Cooper: Tar Heels hope to be 'state' champs
Posted August 22, 2012
Chapel Hill, N.C. — North Carolina's football players are well aware that they won't go to a bowl game in 2012, but that hasn't stopped the Tar Heels from setting lofty goals under new head coach Larry Fedora.
"We want to be 12-0," senior guard Jonathan Cooper told Adam Gold and Joe Ovies Tuesday afternoon on 99.9 The Fan. "We set two goals, and that's to be the Coastal Division champion and the North Carolina state champion. Those are two major motivating factors to us."
Another motivating factor, not surprisingly, has been Fedora himself.
The new head coach has brought endless energy and a more structured approach to Chapel Hill, Cooper said. He's also embracing North Carolina's rivalry with NC State, taking every chance to remind the Triangle how many days are left before the Oct. 27 showdown in Kenan Stadium.
For the record, it's 65.
The offense, which seems poised for a big year, features four returning starters along the offensive line and a talented backfield duo in quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Gio Bernard.
Cooper said intense offseason workouts – featured in North Carolina's "Blue Dawn" YouTube series – have created positive momentum heading into the team's season opener against Elon on Sept. 1 at 12:30 p.m.
"It's been a long, long training camp," he said. "One of the toughest things I've ever been through. You can see it paying dividends once you go against your defense and they are really tired after four plays. If you buy into it 100 percent, you can see that it is going to be very beneficial to us."
While the changes to the product on the field will likely be the most discussed topic this fall, Cooper said a new mental approach for North Carolina's players will be just as important. The team is no longer surrounded by turmoil, as it was heading into 2011 under interim head coach Everett Withers.
"That was very difficult, but you're going to have adversity wherever you go," Cooper said. "It's just about being resilient. This year, it's good to have consistency, knowing who we're going with. Training camp was just as bad, but we were able to focus on football."