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Heel Tough Blog: Takeaways From ACC Kickoff Thursday

The ACC media days began on Wednesday with the Atlantic division coaches stopping by the Westin Hotel in downtown Charlotte, but on Thursday, the focus turned the ACC Coastal. Mack Brown and the Tar Heels seemed to be the biggest focus of the media on Thursday, with the hall of famer and his two senior representatives, Myles Dorn and Charlie Heck, answering many questions about the new regime and the quarterback battle. Here are the biggest things to take away from the Tar Heels’ Thursday afternoon at the ACC media days.

The Quarterback Race Is As Close As We Thought

While many suspected that the Tar Heel quarterback battle was a three-horse race that was neck-and-neck as they head into fall camp, but it was never officially confirmed until Thursday that there is zero separation. As Mack Brown told Charlotte’s WFNZ host Kyle Bailey on “In the Clubhouse w/ Kyle Bailey”, the starting quarterback for the spring game back in April was decided by a game of rock, paper, scissors after the three were unable to create separation during spring camp. Brown wants to see the turnovers cut down in the fall after too many in the spring, but spring game was a step in the right direction for a team that has struggled with turnovers from the quarterback position since Mitch Trubisky’s departure for the NFL. Brown said that whoever is able to move the offense with the most efficiency will be named the starter against South Carolina in a decision that he called “the biggest decision we have to make in the next month and a half.” This won’t just be the staff's decision, though, as Brown said he will ask the players what they’ve seen over the summer and who they believe should start under center, something he did back in time at Texas when Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead battled it out for the starting job in 2006. Brown told Bailey that he was actually leaning Snead at one time during that offseason, but went with McCoy after players told him differently. That decision seemed to work out pretty well for the Longhorns.

The Players Are Loving Everything Their Seeing From Mack

Both Myles Dorn and Charlie Heck had tremendous things to say about what Coach Brown and his staff have done so far since their arrival in Chapel Hill. Both guys talked about how Brown has made a connection with them and it is fairly obvious that Brown has already been able to establish a relationship with each player over the past eight months. “They've been saying the same things that I've been witnessing firsthand, how Coach Brown will go to bat for you, he's always there for the players,” Heck said at the podium on Thursday. Dorn shared a similar experience and also focused on the changes he has seen with the team on the recruiting trail. “Every weekend we have somebody in. We have a five-star here, a four-star here, they're committing left and right.” The overall mindset around this team is as positive as it has been in Chapel Hill in while.

There Is Confidence in the New Systems

Both Dorn and Heck seemed confident in the new systems that their respective coordinators have been putting in place. Dorn exuded confidence in the unit that the team is bringing back defensively and that even though they are still ironing some things out, they are liking the freedom that the new defense allows them to play with. “We're playing in a system to where we can just go out and play,” said Dorn on Thursday.  “Jay Bateman has put together a great program for us.” Heck hasn’t seen as many changes as many expected to see with the switch to the air raid offense, but he was positive about the changes that have been thrown his way. “It all comes down to just playing hard and playing aggressive,” said Heck while at the podium. “With the air raid offense, we're spreading the ball out, moving quickly. So as an offensive lineman, you have to know your plays inside and out and be ready to move fast.” Both groups admitted to their struggles, but with both systems basing themselves on creating some freedom for players to make plays, we’ll see if there is some added comfortability with that freedom when fall camp began in a couple of weeks. The questions weren’t just directed at the players, though. Brown was asked multiple times throughout the day about the choice to run an air raid offense and he continually reiterated that “air raid” was a loose term for the type of offense the Tar Heels will run in 2019. Brown once again compared the offense he plans to run to that of Oklahoma’s in the fact that even though the Tar Heels plan to spread teams out, they will do so to both run and pass the football. “It's still the old power running game. I love the combination of both.” Longo’s offense can change from week to week based on what is working well and unlike with Larry Fedora’s plea to roll with what worked, the track record is there that suggests this will actually happen under this staff. That’s a breath of fresh air from the Fedora era that never seemed to lean on the running game even when it was the strength of the offense, as was the case last year.

Mack Brown Is Not a Fan of the Transfer Portal

Despite dipping into the transfer portal a couple of times this offseason, Coach Brown had some strong words to say about the topic that has raised some questions because of the amount of players who entered in the first year of its existence. While Brown believes that players should be able to transfer, he believes the bulk of the players who entered the transfer portal did not end up with better situations. Brown mentioned his concerns about transfers struggling in the classroom and the fact that some guys have been left without schools as some of his biggest concerns in his interview with Charlotte’s WFNZ. “They really don’t know what’s on the otherside. A lot of the guys don’t have a chance to go anywhere else and lose their opportunity to stay because the coach gets disappointed. ‘I don’t want to stay anymore; I’m leaving.’ So they can’t go back. I think we’re in a tough spot right now for young people who don’t understand the process and we’re sending a message out there that’s it’s okay to quit.” The Tar Heels have lost eight players from the 2018 roster to transfer and as Brown told Mark Armstrong of ABC11 in Raleigh, that number may grow as he is preparing for the likelihood that one or both of the quarterbacks who lose out on the starting quarterback job may transfer.

Myles Dorn Has a Sense of Style

There is no doubt that the best dressed person at ACC media days was Myles Dorn. The senior safety donned an all-light blue suit that stole the show with many of the local media and some of the national guys as well. Jeff Gravely of WRAL had the quote of the day simply saying “That’s one sweet suit!!”

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