Players' Tuesday: Richards, Vohasek, Chapman & Wolfolk
CHAPEL HILL – With the season-opening win over Syracuse just about fully in the rearview mirror, North Carolina has turned its attention to Charlotte, which will visit Kenan Stadium on Saturday for the first time.
With that, Tuesday morning means player interviews, so there were still some items from the Syracuse game discussed as Asim Richards, Ray Vohasek, Don Chapman and Myles Wolfolk were made available to the media.
An interesting note about this quartet, none are from North Carolina. They are from Philadelphia (Richards), McHenry, IL (Vohasek), San Diego (Chapman) and Largo, MD (Wolfolk).
Here are videos of their zoom interviews along with some notes and quotes:
Asim Richards, Soph. OT
Last season as a freshman, Asim Richards plays just 47 snaps on offense along with 56 snaps on the PAT unit. On Saturday, he played 69 snaps at left tackle. His football life has changed dramatically, and it took some adjusting.
“Before the game I was nervous, but after that first snap you’re just in it, honestly,” Richards said. “I think our first drive was a 12-play drive, and I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re out here now.’I felt good on the first drive like I was in it.”
Yet, Richards was chomping to get his first career start while being charged with protecting Heisman Trophy candidate Sam Howell’s blind side.
“I was really excited to be starting my first game,” he said. “I had all the emotions to play in my first game, so I was just really excited.”
Richards played well, too. According to PFF, he graded out at 75.0. He said the game film revealed he has plenty to work on but also did a lot well. Richards understands there’s much improving ahead for him, including continuing to shoring up an area of his game that was a concern entering the opener, and that’s his focus.
“The biggest part I think is me staying square and not turning my hips too early,” Richards said. “I really practiced that during the offseason. I still do it sometimes but it’s better now. I stay square a lot more now.”
Ray Vohasek, Jr. DT
Sophomore defensive tackle Tomari Fox said the following about Ray Vohasek after UNC’s win over Syracuse: “He brings that kind of violence and intensity every single day."
What Fox means is that Vohasek, a junior college transfer who played 151 snaps for the Tar Heels last season, is quickly developing a reputation around the team as perhaps its most treasured beast. His motor and nasty edge are off the charts, they say. So, what does Vohasek think about his fellow lineman’s description?
“I just like to play with a chip on my shoulder,” Vohasek said. “I’ve always played like that. Growing up, I always idolized people like that, playing with a chip on your shoulders, whether it was basketball players, football players. I always took pride in playing with an edge.”
Now, all football players love to hit and appreciate the physicality of the sport, or they wouldn’t be playing. But some gain fuel from it more than others, which is another way of describing the Illinois native.
“I love football,” Vohasek said. “I’ve played it basically my whole life, I’ve always loved just being physical, getting in the trenches. I’ve just always loved it, it’s something I’ve done since I was a little kid.”
UNC was credited with seven sacks according to the official stats, though PFF gave it eight, adding a questionable one from true freshman Kaimon Rucker. Either way, that’s an impressive number for a team that made generating a pass rush one of its fall camp points of emphasis. But Vohasek warns having one good game means just that, a good game. Constant improvement and attaining consistency is the mission here.
“I would say it starts with technique and effort,” Vohasek said. “We’re going to go in the film room with coach (Tim) Cross, we’re going to break down the film and we’re going to see what we did wrong, see what we did right and we’re going to be honest in there and break it down and come out next week even better. That’s the plan every single week, come back better than we were the first week…
“We’re excited about it (sacks), we enjoy it through Sunday night, and now it’s on to Charlotte. Obviously, it’s good to do it, but it’s really about doing it week in and week out and that’s what important here.”
Don Chapman, Soph. Safety
Staying on the topic of Vohasek, who is becoming one of the more popular Tar Heels in the locker room. Ask any player about him and they immediately smile. So, as a safety, Don Chapman has a pretty good view of what Vohasek is doing and is a direct beneficiary of his work up front, so what’s his take on the 6-foot-3, 295-pounder?
“Ray’s just a dog,” Chapman said. “Every day in practice, you see it regardless of what’s happening, he’s going 100 (miles per hour) all the time. Being behind him and seeing him work is a great thing to see.”
Chapman played more snaps (64) than any other Tar Heel on defense versus the Orange and he turned in a very solid performance. What parts of his game have improved the most?
“I would just say I’m more confident, I know more about what I’m doing and know what I’m going to see,” Chapman said. “I’ve been studying the game a little more than I did last year…
“I think I’ve gotten more physical, I got faster, so that plays a part.”
Myles Wolfolk, Sr. Safety
The senior safety has seen up close some disturbing defensive performances in his time at Carolina, but he’s also witnessing the growth of a unit that turned in one of the best defensive outings at UNC in a decade this past weekend.
That push started late last season and kicked into high gear versus Syracuse with the Heels allowing just 202 total yards, registering eight sacks, limiting the ’Cuse to 4-for-19 on third downs and forcing nine punts. Wolfolk says getting the group’s daily battles versus a prolific offense are paying off.
“It makes us better every day,” Wolfolk said. “We’re facing the best offense in the ACC every day, so as a defense that’s very challenging. You come out every single day and you feel like you’re facing the best offense, you’re gonna get better. You’re gonna see things, you’re gonna learn things.
“And the good thing about it is these are our brothers, so at the end of the day, if they beat me on a rep – if I was going with Dazz (Newsome), me and him coach each other up just on the rep. We make sure that when it comes to playing someone else that we’re ready and we’ve seen it all.”
When the Tar Heels ran out of the tunnel before the Syracuse game, they appeared to almost stop for a second as if they’d gone out too soon. No fans in the stands can play that trick on a team, and it kind of did with the Heels.
Such was the case in the strangest atmosphere any of the players have been in. But they couldn’t allow no fans in the stands affect them. Carolina has adopted a new slogan courtesy of COVID and 2020: BYOJ.
“It was funny, because we came out of the smoke and saw nothing,” Wolfolk said, laughing. “It was really funny to see. But we kind of had this motto BYOJ: Bring Your Own Juice, and this weekend that’s what it was all about.”