September 12th seems like ages ago. Carolina football has been on a forced hiatus with the Charlotte game cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns and the inability to quickly find a replacement game for the existing 26 September bye-weekend. Football is finally on the horizon with the 3 October game against Boston College, and Mack Brown had preparation on his mind when he held his weekly press conference yesterday. Here are some quick notes:
- Mack spends his non-gameday Saturdays as most of us do. Locked down watching every possible game from College Gameday in the morning, until the last game at midnight (RIP PAC-12 after dark). With the crazy upsets happening early in the season, Mack had two explanations, saying it, “Seems like there’s been more comebacks, so maybe guys aren’t as in good a shape as if we had had the spring and summer workouts like normal,” and because the, “Kicking game and special teams have been all over the place, it’s been crazy.” If teams aren’t in game shape, it’s tough to hold on to leads late in games, especially if you’re playing a conference game instead of Southwestern Central Howyadoin’ State. These fine margins also make solid special teams play even more critical.
- Mack pointed out some interesting history that he just learned. The amount of days from the Syracuse game until the Boston College game is the longest break in Carolina football history in 68 years (narrowly losing the race to 69™) with the 1952 season having a three-week hiatus due to polio outbreaks.
- Good news from the time off: UNC had two good weeks of practice, with a lot of work focused on Boston College. Mack pointed out that it was good for the younger players who missed out on spring and summer practices to get this time to work in with the team, which will make them more ready and available to play on Saturday. The time off will also allow some injured players from week one to be active this Saturday. Most notably, the secondary will benefit as Ja’Qurious Conley and Trey Morrison have more time to settle into their new roles on the starting defense.
- Bad news from the time off: Mack was asked about if we can expect to see marked improvement from the Tar Heels during this break, as many teams improve significantly from their first to second games of the season. Mack did not think so. He said that it was too much time to go from examining the Syracuse film to executing on the field, so the team is essentially starting over. Whether or not this means that the team comes out of the gates slowly, like they did against Syracuse, or puts Boston College away early, is up in the air.
- Mack talked about the difference between practice conditioning and game conditioning, and how Carolina works to have players in game condition.
“A lot of teams don’t play hard and they get beat. Well, they were flat, that means they weren’t ready to play. Well, they had a lot of turnovers, well they had a lot of mistakes, that means you’re probably not ready to play. Cuz when you’re focused and you’re excited about playing you do the things you were taught to do.... You’ve got to give us 100% every time you go to a meeting and every time you walk on the field. And we grade loafs. We look at every video of who loafed, who stopped before that whistle blew... That gets you in game condition if you run like that every play.”
- This anti-loafing policy is pretty intense. UNC has someone on the field who holds up a flag for the practice cameras whenever the whistle is blown. This lets the coaches know when players are allowed to relax because the play is dead. The video coordinator for UNC football literally tallies every time someone loafs, then snitches to Coach Brown, who then uses that information to determine playing time. UNC football players, heed this warning! The big eye in the sky don’t lie!
- Interesting trivia: Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley played wide receiver for Siena College (Loudonville, NY) under then 26-year old head coach Jay Bateman.
- Gambling note: Mack did not cover this in his press conference, but for those curious, the line for this game opened with UNC -10.5/11, and has since moved to -14. Take what you will from this information. Having watched Boston College in their games against Duke and Texas State, I think you take the over. Brock Lesnar, how do you think Boston College will do?