The Tar Heels opened their 2022 fall camp on Friday morning in Chapel Hill, as team started their steam towards their season opener on August 27th. Afterwards, head coach Mack Brown talked to the media about the first practice, an early start to camp and the continuation of the quarterback battle. Here is a look at the most important quotes and notes from today’s presser.
“We’re telling the guys: the one that practices the best will play. The bench is our friend.”
This is a really encouraging quote considering that this is the point that the team has been working to with the way that they have been recruiting. Even last year, it felt like there were times that the team simply didn’t have the depth to bench guys that weren’t playing well or weren’t practicing hard. Brown has mentioned just how deep that that is not the case with this team and that is on display here early on in camp.
“We have got to have a coaching staff and a team that competes every week and brings it every week.”
This quote shed more light on the fragile mentality that the team seemed to have a year ago. The further that we get from it, the more it becomes obvious that the best thing for this team and this program was the turnover both with the upperclassman on the field and the coaching staff on the sidelines. The good news is that Brown was really happy with what he saw from a competitive standpoint with this group again on Friday, building off of what he classified as a strong spring for them.
“There’s absolutely no doubt our coaches are more cohesive right now than they’ve been as a staff.”
This is the second time in the past eight days that Brown has heaped major praise on his coaching staff. Last week in Charlotte, he said that this might be the best coaching staff that he has ever had in his 30+ years of coaching, one that contains a national title staff and another one that appeared in a national title game. On Friday, Brown spent his time talking about the cohesiveness of the staff with most of the coaches having worked with the others on their side of the ball in some capacity before. The way that he talked about this staff makes you wonder just how cohesive that staff was a year ago and if that was part of the issues that the team had.
“We want to be able to say, ‘get in, you go’. ‘That guys a little tired, get out, get in’ and not have to worry who they are or what they do.”
This was said in reference to the offensive line and should be another reason for Tar Heel fans to feel more confident in ths group than the one from last year. Brown talked about the fact that they were limited with how they used guys last year under former position coach Stacy Searels, but that they are taking the mindset of being able to use many different guys in many different situations under new coach Jack Bicknell Jr.. This is another quote that is just extremely frustrating, especially considering how much the team struggled a year ago. The good news, though, is that this unit seems to be in a much better spot this year overall despite being much less experienced.
“The guys are doing a very good job in the offseason of stepping up and leading.”
Brown was really complimentary of the leadership of this group this year that he says has made major strides this offseason. He mentioned some specific examples of guys who have really stepped up this summer and also talked about the fact that the mindset is much more of a learning one this year than in the last couple of seasons where guys would get offended if things were pointed out to them by teammates. With what has been said by Brown and the staff this offseason and from hearing some of these leaders talk, you have to just wonder if this group of leaders is a better overall group in that category than the leadership group from a year ago.
“We’ve got nine guys there that can play, but they need to play.”
Brown raved about the overall talent and depth of the defensive line once again on Friday, but said once again that it is time for this group to prove it on the field. He’s not lying when he says that this team looks the part when getting off the bus and this is another spot where the team simply has depth for days. The big question is can the production follow, but there is reason to believe that it just might considering that this is the healthiest that the unit has been in recent memory while also taking another step experience wise. This unitn is certainly one that will be most interesting to watch, along with the offensive line, once the pads go on.
“It’s a really good situation for us because we get an extra week of practice.”
Brown was asked at the end of the presser about his feeling on having to start camp a week earlier with a Week 0 game and he took the positive mindset to it. The team will have an extra week of practice as compared to Appalachain State and Georgia State, the team’s opponents the following two weeks after the opener. He did say that this is forcing the staff to adjust how they will use the bye weeks, considering they now have that extra one early in schedule.
-Brown really didn’t say much about the two quarterbacks battling for the starting job after Day 1 of camp, but he did seem to talk a little more about finding the one guy at the position. That is a change from last Thursday when he seemed to take the mindset that the team would use two quarterbacks unless someone was able to clearly separate themselves. Makes you wonder what some of the player have been saying about what they saw in the summer.
-As part of that talk about finding the one guy, Brown did give a rough idea of when he would like to have that guy named. He referenced the timeline that the team had with Sam Howell back in 2019, announcing he was the starter about ten days out and that they would like to follow a similar timeline this year.
-Brown said that true freshman wide receiver Andre Greene Jr. looked the part in his first practice with the team on Friday. He impressed with his ability to climb the ladder and get the football, something that he was known for in high school, and could be on track to contribute early for the team according to the head coach.
-Zach Rice took some snaps at guard on Friday, something that he did not do back in the spring. Brown says that this is part of the plan for new coach Jack Bicknell Jr., who is taking an NFL mindset to how he is preparing his offensive line by having many guys cross train. Amongst the other cross training at both guard and tackle are William Barnes and Treyvon Green, while the team is also focused on getting a good look at Spencer Rolland at right tackle.
-Brown said that corner Dae Dae Hollins did all of the drills today and that he thinks he will be released by the medical staff to be a full go when they put the pads on. Hollins missed the final eleven games of last season after suffering a lower body injury in the third quarter of last year’s game against Georgia State.
-Also mentioned when talking about the status of the defensive backfield was Ja’Qurious Conley, who is attempting to return from his own lower body injury that he suffered late last year against Wofford. Brown said that the junior is currently working with the training staff exclusively and it will be a couple of week or possibly into the season before he is cleared to return to practice.
-Brown mentioned a stat at the end of the presser that likely will leave many Tar Heel fans feeling sick. In his three years back in Chapel Hill, the team is 7-12 overall on road, but a brutal 1-8 in game decided by one possession. Brown said that this is the difference between the team being where they are now and being a top ten team in the sport. He says that the coaching is to blame and that they need to get back to winning those games like they did in his time in Austin.