North Carolina opens spring practice under Fedora
New North Carolina coach Larry Fedora got the first look at his
team as the Tar Heels started spring practice Wednesday. It was
also the first time the players took the field knowing they won’t
go to a bowl game this fall no matter how many games they win.
The practice came two days after the NCAA hit UNC with a
one-year postseason ban, a reduction of 15 scholarships and three
years of probation following its investigation into improper
benefits and academic misconduct within the program. The
upperclassmen on the roster have spent the past two seasons playing
amid the uncertainty of the probe, but Wednesday was the first time
the Tar Heels could resume work knowing it was finally over.
”It takes a lot of stress off some people,” senior linebacker
Kevin Reddick said. ”I know it kind of hurt some of the coaches
just now coming in, but some of the guys like me … it’s a little
relief off our shoulders – a lot of stress off.”
Fedora arrived in January from Southern Mississippi as the
permanent replacement for Butch Davis, who was fired before
training camp last year amid the probe. He has a seven-year
contract with the Tar Heels, with two extra years to compensate for
the school’s original plan to impose its own two-year probation in
”The best thing for these guys is that (the NCAA ruling) is
out, and it’s done,” Fedora said. ”And now they know they can
move forward. Nobody has to dwell on it anymore. They know what it
is. They know we’re not going to play in a bowl, but they know they
can still win a Coastal Division championship (in the Atlantic
Coast Conference). There’s still plenty of goals out there ahead of
us and I don’t think every college athlete plays football just to
play in a bowl game.”
There were plenty of changes at Wednesday’s practice, the most
obvious being the music blaring over speakers through the drills.
Fedora said the players were allowed to choose the music, which
included songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foster the People,
Rihanna and Bob Marley.
They’re still working that part out, though. A player apparently
chose a slower-paced song that played on the speakers, prompting
assistant video coordinator Darryl Sanders to radio to a staffer,
”Can you speed that up?”
”They enjoy the practice a little bit more,” Fedora said.
”It’s a lot more fun but they can still focus and concentrate on
what’s going on. At the same time for me, it’s noise. It’s creating
noise for them and having to watch them focus during that noise.
It’s the same thing as a football game, whether it’s music or a
Fedora is bringing a fast offense that runs largely without a
huddle to squeeze every play possible into the game. That means
running faster drills in practice and wearing out the players
trying to adjust.
Offensive tackle James Hurst said the Southern Miss offense
typically tried to get a snap every 12 to 14 seconds. Fedora said
the team moved about half the speed Wednesday that he would like
normally, and he’s hoping to get about 70 percent of the playbook
and schemes installed this spring.
”It’s very different,” Hurst said. ”Getting in a huddle, you
get to breathe and process the play before you even step to the
line of scrimmage. Now you’re sitting at the line of scrimmage
waiting for the play to come to you. You process that as fast as
possible, then you have to think about technique and everything
with the small differences we have now.”
Regardless of the learning curve, it sure beats waiting for the
NCAA storm to pass.
”It’s loomed over us almost (two) years now,” senior offensive
guard Jonathan Cooper said. ”I guess we’re very relieved it’s over
with. Now we can just play football. We can truly play