On Monday, Mack Brown spoke to the media for the first time since the first day of training camp. He discussed everything from the injury status of a starting wide receiver to the quarterback battle that everyone eagerly wants to have a conclusion to. Here are the most important quotes and notes from yesterday’s presser.
“We’re hoping we make it on Sunday before the first game and tell you on Monday at the press conferences is what we’re hoping, but it still has not separated enough to make that decision.”
This was definitely the most important quote from Brown on Monday for a multitude of reasons. This made the timeline a little clearer for the decision, one that is a little bit later than the original timeline that the head coach laid out after the first of practice. More importantly, this seemed to indicate that the team is going to do everything in their power to separate the quarterbacks and find a starter for the first game of the season. This continues to be a major heel turn from what we heard just a few weeks ago in Charlotte where it seemed more than possible that the team would roll with two quarterbacks in the opener. One has to wonder if there has at least been a little bit of a gap between the two so far in camp leading to the change in approach.
“It’s going to be who protects the ball, it’s going to be who can get the ball out of their hands faster, who can move the ball on third and fourth down, who runs the ball well enough to make plays and who’s got the poise and leadership to carry the team to the endzone.”
Brown laid out these criteria as the ones that they will be judging the quarterbacks on to determine the battle. He expressed confidence in both quarterbacks, saying that he is not concerned at all about the position regardless of who wins the job. It is now up to the staff to determine the difference between the two and find that one starter.
“We’re thin at receiver, so you have to be really, really careful.”
The Tar Heel wide receiving corps took a major hit over the weekend with the injury to graduate senior Antoine Green. This is a blow in terms of the experience in that and also makes them a bit thinner for a unit that doesn’t quite have the overall depth that they have in years past. This is a unit that still has plenty of talent, but they now have to grow up quickly around Josh Downs, something that didn’t go without flaw a year ago.
“I like the leadership so far, we haven’t played, but every day in the spring we practiced hard. That wasn’t the case last year.”
This was yet another quote that continued to show the issues with motivation that the team had a year ago. Brown has mentioned this multiple times throughout the offseason and it seems like this attributes to both the coaching staff and players. His praise continues from the spring, which he said might have been the best that the program has had since his return. After last year, it is hard for a lot of people to put too much stock into what is said in the preseason, but there is certainly a different vibe around this team than there was a year ago even in the preseason.
-Antoine Green will be out 6-10 weeks according to Brown. Our full breakdown can be read right here.
-Brown also revealed that besides Green, safety Ja’Qurious Conley and defensive lineman Jahlil Taylor are the only players expected to not be ready to go for the start of the season.
-The media was not allowed into practice on Monday and Brown revealed that that is in large part because of the fact that there is so much competition going on right now all over the team. He discussed the fact that with the guys that they have on the team, they are moving guys up and down the depth chart each and every day and that each day matters right now because of that depth.
-Brown mentioned that he liked what he saw from George Pettaway and Omarion Hampton on Saturday. He said both guys were really explosive in the scrimmage and that he was surprised with how ahead of the curve both guys looked.
-Andre Greene Jr. is another guy that has impressed Brown early, but he did say that there is a little more pressure on him to step up now with Antoine Green’s injury. With the review from both Brown and the media about his performance so far in camp, though, there is reason to believe that he has the raw talent to thrive early on.
-In terms of the young defensive standouts, Brown pointed to both Marcus Allen and Will Hardy who have had strong starts to the fall, both guys who were not with the team in the fall but are making immediate impressions.
-Brown pointed to linebacker as another position that the team is thin at right now with just five guys in the room. He labeled both RaRa Dillworth and Sebastian Cheeks as guys that needed to “come on” and said that it is hard to expect much from Deuce Caldwell who has been here for a little over a week.
-Brown is happy with the fact that the coverage busts that were such an issue the last two seasons don’t seem to be happening so far and attributes a lot of that to the focus that Gene Chizik and Charlton Warren have put into helping that unit.
-According to Brown, the senior Jonathan Kim and sophomore Noah Burnette are currently locked in a battle for the starting kicker job. He simply put that the player that makes the most kicks will win the job.
-Senior punter Ben Kiernan is also locked in a battle with redshirt freshman Cole Maynard and Brown said that they are demanding that each punter be 40+ yards and have 4+ seconds of hangtime. This is another battle that appears like it will come down to the very end of camp.
-The return games right now will be in the hands of five players. Josh Downs will once again handle the majority of special teams, while George Pettaway, Andre Greene Jr., Tychaun ‘Doc’ Chapman and Dontae Balfour are all being looked at in the kick return game, even though that is no longer a major part of the game anymore because of the rules.
-One of the more interesting notes from Brown on Monday was about a new rule that had not been discussed much so far this offseason that is coming to college football this season with the elimination of cut blocking unless it is head on and in the tackle box. Brown did a demonstration for the media, including using Inside Carolina’s Ross Martin as a prop, to explain the rule that he thinks lends a major advantage to the defense and is forcing the staff to adjust how they are coaching. Brown is not a fan of the rule, as he is worried about the effects that it could have on his smaller skill position players and is not happy with the timetable of when this rule was fully explained. The rule was not clearly laid out until yesterday according to him, a mere 20 days before the start of the Tar Heels season.