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Press Conference: UNC at the 2016 #ACCKickoff

unc logoUNC coach Larry Fedora and players Des Lawrence and Ryan Switzer talk with the media at the 2016 ACC Kickoff.


THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by North Carolina. We’ll ask Coach Fedora to make an opening statement and then we’ll take questions for the student-athletes.

COACH FEDORA: Hello. Good to see everybody. We’re excited about this 2016 season. No, we really are. We’re excited about the ’16 season. You know in 43 days we kick it off against the University of Georgia in a neutral site in Atlanta. But our team is excited about it. We’re fired up. We’ve had a great summer and we’re really looking forward to it.

I guess at this time I’m going to turn it over to Ryan Switzer.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for Ryan Switzer.

Q. Ryan, this question is certainly not to denigrate the skills of Marquise Williams. Is there a difference between a Marquise Williams’ ball and a Mitch Trubisky’s ball?
RYAN SWITZER: I feel like the time I’ve gotten to spend with Mitch on the field thus far, whether in the game or in practice, I feel like Marquise would even tell you that Mitch’s arm talent is unique and very rare.

I’ve been fortunate enough to catch passes from both of them. Like you said, not to diminish anything that Marquise did for our program, but Mitch is a very rare talent. Everything that he brings to the table, he’s very composed, he’s a very team-first kind of guy.

I’m looking forward to seeing his talent displayed this year, especially with the guys that he has around him.

Q. Ryan, you said your New Year’s resolution was to be an all-around better version of yourself. We’re seven months into the year. Are you holding on to that New Year’s resolution?
RYAN SWITZER: Absolutely. It’s been a long, like you said, seven months thus far. The amount of work that I and my team have put in, it was hard to supersede what we did last year, but I feel like we’ve done that thus far. Especially for me personally, not only physically, but mentally as well, continuing to study coverages, continuing to better myself from a mental aspect, is what ultimately is going to make the difference for me as a player going forward and this coming year.

Q. Does Mitch lack that ability to turn a busted play into something the way Marquise was able to last season?
RYAN SWITZER: He hasn’t gotten the opportunity to show it as much. But Mitch is a very athletic guy. He’s very good in space. Straight ahead, I’m not sure who would win between him and Quise. Mitch is an athlete. He was a multi-sport guy in high school. He knows how to move. He’s not one of those guys that’s just going to sit in the pocket when things break down, either throw it out of bounds or get sacked.

He knows what to do with the football, knows what to do with his legs, how to get out of trouble. As receivers, we’re looking forward to it, because when you have a guy scrambling, everything breaks loose in the secondary. That’s when big plays are made.

No, we’re not expecting Mitch just to sit back in the pocket and play it safe or take a sack when things break down. We’re confident he can make a play with his legs.

Q. Ryan, this question is probably more towards T.J.’s avenue, but the Big 12 commissioner said the other day that kickoffs are perhaps the most dangerous play in all the game. Your thoughts on the NCAA potentially getting rid of kickoffs down the line?
RYAN SWITZER: I think the game would take a big hit if that were to happen. Football’s a dangerous game regardless of what play it is. We know as players you put yourself out there risking injury every time you step out on the field.

Yeah, kickoff and kickoff return is tough ’cause guys are running full speed, but there’s also plenty of other times guys are running full speed. I’ve gotten hit across the middle, got hit catching punts where I didn’t think I was going to get up.

That’s ultimately not my call. But to see kickoffs taken out of the game, I don’t feel would be positive for the game of football.

Q. You’ve spoken a lot about Mitch, but the talent around him, how you define this offense moving forward, building off of a lot of success from last year.
RYAN SWITZER: I joke with Mitch all the time at the house about how fortunate he is to step into the position that he is (smiling).

I don’t know of any other team that’s returning what we’re returning on offense. Like you said, not just the receivers, but we’ve got two veteran runningbacks. T.J. Logan behind Elijah Hood could start on virtually any team in the country. Returning four of our five offensive linemen is incredible.

At the end of the day, without the guys up front, the offense goes nowhere. We know that and we’re very fortunate to have those guys. As receivers, it’s our job to kind of make Mitch look good, which we don’t really need to do too much of because of the talent that he has.

But us as a whole, we’re really excited to get the season started because we know the talent and the experience that we have coming back. It’s not so much that we out-do ourselves or out-do the numbers we put up, but just continue to be more consistent on a drive-to-drive basis and make sure we don’t waste all the weapons that we do have.

Q. Ryan, defending coastal division winner. You reached the ACC championship. How has last season changed how you have to manage the expectations that you may be number one on opponents’ list to try to knock off this year?
RYAN SWITZER: It’s definitely been a different off-season from last year, going 6-7, 11-3, there’s a big discrepancy there. We tried not to focus too much on being teams’ go-to game. We know our schedule is hectic enough as it is. We play seven teams I believe with new head coaches. We open up with an SEC team. We understand that although we may be the number one team on some team’s schedule, we’ve got 12 number one teams we’ve got to see this year in order to get anywhere close to where we were last year.

