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Heel Tough Blog: ACC Media Days Quote and Notes

David Jensen- Getty Images

Thursday was the annual trip for the members of the ACC Coastal to Charlotte for the final time as the Coastal division. Junior wide receiver Josh Downs stole the show with his all-white suit that had many people buzzing, while graduate running back British Brooks and junior linebacker Cedric Gray got the opportunity to speak to the media in a place that they consider home after playing their high school football in the local area. Meanwhile, head coach Mack Brown faced a barrage of questions about the state of college football and the ACC all while trying to talk about how this team recovers from a disappointing season in 2021. Here are the most important quotes and notes from yesterday’s media day appearance at The Westin.

Key Quotes

“Our guys have been talking about three things: Passion. Accountability. Toughness.” -Mack Brown

This was the theme of 2022 Media Day for the Tar Heel representatives, especially accountability. Brown detailed the fact that last year’s team seemed to lack that element in particular from the very beginning, with many guys simply overlooking the small things during the offseason and getting frustrated when they were brought. Downs also talked a lot about the lack of accountability from a year ago all three of the players in attendance discussed how they have been holding guys accountable this offseason with little things as simple as dropping passes in the summer to eating with the team. In terms of the toughness, that is something that we’ve heard throughout the offseason is a bit of a work in progress, but Brown’s excitement about where the offensive line is at as opposed to where the team was in the middle of last season is very promising for the team as a whole. The passion was certainly shown by all of the guys in attendance who appear hungry to shut up all the critics following last year and Brown’s comments throughout spring practice and once again on Thursday show make you feel confident that that is there with this group.

"We know everybody is sleeping on us, we know nobody really thinks much of us. So we've got that chip on our shoulder."- Josh Downs

This is the quote that stole the day and took over social media after Downs’ appearance with the ACC Network. We’ve heard a lot about the different mindset that this group has after the team thought way too highly of itself last year and this is a mindset that could be felt from all three of the student-athletes throughout the day, especially with Downs. He mentioned the chip on the shoulder that he and the team have heading into the season after the disappointment of a year ago at just about every stop that he made, something that you love to hear from one of the leaders of this 2022 team. This is one of the biggest elements that go into the Tar Heels turning this thing back in the right direction this year and the hope is that this added motivation can be carried into games this season after there were games that the team didn’t seem motivated to play in a year ago. The last time that chip on the shoulder seemed to be present: 2015.

“Carolina was my only Power 5 offer, so I came here with a chip on my shoulder.” -Cedric Gray

Speaking of chips on shoulders, Gray made it very well known that he has had a chip on his shoulder since he arrived to Chapel Hill. The former 3✮ recruit entered last year’s fall camp as a bit of a mystery on the depth chart but finished the season as arguably the best player on the defensive side of the football. There is no doubt that there are areas where he can take his game to next level, but this is a guy that similar to British Brooks had to work hard earn the starting job and a leadership role. The defense is in need of hard-working, determined leaders and Gray seems to fit that role nicely.

“It was a setback that we needed and us coming in underrated that just the mentality that we need coming into this season.” -British Brooks

While 2021 certainly didn’t go the way that people around the Tar Heel football program wanted, it sets up well for the mindset of this 2022 squad. Brooks said this when talking with Kelly Gramlich of the Gramlich & Mac Lain Show and his point really has to make you consider how last year may have actually been the best thing for this iteration of the Tar Heels. He also mentioned in the interview how much last season humbled this squad and it doesn’t seem like anyone is taking anything for granted this offseason in Chapel Hill. There some question marks that have to be answered as Brown said throughout the day, but last year’s experience is something that this team needs to lean on and harken back to in tough moments to show them where they don’t want to be again this year.

“We have made it work with two and until somebody steps up a takes over, you’re going to have to play two.”-Mack Brown

The quarterback battle, as expected, was the focus of many when it came to the question marks about this team and this response continues to strengthen the thoughts that the Tar Heels could roll with two quarterbacks early in the season. He once again referenced the battle he oversaw between Chris Simms and Major Applewhite back in 2001 and told a story about catching two fish on one hook when fishing that summer, which made him realize that two is better than one. He did say that they will run both Jacolby Criswell and Drake Maye through plenty of pressure situations and have challenged them to still up to create separation, but it appears that he and the staff are becoming more and more comfortable with the idea. This is certainly a bold move, considering the fact that the success of the team is so heavily based on the play at the quarterback, but it is a reality that Tar Heel fans have to accept at this point.

“When I hired Gene, I asked him to start winning on defense.” -Mack Brown

Brown talked at length about the added talent that the Tar Heel defense has and this was the perfect quote to sum up where the program is at on the defensive side of the football. The recruiting rankings show that the Tar Heels are doing what they have to do to get the talent to campus, but they need new/old defensive coordinator Gene Chizik to develop those players and produce results with these players. The respect factor seems to be there, something that as we have gotten further and further away from Jay Bateman departure seems to have been lacking there for the last couple of years. It makes some sense: Chizik has about as proven a track record of success as any defensive coordinator in college football right now and he came out of retirement for this specific opportunity. He’s done it one time before at Carolina so there is reason to be optimistic, but this unit simply has to get back to being a formidable one that can be relied on to consistently get stops.

Key Notes

-Kedrick Bingley-Jones was one of the big talking points when it came to the defensive line, as Brown wanted to make it clear that the third-year sophomore is finally healthy and down to 316 lbs. meaning he could be a factor this year up front.

-Brown talked about the sheer amount of depth that the Tar Heels have along the defensive line this season and said that the goal for this team is to have a full three deep across the board down there that they can rotate in at any time.

-One of the biggest talking points on the offensive side was the backfield, a position group that Brown said he is concerned about because of the lack of separation. George Pettaway’s name came up a lot throughout the day and he is certainly a guy to keep an eye on as fall camp starts up.

-The other offensive name that we heard a ton about yesterday whenever they were talking wide receivers is Kobe Paysour. Downs raved about his fellow wide receiver's overall skillset but really lit up when talking about his ability with the football in his hands. Expect him to have a pretty significant role with the first team when the team opens camp next Friday.

-Brown continues to be impressed with what he’s seen from the offensive line so far this offseason, going as far as to label it the unit that he is most confident about right now. He raved once again about the transfers that this team is bringing, mainly the leadership of Corey Gaynor who’s seemed to grab a lot of people’s attention so far in his time in Chapel Hill.

-Brown didn’t directly say it, but the depth of the linebacker position certainly feels like something that he is monitoring closely. He said that the room has only five guys at this point, meaning that both RaRa Dillworth and Sebastian Cheeks will be relied upon to play big roles this year.

-Conference realignment was certainly a focus as was expected with everything that was going on, but Brown is not focused on that really at all. He talked about all of the worry that he had back at Texas about the subject back in the last 2000s and early 2010s and that he is leaving it up to the conference commissioner and the athletic director to decide what is best in this situation. Brown felt confident that the Tar Heel brand would be fine regardless of what happens.


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