Haven't see that in....oh....two years?
SI.com's Andy Staples catches up with Larry Fedora as he settles into the job of rebuilding UNC football.
When Fedora got the job, he quickly went to work defending against negative recruiting spawned by the scandal. While Cunningham had explained to Fedora what should happen in the case, coaches from other schools filled the heads of North Carolina recruits with all manner of gloom and doom. Fedora drained dozens of his precious sugar-free Red Bulls as he worked the phones attempting to calm prospects' fears. "The unknown enabled them to say whatever they wanted to say," Fedora said. "So we had to put out a lot of fires with the kids. Not only that, you're doing that at the same time you're trying to build a relationship with a kid. So a kid doesn't know whether to trust you or not because your relationship is so new."
Assistant head coach Vic Koenning boarded a plane bound for Tobacco Road after he helped Illinois win the Emerald Bowl. When Koenning hit the ground in North Carolina, he also turned into a recruiting firefighter. What made Koenning maddest? He said many of the blazes were started by members of the staff that got North Carolina into this mess in the first place. "You'd like to be able to control the situation by not being in that situation," Koenning said. "But there was nothing we can do about it, so we've got to just take it. What's disappointing is that the guys who were a part of that were some of the worst offenders."
Fedora believes he got the message across to most recruits, but he is sure he lost some. "It's unfortunate for them," Fedora said. "They wound up a school that was their second choice because of something that was fabricated."
Fedora hopes his spread offense and the 4-2-5 defense run by Koenning and Dan Disch will allow the Tar Heels to win enough games to make all their recruiting targets forget the scandal. Because Fedora had such a late start, he has spent most of his time recruiting. Monday was the first day the staff had any significant time to break down North Carolina's current roster. Fedora inherited a solid quarterback in Bryn Renner and a potential star in tailback Giovanni Bernard, but he knows his roster has holes. "It is what it is," Fedora said. "You've got five receivers to work with this spring, and you're trying to run a spread offense. You can sit there and cry about it, or you can say, 'OK, how do we make this work?'"
This summer, Fedora will once again re-read the dogeared copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War that he bought in 1991. He'll try again to convert the ancient Chinese military leader's concepts to the football field. The most important: Attack undefended locations -- a strategy Fedora considers the guiding principle for the spread offense.
Fedora was on hand for the UNC-Duke game on Wednesday night having brought about twenty in-state 2013 prospects to campus for "Junior Day." There were immediate dividends for Fedora with two Durham Hillside players giving the UNC head coach verbal commitments. Not that a verbal commitment 51 weeks before signing day is worth very much but it does get the recruiting season off on the right foot. Overall, Fedora has been impressive early on. He has generated positive PR for the program by appearing on ESPNU during its national signing day coverage. Articles like this one by Staples sheds the kind of light on the program missing through the almost two years of scandal.
Ultimately that is what you would expect and why cutting the Butch Davis era loose was necessary even if handled haphazardly. Fedora is a young coach with a passionate and outgoing approach. He surrounded himself with a quality staff none of who were tied to the recent unpleasantness. That means any questions Fedora or his staff deal with concerning the NCAA scandal are rare and concerned with impact not what happened. While the NCAA has yet to issue the final report it is clear Fedora and UNC football are already moving beyond the investigation with an optimistic look towards the future. Barring a bowl ban or debilitating scholarship reductions the momentum Fedora has built thus far can continue unabated.
UPDATE: Here is video of Larry Fedora reacting to the verbal commitments from Khris Francis and Korrin Wiggins last night.
On one level I don't know how much he ought to be doing this. It looks like he is scaring both of these guys a little bit. Here is hoping they don't switch commits six months from now.