TarHeelIllustrated - Mack Brown July Press Conference, Notes & Quotes
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Mack Brown July Press Conference, Notes & Quotes

CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina football coach Mack Brown met with the media late Thursday morning to give a summer update on his program as the Tar Heels are less than a month from beginning fall camp.

Brown said players report Aug. 4 and the first practice is Aug. 5. Carolina opens at Virginia Tech on Sept. 3.

Among the things Brown hit on were about the NIL, roster management and the tough conversations he and the staff have had with players, recruiting finally opening up in June, and so much more.

We will note some of the things he hit on here and will follow up with several additional pieces in the next few days.

Here are some notes and quotes from what Brown had to say:

*Redshirt freshman tight end and true freshman linebacker Gabe Stephens will not be ready to go when fall camp begins next month. Karr has an upper body injury and Stephens has a lower body injury.

*Fall camp begins Aug. 4 with the players reporting and Aug. 5 with the first practice. The NCAA has made some changes regarding fall camp for this year. The Tar Heels will be in shorts the first three days, shells the next two, and can finally have full contact in the sixth practice. Teams cannot scrimmage as often or for as long this year.

*The roster on GoHeels.com has been updated, but it should be noted the weights of the players are target weights. Some kids are above their target and must drop some pounds, some are under and must gain some weight.

*Brown said he would recruit the entire freshmen class all over again. Word from player-led practices have been extremely positive about the whole team, but the new guys in particular.

“I’d recruit all of them again,” Brown said. “Just watching them workout in the summer, they’re really talented. Obviously, they’re behind the guys that came in in January, but they’re catching up soon and summer gives them a great opportunity to do that.”

The message during the summer workouts has been about the program’s stated mission, something the older guys have been tabbed with the responsibility of making a daily part of their regimen.

“We were good last year, but we’re trying to be great.” Brown said. “And to do that, everybody’s got to improve by one percent. Everybody’s got to step up: Do your job, get better, help your team in any way that you possibly can.”

*The program’s most recent APR rating was 997, which is 23 points higher than any time previously for the football team. Brown also said over the last six semesters, the program’s GPS is 3.167.

Brown said he’s “really proud of the way the guys have worked, even through COVID, with all the unusual things that they had to do virtual, and they’ve still done a great job.”

*The ACC Kickoff is in Charlotte again this year, though it will be the first once since 2019 because of the pandemic. The Coastal Division will be up on July 21 and the three UNC players that will be there are Sam Howell, Tomon Fox, and Jeremiah Gemmel.

*UNC is “very, very close” to selling out its season tickets, something in which there was uncertainty if it or other schools would as we near the end of the pandemic.

“(It’s) a great sign coming off of a very difficult year that all of us had with COVID last year, and so many businesses were hurt, a lot of money was lost, a lot of jobs were lost, and people are still buying season tickets, and I think that shows that they’ve got for the fall.”

*Brown wanted input from his team about the recently proposed 12-team playoff format that has gained considerable traction in the media and on social media, and their take on it was rather interesting.

“We took it to our players and asked them what they thought, because it’s going to affect them more than anybody else,” Brown said. “And our players were against the 12-team playoff, they were about even between a six or an eight-team playoff. They felt like each of the conference champions should have an automatic bid. They felt like the group of five’s highest ranked teams should have an automatic bid and then the highest ranked teams would take the other few spots if it was an eight-team playoff.”

Interestingly, one of the main reasons the players are against a 12-team format is they don’t believe there are that many teams worthy enough for inclusion.

*Regarding Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL), Brown went into lengthy detail about compliance, communication with their players and families so they know what the dos and donts are, and what role the coaches are playing. Furthermore, just because they are on the team doesn’t mean they will get money, players must perform to have a brand.

“We also told them, “To make any money with your brand you’re going to have to be a good player,” Brown said. “They’re gonna have to want to see you do something that’s going to help represent their brand.

“Secondly, you’re going to have to stay out of trouble. Nobody wants to have advertising with someone that’s not doing things right. So you have to graduate. And those things are all important, ‘So, don’t let your brand get ahead of your ball, because your ball is what’s going to lead to your brand.’”

Brown and the staff are not dealing with branding the players or their deals, the LAUNCH program and others in the department are helping in those respects. Brown believes this is an opportunity for college athletes to grow up even more than before while still in school. Tax issues, deciding on marketing agents, which must be different from their approved NFL agents, and what entities they choose to endorse are all things they must handle now.

Even whether or not they are considered dependents by their parents, it’s a whole new world for many of them.

The players recently had a meeting with AD Bubba Cunningham and his NIL team to further educate the players on what is allowed and what isn’t and how to go about these new NIL opportunities and the issues in which they are associated. Furthermore, the parents of the players had a zoom call to discuss the same things.

There have been many misconceptions about what is allowable under NIL and players and their families need to understand where the lines are so they don’t make mistakes and the player is suddenly ineligible.

“We went over everything with the parents, and they had wonderful questions,” Brown said. “Everybody is kind of learning this as you go.”

*Brown said local businesses would be wise to get involved with the players because they’ve been helping them for years on gamedays, so it’s only right to reach out to them.

“I would love that simply because the football players, them playing on Saturdays brings so many people into our community and they help the local businesses so much that I would hope the local businesses would give some opportunities back to the players,” Brown said.

*For the first time in 15 months, prospects and coaching staffs could meet in person last month, and “It was a great evaluation process for the families and us,” Brown said.

He said the staff didn’t take off one minute, as players were stopping by on a regular basis, wanting to be looked at by the coaches, which was aided by the staffs being allowed to work out kids on unofficial visits.

“Recruiting has been crazy in June,” Brown said. “We took 15 months of recruiting and put it into three weeks. If you can imagine, we had unofficial visits, we had official visits, we had evaluations, which we’ve never had before where a young man could come in and we could work him out for an hour with our own on-the-field coaches. And you had to have a trainer there, too. We’ve never been able to do that before.

“So, you all of a sudden went from 15 months of zooming with a player and their family to seeing them walk in your door and get to say hello to them, sit down and visit with them and actually recruit them.”

*The NCAA granted schools an allowance to go over the 85-scholarship limit for the coming season since it granted all athletes an additional year, meaning seniors in 2020 that are back are now super seniors. That roster waiver, however, will end after this season.

Programs must return to the 85 maximum for the 2022 season, thus causing some roster management headaches for every coach in FBS. Brown said it has forced the staff to have early conversations with some players with respect to their futures beyond the coming season.

“So, what we had to do was sit down with every player, which was probably healthy, and say, ‘If you’re not playing next year or if you’re not playing a lot next year, will you be in the transfer portal in January,’ to see who possibly will be leaving.

“We asked, ‘If you’re drafted in the first three rounds will you leave? If you’re drafted in (rounds) four-through-seven will you leave? If you’re not drafted and you’re a senior, are you leaving anyway?’”

Brown and the staff even asked the players if they would drop out of the bowl game if it’s not the College Football Playoff.

“We’ve tried to have really hard conversations with each one of them, because with COVID and with roster management the way it is right now, we need to know how many scholarships we think we’ll have available next year,” Brown said. “So conversations have been more direct, but we’re getting more information than ever before at an earlier time, which I think will really help our team.”