North Carolina head coach Everett Withers spoke Wednesday to reporters in the Atlantic Coast Conference's weekly media teleconference.
The Tar Heels (5-1 overall, 1-1 ACC) play Miami Saturday afternoon in Kenan Stadium with a 12:30 pm kickoff.
We had a very tough game last week against a good Louisville football team. You can about throw out records at this time of the year with teams and issues that teams may have.
We played a talented defense. They did some things offensively. They gave us some issues in the first half, we were lucky to be tied at the half 0-0, and we were able to come out in the second half and create some things and get two touchdowns, and we were able to win the game.
We feel fortunate to be where we are right now. We know we're getting into the ACC starting off with a very tough, very talented Miami football team that gave Virginia Tech a heck of a game in that second half. You can see the talent that they have.
Coach, how tough a situation were you in last year when you went down to Miami and
played that game with all the injuries you had? Are you looking forward to playing that team this year with pretty much a full deck?
COACH WITHERS: Well, last year was tough. We had a bunch of injuries. Obviously we had the suspensions and those things that kind of went into play for taking a team down to a tough environment to play. But I thought our kids grew up a little bit in that game, I think, last year. We kind of saw where we were and some of the young guys had to step up and play better roles or bigger roles for us later on in the year.
This year, I always look at years as unique to themselves. You know, I don't look at last year compared to this year very much. This is a totally different issue here this year. New coaching staff in Miami, they're running the ball well. They're a lot like us. So it's going to be an interesting ballgame, because I think we've got a lot of things in common.
You've had some really good success recruiting down in Florida in that South Florida area with Giovani Bernard and Jabari Price. What is the secret to going down there and having success?
COACH WITHERS: As everybody knows, Florida has a lot of talent. You can ask Coach Jim Grobe, who you talked to earlier, he spends a lot of time down there in the past, and about every coach in the ACC will have two or three coaches down there recruiting. There is so much talent down there. Miami, Florida State, Florida can't get them all.
I know some other schools are getting some now. South Florida is getting some now. But you just have to build relationships down in those schools and get some of the kids. It's an East Coast trip. Not a far trip up to Chapel Hill from Fort Myers, from Orlando, from the Tampa area, from the Jacksonville area. It's a very short trip. Kids, once they see that and see the type of school that you have here, the academic success, and reputation then the social environment here has, it been attractive to a lot of those kids.
What do you need to do with that offense to get it cranked back up to where it
was playing before that Louisville game?
COACH WITHERS: Well, I give a lot of credit to Louisville. We had a block here, block there. All it takes is one guy not fitting the block real well for a play to not go nearly as far. There were two plays that our running back did, that Gio missed a hole. One of them would have been a 20, 25, maybe even longer plus gain that he just flat missed the hole.
So there are circumstances in every game when you're playing good defenses. You just want to be able to stay consistent, run the ball, and be efficient in the passing game. We ran the ball better. We had over 200 yards in the second half. Gio broke a hundred yards in the second half.
I think people think you've got to be gashing people in the run game for the run game to be successful. I don't believe that. I think the run game is something you do when you want to control the clock. Run the ball, keep the ball away from your opponent and eat up yards and try to score in the red zone. I think we're doing that. We didn't do that efficiently last week, so we've got to make sure we're better, and I think that's what we're working on this week.
How do you feel about your run defense going into this Miami game?
COACH WITHERS: I feel like we've done a good job in our run defense. We've got a very big challenge this week with Lamar Miller and his running style and what they're doing on their offense.
I always thought they were one of the better run teams, a lot like Virginia Tech, in this league. I thought they had physical linemen and I always thought they have good backs that ran downhill. So the good thing about it is we get a chance to practice against that a lot.
So we'll fit our gaps, be smart, understand formations, leverage the ball because their backs can bounce the football. I think we'll have a chance.
Could you talk about how much more pressure is on your corners this week when you have a guy like Jacory Harris who can throw the ball deep down the field, but can take off on you?
COACH WITHERS: I don't know if there's any more pressure on the corners because of Jacory. I think it's more pressure because of the skill they have on the outside part of the field. I think the pressure comes because they're able to run the football so well, that those corners do get matched up sometimes one-on-one. It doesn't really matter to the quarterback.
It's the fact that you have to add extra guys to the box to stop the run, and that you're giving a guy on the outside a one-on-one opportunity. I think that's the pressure. It's not the pressure of him running it and pulling it down. We've got to take care of that in
the front seven. Then we've got to plaster when he starts to scramble.
The pressure comes because you have to take a guy to the secondary to add him to the box to stop the run, and then your corners are one-on-one outside. That is the pressure.
I read some comments from Jabari this week, talking about the record and maybe you guys are being disrespected a little bit in the national rankings. I wanted to get your take to see if you think you got -- first of all, do you think you're coaching a top 25 team right now? Do you think that your group is flying under the radar a little bit?
COACH WITHERS: Well, first, I'm going to go back to what you said at the beginning. I was told that Jabari -- the comments were out of context what he said. Secondly, am I coaching a top 25 team? I don't worry about rankings until the end of the year.
All we worry about is trying to play the next opponent, and playing the best we play or the best we can play. I don't even look at rankings. I don't even know who is number one in the country right now. I don't really care, to be honest with you, because we play Miami this week, and it's all about our preparation to get ready for the Hurricanes.
At the end of the year, we'll look back and say, okay, we did this or we didn't do this or whatever. But that's my focus. My focus has nothing to do with respect or any of that. You earn it throughout the entire year. At the end of the year, can you look back and say we deserved this or we didn't.