Turner's Take: Monday Musings
Larry Fedora, Marquise Williams and Jabari Price addressed the media on Monday ahead of Saturday’s game at Pittsburgh.
• Fedora said Williams wearing Bryn Renner’s jersey number last weekend speaks to the relationship between the quarterbacks. “They’re very close,” Fedora said. “Those guys have been in that room for three years together, and Marquise will tell you that he’s learned a lot from Bryn, and he appreciates that. It’s kind of like Bryn has passed the team on to Marquise, and Marquise is appreciative and just wanted to honor him with his play.”
You may recall that James Hurst wore Brennan Williams’ number 73 after Williams was injured last season. Marquise Williams said he would wear number 12 moving forward. “I can’t wear that number; that’s his number,” he said.
• The Pittsburgh defense is led up front by senior Aaron Donald, whose nine sacks have him one off the conference lead. “He’s got great quickness, really really quick get-off, and he’s very agile, a very good athlete and he’s got a great motor,” Fedora said. “He’s got everything that you’re looking for in a defensive lineman.”
Offensively, the Panthers have tremendous weapons in freshman Tyler Boyd (1,114 all-purpose yards) and senior Devin Street (766 receiving yards, six touchdowns).
Price said it was hard to scout a mercurial team that much like the Tar Heels has has an up-and-down season. The Panthers are 5-4 on the year and coming off a 28-21 win over Notre Dame. But two weeks prior, they lost at Navy. “It’s kind of hard to get a good feel for the team,” he said. “They played lights-out against Notre Dame, and then they come back and lose to Navy.”
Price and a few of his fellow seniors on defense (Tre Boston, Darius Lipford, Tim Jackson, Kareem Martin and Terry Shankle) have seen Pitt quarterback Tom Savage before. In 2010, Savage directed the Rutgers attack when Carolina and the Scarlet Knights played in Piscataway. That was two coaches ago for the Tar Heels, and two schools ago for Savage, but they are familiar. Fedora said he hadn’t spoken to his players about that particular aspect of the game. “Everything’s based on what he’s doing now at Pitt, and we’re a totally different defense, so I don’t know if anything would carry over,” he said.
“He had a good strong arm that time, and he’s gotten better,” Price said. “Fifteen (Street) is their guy. He’s looking for 15 every play, and I know as a secondary, this is going to be our game to step up and make plays. Savage is a good guy but I feel like our secondary’s better.”
• The Tar Heels got scores from both their special teams and defense last weekend, with a punt return and an interception return for touchdowns. Fedora said the entire team watched the film of Ryan Switzer’s punt return on Sunday to illustrate the good things that can happen with a cohesive unit. “Not because of what Switzer did, but because of what the other ten guys did. Because when ball hit Switzer’s hands, when you stop the tape, we had ten guys on ten guys. . . Every guy was exactly where they’re supposed to be on their guy.” Fedora singled out Mack Hollins, who passed Switzer during the return and blocked Virginia punter Alec Vozenilek.
Price said he had a feeling a big play was coming from freshman walk-on Dominique Green, who scored on a 62-yard interception return in the third quarter against Virginia. “He came in, he took the starting job at cat safety, and he’s been making plays from there on out,” Price said of Green. “He never looked back, so to see him making plays as young as he is, it means a lot.”
• Shakeel Rashad played for the first time in 2013 last weekend against Virginia, recording two tackles. Rashad injured a knee in training camp and was believed to be out for the year. Fedora said Rashad attacked his rehabilitation process and opted to forgo a medical hardship and play when he was ready. “He was kind of out of sight, out of mind for me, working his tail off,” Fedora said. Trainer Scott Trulock updated Fedora on Rashad’s progress. It was decided that Rashad could help the team win and was ready to go, so . . . “We’re glad to have him back,” Fedora said.