Tar Heels know Fedora’s tempo
He’s now an established Division I head football coach, having posted winning records at Southern Mississippi and in his one year at North Carolina.
Yet Larry Fedora felt youthful exuberance as the official start of the new season drew near.
“It’s like last night when it was like kids on Christmas,” Fedora said Thursday, after the Tar Heels went through their first practice. “They have a hard time going to sleep because they’re excited about getting out here, and same way for the coaches, really.
“For me, I’ve been doing this for a long time but I still get worried that the alarm clock’s not going to go off, I’m going to be late. I still go through all those same thoughts that I went through as a player, and it’s the same thing these guys think about.”
Fedora led UNC to an 8-4 record in 2012 and a tie for first place in the ACC’s Coastal Division with a 5-3 league mark. NCAA sanctions kept the Tar Heels from playing in the ACC Championship Game or a postseason bowl game.
But that did little to take the luster off Fedora, who in five years as a college head coach has yet to post a losing season. His career record stands at 42-23 for a .646 winning percentage.
Starting Thursday morning on the Navy Fields practice facility, UNC players and coaches began working toward building on last year’s successes.
A year ago, implementing Fedora’s go-go offense, the Tar Heels set school records for points scored (487), points per game (40.6) and most yards per game average (485.6).
Though Thursday’s first practice wasn’t in full pads, per NCAA acclimation rules, Fedora liked how his players reacted to things in relation to last year.
“You see guys moving around a whole lot faster,” Fedora said. “There’s a whole lot less thinking. The older guys, there’s no thinking involved. They know exactly what they’re doing, and they’re able to do it fast.”
Fedora said the team’s tempo was where he liked it, noting the Tar Heels pushed the number of repetitions.
“We were in good shape there,” he said.
The first practice also gives the coaches a chance to see how the players did in their individual workouts over the summer.
“From where we left off during spring ball, you start looking to see how much work a kid really put in over the summer as far as ... how much does he know at this point?” Fedora said. “You’re looking for recall these first days. They’re all moving around — they’re going to move around great in shorts and it’s Day 1. The energy level’s good, but it’s always going to be good on Day 1.”
One area where UNC has a void to fill is at punt returner, where Gio Bernard was No. 2 in the nation with an average of 16.4 yards per attempt. A second-team All-America pick at running back, Bernard now is with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.
UNC had redshirt sophomore T.J. Thorpe from Jordan High School and freshmen Ryan Switzer and T.J. Logan working on punt returns on Thursday.
Thorpe lead the ACC in kickoff return average as a freshman in 2011 at 26.7 yards per attempt, but he missed the 2012 season after breaking his foot during preseason camp.
“I would say just in the little bit I saw today, we’ll be able to find somebody out of that group,” Fedora said.