Turner's Take: Fedora at ACC Kickoff
The annual ACC Kickoff heralds the official beginning of football season, or at least the countdown to training camp. The 2013 event, held Sunday and Monday at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, was no different. It's a combination social and work event, with a commissioner's forum, officiating discussion and interview sessions as well as a golf tournament, cocktail hour and ice cream social. Everyone's friendly, because everyone's undefeated.
Schools send three representatives to the ACC Kickoff, two players and the head coach, and for two days, they run the media gauntlet. Sit down with ESPN for a bit, then turn around and give the same answers to the ACC Digital Network and local TV. Sit down with print writers for an hour, then work your way down radio row.
For the national and regional media, the ACC Kickoff affords the ability for writers to graze between coaches and players from different schools. Sample a little Dabo Swinney on one side of the room, grab some David Cutcliffe on the other. But the majority of the attendees, team beat writers, simply camp out in front of the representatives of the school they're covering and gather up enough morsels to hold them over until training camp. Hence I can tell you that in his session in front of print media, Larry Fedora gamely fielded 97 questions in 68 minutes.
Those questions were on subjects as varied as impact freshmen and Fisher DeBerry, from the Dallas Cowboys to non-conference scheduling. Just in case you didn't make it to Greensboro, here now is the best of what Fedora had to say.
Fedora can't be on the field with his players until the start of training camp, but he does hear from players about who's looking good in their organized team activities. The names he's heard a lot about this summer? Defensive backs Desmond Lawrence and Brian Walker are two. On the offensive side of the ball, athlete Ryan Switzer, center Lucas Crowley, tailbacks Khris Francis and T.J. Logan and quarterback Mitch Trubisky have stood out. "I'm looking forward to seeing these kids here on August 1 and seeing what they're going to bring to the football team this year," Fedora said.
Thorpe and Lipford status
T.J. Thorpe and Darius Lipford both missed all of Fedora's first season in Chapel Hill. He says they should be good to go for training camp, although Thorpe may be limited early. "I can't wait to see Darius Lipford in a uniform and see him on a football field," Fedora said. "I've heard great things about him and everything he can do, and so I'm excited about seeing what he's going to bring to us." The head coach said he'd heard about Thorpe's playmaking ability as well and is looking forward to seeing him in action. "I'm fired up about him because the kid's got a great attitude. He has worked extremely hard to get himself ready to go, and I am really excited about seeing what he's going to bring."
Can Quinshad Davis make 100 catches in 2013?
Davis set a freshman record with 61 receptions in 2012. In the Tar Heels' second year in the spread, can he push that number higher? "I don't see why not," Fedora said. "(If) he stays healthy, I think he's very capable of doing that. I don't see why we wouldn't try to get the ball in his hands as many times as possible."
Bryn Renner's decision-making and mastery of the offense
Fedora said he was particularly impressed by the Tar Heel quarterback's final five games of 2012. "He really can take this thing where it's never been before," Fedora said of Renner and the Carolina offense. "He really can, because he has the arm strength, because he has the knowledge, because he feels comfortable, now he can just play. He can just play. He doesn't have to worry. I think last year he felt like he had the whole team on his shoulders a lot of times, especially early in the year, and I think that pressure really got to him because he's very competitive, (a) very fiery guy, so I think this year is just going to be a whole lot smoother for him."
Does Fedora fear South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney?
"I don't plan on him hitting me," Fedora said. "Unless he comes over there and knocks me out, I'm not going to fear him. But all kidding aside, the guy's a great football player, maybe the best college football player there is. I don't know, that's still to be seen, but he definitely has the potential to be."
On changing the culture at Carolina and working toward an ACC championship
Fedora knows that it's been 33 years since the Tar Heels have captured a conference title. To put Carolina in a position to win again, the team employing the head coach's mantra and concentrating on the details. "We've got to play smart, we've got to play fast and we've got to play physical. If we do those three things we can win our league, there's no doubt about it but we've got to do it week in and week out and it starts with just the little things," Fedora said. "If we can stay focused on the task at hand, and that's just getting better as an individual each and every day, if we can focus on that, then we'll look up at the end of the season and great things have happened."
Tight end Eric Ebron is going to score (at least) 12 touchdowns in 2013
"He's going to give me 12 touchdowns, I can tell you that. I don't know how many catches he's going to get or how many yards, but he will have the opportunity to do those things, but more importantly to me he's going to give me 12 touchdowns. That's mine," Fedora said. "What he gets beyond that, that's up to him. Eric can be in my opinion he can be the best tight end in college football this next year."
Rising above media expectations
Carolina was picked third in the Coastal Division (behind Miami and Virginia Tech) by the media at the ACC Kickoff. Fedora said he'd use that as motivation. "I appreciate y'all doing that for us," he said. "Coaches are always looking for things to motivate kids. To me, that's 90 percent of it, making sure your kids are ready to play, if they're energetic and they're passionate about what they do, and they have a common goal. It's a great motivating factor when people tell you you can't do something."