Although North Carolina is on a bye this weekend and doesn't play a game, Tar Heel head coach Everett Withers joined the Atlantic Coast Conference's weekly teleconference Wednesday, and answered several questions about UNC coming off Saturday's disappointing shutout loss to N.C. State.
The Tar Heels return to action a week from Thursday with a challenging game in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech. The Hokies face off against Georgia Tech in Atlanta this Thursday night with the ACC Coastal Division lead at stake.
Coach Withers Opening Statement:
It's obviously good to have the bye week this week. We've gone through training camp and then now having the bye week, we've had some injuries, some guys back. The kids need a little bit of time here to kind of get their legs back under them.
We didn't play very well last week offensively. I thought we played fairly well defensively last week. Obviously if you don't score, you can't win. We did not score. So we have to find a way during our bye week to get better on offense, clean up, get better on defense. We're looking forward to the week off and preparing for a Thursday night game against a very, very talented Virginia Tech team.
Coach, what, if any, update is there on Bryn Renner? How is he feeling coming off of concussion-like symptoms on Saturday?
Bryn is progressing well. We're not putting him out there in practice this week. We want to try to give him some time to fully recover. But he was out at practice yesterday throwing the ball around a little bit but not necessarily practicing. But we expect to have him. There's a good chance he could practice tomorrow or Friday. We expect him to be ready to go when we start game preparation.
Of all the things that went wrong offensively Saturday, what was the most disappointing thing to you?
Well, the inability to sustain a rhythm on offense is probably the biggest. We've been able to run the ball, even though people have blitzed us, stacked the line of scrimmage, we've been able to have some success. As long as we continue to run the football, eventually the two- or three-yard gains turn into four- and five-yard gains. That didn't happen for us Saturday. That was probably the most disappointing. We had too many missed assignments up front. We didn't as an offense play like we needed to.
Does that surprise you, that the offensive line missed that many assignments this deep in the season?
You're dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds. You never know what is the culprit, what is the underlying thing that happened. We tried to go back this week and really just work on fundamentals, the things that we know we can do good and get confidence back in what we're doing.
You always chalk it up to there's going to be that one game that you're not in sync. Hopefully this was ours as far as the offensive line and we'll be better for the rest of the season.
You've had 10 games in the season. How is Giovani Bernard holding up under the pounding of a long season? Did he get nicked up any more than usual Saturday?
He did tweak his ankle a little bit Saturday, but he was able to tape it up and come back. He's a tough young man, a very competitive young man. He wants to be out there. He wants to be at practice. We'll try to take care of him this week. We're not going to put him out there very much this week.
He's held up well. I think he's done a great job of holding up and being ready Saturday to play. It is a long season, especially for a kid that tore his ACL a year ago and really this is his first stint of playing. For him to go through 10 straight weeks of being a running back in this league in a running offense, I think he's done very well.
Dwight Jones is on a pace where he may challenge for the school's all-time receiving records in receptions and yardage. Can you talk about what he brings to the table, why he's taken the big step forward this year?
Well, I think Dwight's maturity level has really improved over the last two years. You could see the young man grow up, become more accountable and responsible for himself on and off the field. I think Dwight's knowledge of what we want to do offensively is at its highest level.
He understands what people are trying to do to him. He understands what the defense each week is trying to do to him. He understands his responsibilities in the run game and in the pass game.
Once you take on a shift and responsibility of what you can handle, if you're a talented player, then those things tend to happen for you. You tend to make more plays and the ball tends to get thrown to you a little bit more. I think it's all that in one for Dwight.
You mentioned how the off week comes at a good time to heal up. It's awfully late. I think it's the latest bye week in the ACC. Would you have rather seen it a little earlier, break the season up at a different place, or not?
Well, you know what, most coaches would say yeah. I would tend to say yeah, we would have liked it to come a little bit earlier in the year. You say you got a bye week, but we don't even have a complete bye week. We go play next Thursday night. We got a half a bye in my mind.
Yeah, we would have liked to have had it earlier in the year. When you go through training camp, an emotional training camp because of what happened at the beginning of the year in July, you go through an emotional training camp, then you start the season, it's week after week after week, there's all kinds of things going on in the media, the kids are trying to stay focused. At some point in time when you're dealing with young people, you lose some of that focus.
I've been really proud of our kids for the most part. They've handled the stress and the grind of this year. This is an unusual year for this team and they've handled it. I would have liked to have had a break earlier so we could get them back recharged. But it is what it is. The ACC's made the schedule. TV controls a lot of things. It is what it is. We have to line up and play each Saturday.
Could you talk about punter C.J. Feagles performance Saturday, where that competition between him and Thomas (Hibbard) is in the off week?
Obviously it (the position competition) will continue to go. It's a competition every week. We felt like we needed to take a look at C.J. He's punted before. We wanted to make sure that our operation times were correct. He had the best operation times prior to NC State. As we practice this week, we'll evaluate the operation and distance this week in practice and we'll see who will be our punter on Thursday night versus Virginia Tech.
Do the three blocked punts earlier factor into the decision?
I don't think they factored into because they didn't have one thing to do with operation time. They had to do with our shield, not getting their head in the right place. I really believe the operation times and all that is important.
But the operation time that C.J. brings, we would have liked to have had a little bit more distance in the punts. We understand the wind and the weather situation Saturday also, that he kicked into the wind some, too. It's a competition. We want to get the best punter out there.