It’s been about making sure that we don’t have any regrets in terms of off-season work, making sure that we take it week by week so we can continue to build our program in the right direction.

Q. DeVon Edwards was in here earlier. He has a chance to set or tie a national kickoff return record. You have a chance to tie or break the national punt return record. Wes Welker, what are your thoughts about him and the possibility to equal or pass him?
RYAN SWITZER: There’s not enough good things you can say about Wes and the things he’s been able to accomplish in his career. I’ve been getting comparisons since I’ve been in high school. I don’t know why, by the way. We don’t look alike.

To be mentioned with someone like that, the success he’s had not just at the college level, but the professional level as well, it just bodes well for my confidence. The punt return record would be something I would love to have. The guys and I joke about it all the time. We technically already do have it. We got ten of them, but three of them have been called back. At least the 10 guys and I can be satisfied with that.

Hopefully it happens. It would be nice to have. Looking forward to getting back there and returning some more punts this year.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Ryan.

We will bring up Des Lawrence for questions.

Q. Year two under Gene Chizik, what changes, what gets elevated with him as defensive coordinator?
DES LAWRENCE: I would say what changes is our mentality. I think everybody’s mentality is the same now. It’s on the level where he is, it’s a mentality that we’re going to go out and compete every day like we’re the number one defense in the nation.

He really instills a certain confidence in us and allows us to make plays on the field. He’s one that will tell you it’s not a coach’s game, it’s a player’s game. Saturday is just our day for us to show the world what we’re made of.

Q. You heard a lot about Mitch. How would you define him from the other side, going up against him?
DES LAWRENCE: I would define Mitch as someone who is a student of the game. Regardless of what type of day he’s had, the day he’s had before, he’s going to come out and put forth his best foot. He’s a guy on defense you love to see. I love to see him in practice because I know there’s not too many quarterbacks in the nation that study the game more than him, are on his level of skill, has his skill level. He can put the ball virtually anywhere. For me being a DB, on Saturdays I may not see that as often as I do in practice.

Mitch is a great player. I can’t wait for him to show the world what he’s been doing in practice for the last three to four years.

Q. Your bio says at the bottom that the reality TV show you’d like to be part of is Real Husbands of Hollywood. What inspires you for that? What makes you think your future wife might want you to be on that show?
DES LAWRENCE: That was taken like two years ago (smiling).

Kevin Hart was big at the time. Still is big. They have a lot of other comedians on the show. It’s a light atmosphere, somewhere where I would like to, you know, be my first acting job.

Q. I see you have some sock swag going on, no shoelaces. Coach has no socks on. What’s the inspiration for all this?
DES LAWRENCE: These are my Jesus socks right here. Just a slight dab, as we kids would like to say. Time for us to dress up, get outside of our comfort zone. Fun for us to do.

I didn’t know coach was wearing any socks. That’s his thing. I don’t really know what that is. He looking good. He looking good (smiling).

THE MODERATOR: Any more football-related questions for Des?

Q. I know you talked about what’s different or the same in year two under Gene Chizik. How are the expectations different this year?
DES LAWRENCE: I would say they definitely have to increase. You can’t stay the same and be as good as you were. We’re just trying to reach new heights. I think that everybody is challenging themselves to be better. That, of course, is going to make our defense better.

Me personally, I’m challenging the secondary to be better than we were last year. I think we were top 10, top 15 in most categories. The defense, we were number one in the ACC as far as creating turnovers. That’s a goal we would like to duplicate.

Just to be aggressive on defense this year is going to be our thing, getting the ball back to those guys, Mitch, Switz, Elijah, all the other weapons out there because they’re so explosive. If they put more points on the board, it makes our job a little easier.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll excuse our student-athletes and we’ll invite Coach Fedora back up to the podium for Q&A.

Q. Chaz Surratt is an incoming freshman. How can you assess how he’s doing so far? Do you have any idea whether he’ll be able to play this year?
COACH FEDORA: Chaz had an elbow injury that ended his high school career a little bit early. As he has got there, he’s been doing some rehab. I think they told me he’s somewhere around 95%. Hoping that we when start camp he’s going to be able to go full speed and throw it like he can.

We’re excited about what Chaz brings. He’s a lefty, he can spin the ball. He’s very athletic. He’s won multiple state championships in high school. He has that ‘it’ factor about himself. We’re excited about him.

Q. If you don’t put up the number of points that you did last season, how reliable is your punting?
COACH FEDORA: That’s a great question. I don’t know yet. We haven’t named a starting punter yet. I can tell you the other 10 guys, they’re going to do their job. But right now we haven’t had a guy separate himself as a punter.

We know we’re going to have somebody out there 43 days from now, September 3rd. We’ll put somebody out there to punt if we have to punt.

But whether we put up those points or not, we’re going to have to have a punter throughout the season. That has been a huge weapon for us in the past. We need to get back to that being that.

