Obviously we will have much more as we get closer to UNC's season opener against Elon on Saturday. In the meantime there is plenty to digest ahead of that.
Larry Fedora met with the press on Monday to discuss Elon, the season ahead and the state of things in the new system. GoHeels.com has full quotes here. Fedora discussed a variety of issues, foremost among them, is the team's motivation. This has been an ongoing theme during the summer in light of the NCAA sanctions. Everyone wants to know how the 2012 Tar Heels will respond to the lack of a postseason goal. For Fedora it goes beyond the lack of a bowl game.
“The biggest thing is probably they’re hungry. They’ve been hungry for somebody to care about them. They’re hungry for something positive to happen in their lives. They’ve been eager to please. They want to do things the way we ask them to do them.”
Not that no one cared about last season but the lack of long term investment probably led to varying levels of depth to commitment. Not so now and the commitment to the team and each other between coach and player looks to be really strong heading into the season. By all accounts the players are buying into what Fedora is selling which tends to generate positive returns down the line.
In other news, RB Gio Benard will likely be returning punts in addition to his workload in the backfield. On one hand, Bernard's skill with the football in his hands could create some opportunities to pick up yards and points. However, I am not crazy about the increased injury risk. Bernard has already blown his knee out once since being at UNC and return situations are notoriously haphazard in that chaotic sort of way. Not to mention, Bernard is going to be carrying a heavy load in a no-huddle offense. Not that resting on punt returns is going to matter that much but if this ends up being a Brandon Tate situation, UNC is going to be royally screwed.]
Another question mark heading into the season is who is going to call the plays for the defense. Associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning and defensive coordinator Dan Disch have both been defensive coordinators in previous stints and both capable of calling plays. The question is who will be doing it? Fedora is not saying preferring to leave that a secret in hopes of gaining a small tactical advantage. For my money, Koenning is the more accomplished of the two with a history of renovating defenses from middle of the pack to top ten nationally. Disch was Fedora's DC at Southern Miss so I imagine there is a delicate game being played here behind the scenes, much like goes on at NC State with Mike Archer and Jon Tenuta.
The first week depth chart is out. UNC is listing three receivers: Erik Highsmith, Sean Tapley and Jheranie Boyd. Of the three, Highsmith is expected to be the top receiver but I would keep an eye on Boyd. He is capable and has tremendous speed. The offense is going to see Bryn Renner spreading the ball around to various offensive options of which Boyd could benefit.