UNC head coach Larry Fedora spoke Wednesday afternoon in the Atlantic Coast Conference weekly teleconference just three days prior to his Tar Heels face off against arch-rival N.C. State. Carolina is smarting last weekend's loss at Duke, while NCSU controls its own destiny in the ACC Atlantic coming off last week's win at Maryland.
"We're really excited about hosting one of our rivals this week at Kenan Stadium, and we're looking forward to it. We know it will be a heck of a battle, and I'm sure that they will be a well-prepared team, and it will be a heck of a game."
Mike Glennon is a quarterback that throws to a lot of different receivers, and over half of his touchdown passes have gone to Bryan Underwood. Just wonder what you see in Underwood that he has that knack for getting in the end zone like that?
"Yeah, I think first of all, he's a good player, and he understands how to get open. I think Glennon finds him. He's a guy that a lot of times what happens with the quarterback and a certain receiver, a quarterback gets into a comfort zone with the receiver, and if things break down or if things are tight and not sure, that's the guy he goes to."
"I think (Bryan) Underwood has developed that confidence level with Glennon based on that alone. If things aren't right and he knows he can find him, he's going to get the ball to him and he's going to make the play."
Does he seem to have -- what is your -- it's hard to see on film, I know. But what is your evaluation of the speed he has?
"He can run. He can run. All of their receivers have good speed. And Glennon can spin the ball really well now. It comes out of his hands, and he can make any throw on the field. I'll put it like that."
We heard from some of your players this week that there is red up in the locker room. Just wondering where you got the idea from or if you made a trip to Party City or something to get them?
"No, it was just something, again, to get our guys refocused on this next week and the task at hand coming off of a pretty frustrating loss. We needed to refocus immediately. So just decided to do that on my own. Had it done, and that hopefully caught
everybody's eye immediately."
What did that Duke game tell you that "we need to fix this or fix that" in time for
the next game?
"It told me we need to learn how to finish as a football team, and that is something that we're constantly working on. We had plenty of opportunities to win the football game. Then on the other hand it also told me that we need to start faster than that. We can't sit around waiting for something to happen. We've got to make something happen."
Easy enough things to fix?
"Oh, yeah. Definitely things that can be fixed, yeah. It's not throw your hands up and say, well, that's just who we are. We can't do anything about it. No, we will definitely have made some adjustments and hopefully those things will help us in the future."
I was just noticing that Eric Ebron has set the single season record for Carolina for tight ends. Can you talk about him, what he does well, and how he figures in your offense?
"Well, he does a very nice job at the point of attack, first of all. Second of all, he has wide receiver-like skills. We can split him out. He can run a route like a wide receiver. He does a great job of using leverage, breaking down a DB and getting himself open. He's got a big body, and he's got great hands. So he's a guy that you can do a lot of different things well."
"I don't know how many balls he's caught at this point, but I'm sure there are going to be quite a few more that come his way over the second half of the season."
Back when I know the spread offense is kind of the popular thing. Back when they first came out, people didn't use tight ends in them. Can you talk about the evolution of that? It obviously plays a big role in your version of the spread.
"Yeah, the first time that I started using it pretty effectively was at the University of Florida back then. We had two there that went on and played in the NFL. And both of those guys are close to being the leading receivers on the team. Then moving on with Brandon Pettigrew, who was catching 50 balls a year and doing the same thing. It's something we've been doing for a while."
"We had the one kid that was a fourth round draft pick at Southern Miss who was also a lot like Eric. Very athletic, probably not as physical at the point of attack as Eric. So the tight end has been a big part of this offense and what we try to do. The mismatch that it creates when you find an athlete of that size, you're able to create quite a few opportunities for big plays."
Can you talk about the type of atmosphere you expect on Saturday. N.C. State fans are trying to get whatever loose tickets there are out there. But is it liable to be a pretty intense atmosphere, lot of recruits talk about that and what you're hope to go see from there?
"I think it will be a great atmosphere Saturday. I really do. Our fans will be excited. I'm sure they'll have some fans here. It's a typical rivalry game it's one of the great things about college football is the passion that the fans have in a rivalry."
"I think it will be a tremendous atmosphere. I think it's one of the reasons you play the game as a young man is for games like this. That's what
you dream about. So it should be a lot of fun."
As great as Giovani Bernard has been in the last few weeks. Is there a danger the offense is depending too much on him? He was such an important part of your offense Saturday night?
"I don't know. I don't think we threw the ball around well early in that game and really in the first three quarters we didn't do a good job of that. I don't think it's because we are dependent on Gio. I just think there were probably some situations where guys were waiting around to see if Gio's making a big play. That's not who we are as a team. That's not who we are as an offense. I feel like we're balanced and should be."
"I think we're still one of the few teams in the country that are rushing for 200 and throwing for over 250. So we take pride in being able to do both. Unfortunately, we were not executing the other night throwing the football around, and didn't until the fourth quarter."
Bernard obviously missed a game early this year and went out for a couple of plays in the Duke game. How is he physically holding up to all the hits he has to take?
"Well, you will see he missed two and a half games early in the season and to this point in the season he's played 293 plays. So that's not an excessive amount at all. I think he's holding up fine. I think if you watch the style of runner he is, he's not your big cruiser that's taken five or six licks on etch play. He does a nice job of avoiding the blows."
Wanted to ask you about Jonathan Cooper. How much did you have to kind of re-recruit him when you guys got on the staff, and what was that process like?
"It wasn't a re-recruiting. It was more when he got here I knew Jonathan was one of the guys that was projected pretty high in the draft. I knew that he was going to want to talk and try to make some decisions. Basically it was a fact-finding or gathering as much information as possible from as many sources from the NFL and lay it out for he and his family so they could make a good decision. That was all there was to it."
"And Jonathan and his parents made a decision, and said they were going to stay, and we just went from there."
Just how good is he?
"He's really good. I've been coaching 26 years now I've not had an interior lineman with his athletic ability. So he's pretty special."
Is it hard to tell that from talking to him? He seems like a pretty humble guy.
"Yeah, you're never going to find that out from him, I assure you. You talk to any scout that comes through here. You talk to anybody that's studying game film, I mean, they're all going to tell you he's pretty special. Can he do things with his feet that mostly skill guys are doing."
"But from Jonathan, he's a very humble guy. He's going to deflect all the praise. He's going to try to deflect it somewhere else. He's very, very close with the other four offensive linemen that he plays with. Those guys are always together, and Jonathan has a very unique personality also."