Q. Heard a lot about Mitch. What can you say about his patience over the years and what you’ve seen from him, his work ethic, knowing he had to wait his turn and now it’s here?
COACH FEDORA: You know, I can’t say enough good things about Mitch Trubisky, the situation Mitch has been in. In society today, it’s not about be patient and work your way into a position. It’s more of a sense of entitlement for most people nowadays that you should be given something because of something you did in the past.

That’s not the approach that Mitch Trubisky or his family took when he came to the University of North Carolina. He knew he was going to have to compete and he competed. He competed every single day. He didn’t win the job early on, but it was not a sense of frustration for him. It was just, I need to work harder.

Mitch has done that. He knew his time was coming. His time is here. I think he’s excited about it. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s prepared because of the reps he’s had, meaningful reps in games, and also there was a spring where he was the number one quarterback the entire spring.

He’s gotten reps. He feels good about where he’s at. Nothing is going to rattle him. I mean, I expect him to perform pretty well.

Q. A lot of good runningbacks in the ACC this year. You have one, Florida State, Pitt has a couple, Clemson. Is the ACC going against the grain, more of a ground attack overall running fancy passing formations?
COACH FEDORA: Well, you are correct that we’ve got some great runningbacks in our league. There’s no doubt about it. I mean, they’ll match up with anybody in the country, they really will.

I think it’s still based on each school’s individual scheme. Probably the Big 12 is throwing it all over the place all the time, but if you listen to coaches in the Big 12, they still feel like they need to be able to run the ball.

We in this league believe that you’ve got to be able to run the ball to be successful. I don’t know that there’s one program out there that says they’re going to throw it 60 times a game and be successful. If you’re throwing it 60 times a game, you’re probably trying to come from behind. That’s what’s happening.

I do agree with you completely, that we’ve got some great, great runningbacks in our league right now.

Q. Last year you were last in rushing defense, second to last in total defense, and yet amazingly among the very best in scoring defense. How did you pull that off? What part did Des and the secondary guys do?
COACH FEDORA: I’ll be honest with you guys, we don’t put a whole lot of stock in yards allowed anymore. Total yards or defense, that’s not really even a stat we pay any attention to.

The most important stat is scoring defense. That’s the way we look at it. Now, there are other stats that play into that role: turnovers, all those different things. But scoring defense is number one. If you don’t let them get in the end zone, it doesn’t matter how many times you let them run up and down the field.

That is the number one thing.

Why were we so good at that? I thought our guys, even if we gave up plays, and we didn’t give up a whole lot of explosive plays, I mean, we pretty much held people. They had to work for what they got. For that reason I think we were probably good on scoring defense. I think we’re going to continue to be that way.

It’s very important because that’s the number one stat for us defensively.

Q. What are your thoughts on opening up against teams like Georgia in kind of a special game at the start of the season?
COACH FEDORA: I can tell you, our football team and myself, our staff, we’re all extremely excited playing in that Chick-Fil-A Classic. 43 days away, you get to play the University of Georgia. Everybody knows the tradition of their team. All they do is win at least 10 games a year. In the recruiting rankings they’re in the top 10 every single year. They’ve got great players in every single position, whether it’s Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, whoever they have in their stable, I promise you they’re going to have a dang good runningback back there.

They don’t know who the quarterback is going to be, but we know it’s going to be a good one. Kirby Smart is a helluva football coach. He’s put together a great staff. They have the support that they need to be successful.

We’re excited about it. For us, we look at it, it’s kind of a measuring stick, where are we in our program at this point. At the same time we know that a game like that doesn’t make or break our season. It really has nothing to do with the goals that we have for our season.

We want to be prepared. We’re going to go to that neutral site of Atlanta and we’re going to give it our best.

Q. There are three first-year head coaches in the ACC coastal division this year and a fourth entering his second season. Does that add to the challenge in terms of preparation with the opposition?
COACH FEDORA: You know what, it does. But luckily when you’re playing in-conference, usually for us it’s like the fourth game of the season, you get on into your season. You actually have some film to study. Where it hurts us in these early games, our first three are brand-new head coaches and new staff. That makes it much more difficult when you’re trying to prepare for them without any film.

They obviously have the advantage where they know what you’re going to do, and you’re going to have to do a great job of adjusting during those games.

Hopefully with a mature team that we have, we’re going to be able to make those adjustments early on.

Q. What are your thoughts on the coastal? Seems like this is one of those years where it could go either way.
COACH FEDORA: I think it’s been wide open every year in the coastal every year, hasn’t it? That’s one of the things you write about all the time, anybody can win the coastal. I can tell you this, with the new coaches that have come into the coastal, you look at the head football coaches in this league, you look at what’s happening in our league in the last three, four years, I mean, this is a hell of a division, it really is. From top to bottom, there’s a lot of strength.

The new coaches that are coming in are only going to make it stronger. We’re excited about it. It’s exciting to play in a league like this.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.

COACH FEDORA: Thank you.