CHAPEL HILL – Larry Fedora spoke with reporters after practice on Wednesday and outlined what the team still has to do to prepare for the first game of the season on Saturday.
Game prep is practically finished for the Fedora and the Tar Heels
What’s left to take care of?
‘It was a typical Thursday for us. We got drives on both sides of the ball and worked on special teams. We see this as a ‘polish’ day for us. We want to be sharp, crisp and that they understand the whole game plan so they can fly around a have a little bit of fun. (Fridey) we only have about 30 minutes on the field and then we’re done.’
Does everyone understand everything that’s expected?
‘I think they really do. You have to worry about just a lack of focus because we’ve been doing it so long. We’ve run the play 8,000 times since the start of camp, asking me to run it again and when you don’t focus you screw up. It’s just a lack of focus not that you don’t know what to do. Now it’s just some mental toughness that we need to get through the practices.’
How far has the defense come since the beginning of camp?
‘I thought they started out strong at the beginning of camp. They were ahead of where we were offensively. What we do defensively gives you problems defensively. I think they’ve come along and the key has been getting a lot of guys some reps because more than 11 are going to have to play.’
How hard is the balancing act to practice hard but not out of control?
‘It’s hard. They get mad because we tell them to go full speed but they hit someone hard and we get on them about that. You’re constantly see-sawing how hard you go…you ‘thud’ them up or not ‘thud’ them up and someone is one your rear-end basically all the time. I think they’re ready to hit someone else.’
Walk-on WR Roy Smith has been a pleasant and needed surprise
With only two receivers having caught passes, have you ever been in this situation with lack of experience before?
‘Maybe when I first got to Oklahoma State it was like that but you have to make adjustments. We’re going to run the offense and they just have to understand it. That’s why we put as much pressure one them as we can in practice so there will be less pressure in the game. Guys that have experience like Mookie [Erik Highsmith] and Jhay Boyd it’s not that big of a deal. I get scared when some of the younger guys get comfortable in practice because I don’t want them to be comfortable in practice. That might carry over to a game so I would rather them be uptight come game time.’
How big has the addition of Roy Smith been?
‘He’s been thrown in and he’s going to have to help us. I never met him before he walked into my office and I said, ‘ok, great.’ But from day one he proved that he would go over the middle, get hit, get the tar knocked out of him and get up and make a play. He was going full speed all the time. He earned what he’s going to get this Saturday.’
How did you put together your staff which obviously has a great enthusiasm for the game and the kids?
‘I was able to bring 6 guys with me and I knew what those guys were all about. They’re very passionate about the game, they care about the kids and they’re going to practice the way we need to practice. I had worked with Gunter Brewer before and I knew what his energy level was. After meeting Randy Jordan and talking with Mack Brown he’s been even beyond what they said he would be. I had been following Vic Koenning for a long time so I was fortunate to know about the way he coached. I was able to put together a staff with a lot of energy, enthusiastic about what they do and they coach hard. But on top they take care of the kids.’
What’s your ‘gut feel’ heading into the first game?
‘My gut feel? It’s like a big ole stone in my stomach and eventually on Saturday it will work it’s way up to where it’s in my throat until we kick it off. We’ll see what happens after that. Should be fun.’
Where are your special teams at just days before the game?
‘We’re where we’re going to be. We’re there but I don’t know where we are but I know where we’ve got to be. I think guys are starting to understand what we have to have. When you look at the early games around the country, turnovers and mistakes on special teams are usually what determine who wins and loses the game. Those two areas are two that we’ve spent a lot of time concentrating on. Those two will be the difference in games throughout the season but especially early on.”