybe 8, somewhere in that area where they're probably averaging a game. They do a great job of eating clock. They do a great job of four and five and depth and they can beat you with the big play.
We understand we're not going to get the possessions we've normally had in a game because of their style and it's just the way it is. So we've got to be very efficient. When we have the ball, our offense has to complement our defense. And when we do that, we have to be efficient offensively and move the chains.
What role will Vic Koenning play having played Tech in 2008? How has that impacted the game planning for them?
It's had a tremendous impact one. Vic has played against Paul before. You know, actually all of our coaches and our staff at some point have played against the triple option so they've had some experience against it. But Vic has played against him in particular, and understands what it's going to take and understands the difficulty of it.
I think has done a good job of understanding, hey, you can't do too much in a given week to prepare for it, and your guys, whatever you do, they've got do it well. They understand they're going to make some plays on you. That's just the way it is. I hope that's an advantage for us.
How different does Tech's defense look to you over the past two weeks?
Scheme-wise, not much difference. I think they've probably simplified things. They're not doing as much as they were doing early. I think what you're seeing is their kids. Now you're seeing the athleticism in their kids come out. They're playing faster and playing harder because they know what to do.
How is Junior Knonkonde doing?
Yeah, Junior's a kid that's a really raw athlete that is going to be a good football player. We're really excited about him, and we're red shirting him this year. He's a very, very strong kid. I was surprised how strong he was, and it's just natural strength. He runs really well. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does this spring.
Eric Ebron's been one of the more productive tight ends. What is the thinking behind playing him on defense? What do you get out of playing him at defensive end?
Well, for that game, we had some guys really beat up on the defensive line. It was more out of a necessity of needing somebody to get a little bit of some pressure on the quarterback. I think Eric did a nice job of filling in. He played about 10 or 12 snaps for us in some third-down situations and did a nice job of it. Helped us get some pressure, and created them to adjust their protection to him which enabled us to get to the guy in the fourth quarter.
So Eric's a tremendous athlete. He played the position in high school. He was able to fill a need for us.
Anymore two-way players down the road?
Have you done that very much in the past?
A little bit with guys that are special and can handle it. The thing I ask is if a guy can do that, he's got to be dependable on his side of the ball first of all. He's got to be a guy that the coach relies on that knows he's going to do his job day-in and day-out.
Because when you do that and move him to the other side, a lot of his energy and thought process goes into learning what he has to do over there, and it usually takes away from what he's doing on the original side of the ball.
We saw that in the game the other day. Had he some uncharacteristic drops that people would say, well, that has nothing to do with it. But I beg to differ. I think it definitely does have an effect on how a guy plays on his original side.