Fedora continues pedal-to-the metal mindset
Posted July 24
If there was any doubt about Larry Fedora’s continuing commitment to the moment, it was removed Monday when the third-year North Carolina football coach was asked about incoming freshman quarterback Caleb Henderson’s status for 2014.
“I told all of the freshmen to be ready, to come in ready to play right now. That includes everybody,” Fedora said during the coaches' interview period of the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro.
Henderson, a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder from Bruke, Va., was among the nation’s top-rated high school players a year ago at this time. But when the Tar Heels open preseason camp in a few days, he’ll be behind returning starter Marquise Williams and highly regarded redshirt frosh Mitch Trubisky on the depth chart.
It’s a classic situation to predict a redshirt season for Henderson. Not so fast, Fedora said.
“Could (Henderson) come in here and help us win a championship this year? If he could, then heck no,” Fedora said.
“If you prove the team’s better when you’re on the field, then let’s go. That means you’ve won. You’ve beat ‘em out. You’re better than they are. Why would you want to keep a guy off the field if he is?”
Redshirt decisions aren’t made in many programs until after preseason camp ends, and while there’s no compelling reason to suspect Henderson will be polished enough to lead the offense, the fact that Fedora has left that door open underscores his hurry-up, shoot-now personality and coaching style.
Fedora arrived from Southern Miss determined to floor the Carolina accelerator and hasn’t veered from his strategy.
Though Fedora's results have been mixed – early last season for sure when the team hit a wall – but the philosophy clearly seems to be working on offense.
Yes, there have been a lot of defensive issues. That's a trend that’s likely to continue in 2014.
Although the program has been through various (and ongoing) investigations, an NCAA probationary period and a nine-scholarship reduction, overall recruiting has remained reasonably successful.
But unless there are some defensive personnel surprises, the string of imposing linemen and linebackers has ebbed.
On the 2014 roster, there’s not one defensive front player with the obvious impact of Sylvester Williams, Quinton Coples, Robert Quinn, Julius Peppers or Ryan Sims. Kareem Martin, last season’s anointed next defensive line star, didn’t even make honorable mention all-ACC.
Fedora wants to restock the defensive front, of course. But first and foremost, he’s a “Moneyball” disciple, and even with the exit of offensive coordinator Blake Anderson to become head coach at Arkansas State, the Heels’ prevalent motives won’t change. New co-coordinators Chris Kapilovica and Gunter Brewer are staff holdovers and first-year quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf was a staff member from 2010-13 and previously worked with Williams at quarterback.
“Things won’t change,” Fedora said. “When we started this offense in 1999, it was all about spreading the field and getting the ball to our playmakers as many times and as fast as possible.”
And there are a lot of playmaking possibilities. The defensive talent level may be down from years past, but it’s difficult to recall a Carolina team with this much speed and offensive versatility.
With the arrival of freshman Elijah Hood to join T.J. Logan, Romar Morris and Khris Francis, there may be so much running back depth that more two-back sets could be incorporated.
Wideouts Ryan Switzer, Quinshad Davis and T.J. Thorpe are all capable of producing explosion plays on any given reception or kick return. The microwave offensive mentality has been completely woven in the Carolina football fabric. It was priority No. 1 in Fedora’s blueprint, and he’s succeeding in that department.
The Tar Heels still have lots of questions on and off the field, but none of them have made Fedora the least bit hesitant.