Mack Mid-Week: Being Ready, Bly Battle, Charlotte & More
*Full video of Mack Brown's Q&A session is posted below.
CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina Coach Mack Brown met with the media via zoom following Wednesday morning’s practice as the Tar Heels are preparing to face Charlotte on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.
Among the many things Brown discussed are his team’s so-so practice earlier in the morning, Sam Howell, COVID testing during game weeks, the importance of readiness each week regardless of the opponent, the recruitment of Ray Vohasek and Don Chapman, non-ACC schedule preferences, his relationship with 49ers Coach Will Healy, Charlotte’s backup QB now that its starter is out, and more.
Here is the video of Brown’s 32-minute Q&A session as well as notes and quotes from what he had to say:
Wednesday Notes & Quotes From Brown...
*Now that the team has been through a game week with COVID testing, they have a better feel for how it will play out each week. So, they test at 8 am every Monday, after practice Wednesday and at 8 am Friday. Last week, they got their test results at 9 pm Friday night, so the staff knew the results before going to bed.
*Brown said he’s been asked by some people about images of him speaking to the team while not wearing a mask. His response:
“Our medical people have told us if we’re at least 15 feet, five yards or more away, then it’s safe,” Brown said. “I never go without a mask within that 15 feet, but when we are that far apart, they will let us take our masks off.”
*Wednesday morning’s practice wasn’t up to Brown’s standard. He wasn’t upset with his team, or just didn’t show it with the media, but he brought it up three times during the presser.
“I thought practice was just okay, I didn’t think it was great,” he said. “I was disappointed, very honestly. Last year, we played two great games to start the season and then we didn’t play well at Wake Forest and we didn’t play well at home against Appalachian, and I told them they’ve got to become what they say they want to become. And you’ve got to show that, you can’t just do that. And I thought today it wasn’t awful, it was okay, it wasn’t a great practice by any means.
“Yesterday was really good. They had energy and I thought they were excited about playing. Today, I thought it was okay, and that’s disappointing.”
*Practicing well speaks to readiness and so does how a team handles expectations. We wrote about expectations in a piece posted Wednesday morning, but to elaborate on that, Brown said getting to a certain level with each practice leads to full readiness for each game, regardless of the opponent.
With Charlotte only in its ninth year as a program and not a known commodity in the sport, it would only be human for the players to have a tougher time getting up for the 49ers this weekend than it was facing Syracuse last week. Consistent readiness is a big part of a program’s growth if the mission is to be nationally relevant, which is the case with UNC.
“It’s the most important thing,” Brown said. “I talk about creating an edge in every meeting, creating an edge at every practice. And therefore, then that’s your normal routine. So, your norm is playing at a really high level with high energy.
“And that’s what all of us have to do every day in our lives to be really good at what we do. There’s no question. If you folks sit there and are bored and not interested in what you’re writing, it’s not going to be as good. Those are facts, whether we like it or not. That’s why I push our coaches and myself to have high energy and be ready for everything we do to the best of our abilities.”
*It looks like UNC legend and current cornerbacks coach Dre’ Bly won’t have to worry about trying to beat his son on the field this week. Trey Bly, his oldest son, plays for Charlotte but as of now it’s unlikely he will play this week.
“I don’t think Trey’s going to be able to play, I think he’s got a sore hamstring or something,” Brown said. “I asked Dre’ last night, ‘Have you all been talking,’ and he said, ‘Nope, don’t talk during game week.’
“So, that’s part of the deal. I don’t think that will be a big issue for us this weekend.”
*So how did getting Charlotte on the schedule come about? Originally, the Tar Heels had a completely different schedule, but COVID obliterated that and everyone had to scramble to find opponents. What was the process?
“You’d have to ask Rick Steinbacher because he did the scheduling – he and Bubba (Cunningham) completely. And I know that they went through the process: it had to be a home game because of the structure of how everybody was going to handle it; and then it was going to be Connecticut then they decided not to play, then it was going to be James Madison and they decided not to play. And Rick and Mike Hill (Charlotte AD) are really close friends from when I guess he was here before, so I’m sure they probably just talked…
“I think everybody just started getting on the phone and regionally trying to find out where this thing would work the best for everybody and they came up with Charlotte.”
*Overall, what is Brown’s preference for a nonconference slate?
“What we did at Texas is we played a Group of 5 team and then we played what would be considered a mid-major and then we’d play a national game,” Brown said. “Those are the three out of conference games that we played the entire time that I was there. That was the structure that was in place with (then-Texas AD) DeLoss Dodds when I showed up, and I thought that worked really well for us. Start with the Group of 5 then play a better opponent and then play the national opponent.
“I think that’s what we look at here in the same way. I have not been a huge fan of playing a Group of 5 school or an FCS school right before the NC State game (at the end of the season), I’d rather open up with a Group of 5 or an FCS school and not play a game of that magnitude late. I’d rather play conference games when we’re down to the end and fighting to compete for a conference championship.”
*Charlotte will start its backup quarterback Saturday, but UNC’s staff isn’t entirely unfamiliar with Dom Shoffner. In fact, UNC’s defensive coordinator once knew his game very well. He actually originally committed to Army in high school.
“We’re lucky that Jay Bateman recruited and actually had him committed at Army,” Brown said. “So, Jay knows him really well and likes him. He’s a great runner and has got a strong arm. He’s 210 pounds, so we think we’ll see a lot of quarterback power, quarterback draw, quarterback sweeps, so he’ll be an extra running back in the backfield.
“And then they do a tremendous job with their play-action. So, I’m sure Chris Reynolds is really a good player for them, but a banged-up Chris Reynolds isn’t as good as a fresh and excited Dom Shoffner. And his entire team will rally behind him and they’re going to be excite for his first start.”
Shoffner was the fourth-rated passer in JC last season. He attended Middle Creek High School in Apex, NC, and first played at NC Central before transferring to JC and ending up at Charlotte.