Well the opening act of Larry Fedora’s Carolina coaching debut is officially over. Now the first intermission starts. While we wait for next season, we get to sit and wonder how the Fedora’s story will play out. Based on what we’ve seen to this point, it should be a great show. It’s an exciting notion that in his first year as head coach, with a new system and players who were recruited to play a different system, he led the troops to an 8-4 (5-3) record and won the Coastal Division in the ACC which under normal circumstances minus bowl bans would have landed him an opportunity to play for a BCS berth.
The Fed Spread, as it is named, averaged 40.6 ppg which was enough to land them in the top 10 nationally. Having an experienced quarterback in Bryn Renner that could learn the offense quickly really helped Fedora’s cause and having a Heiman trophy dark horse in Giovanni Bernard didn’t hurt either. I think it was impressive that Fedora was able to really develop and bring along a young receiving corps so quickly. Guys like Quinshad Davis and Eric Ebron had big years and have quickly become household names around Tar Heel nation. Both players should be front runners for preseason All ACC honors.
His offense should be improved heading into next season. Losing Jonathon Cooper, Erik Highsmith and potentially Gio Bernard will be big losses, but with the bulk of the unit returning couple with some gamers from a top 15 recruiting class (recruited specifically for this offense), Coach Fed should be able to move forward without missing a beat.
Defensively may not be Fedora’s forte due to his offensive background, but he understood the importance very well and more importantly, he understood how to get his experience players to believe. He placed talented young names and faces on the field and put his confidence and trust in veteran players in order to get the job done. Guys like Kevin Reddick, Sylvester Williams, and Tre Boston really brought coach Fedora’s emotion from the sideline onto the field and made big time plays. Without their leadership and emotion, UNC would not have been nearly as successful as they were. Credit Fedora and his staff. Reddick and Williams are big losses, but experience all around the defensive unit and familiarity with their new scheme will propel the Tar Heels to be much improved defensively.
Larry Fedora posted some big wins over teams such as Virginia Tech and Miami and did something his predecessor never could, beat NC State. The win over the Pack is by far the highlight of his opening season and will hopefully set a pattern that will lasts over years to come. The way he kept his players focused on the end goal even when things were not going their way was inspiring. He’s hungry and will do what it takes to win within all the rules and his team really feeds off of that.
The Louisville game was the perfect example of his determination. His team was down 36-7 at halftime and 36-14 at the end of the third quarter. The game was clearly out of reach, but someone didn’t tell Coach Fedora that. He put his nose to the grindstone and quickly set the tone for his boys that they would continue to play until the clock hit zero. Just like that, Carolina has a 4th and goal to take the lead with under a minute to play. Unfortunately, Carolina couldn’t execute one final play, but being down 29 points at halftime and only to lose by five proved tome that he was the right guy for the job. Any other Tar Heel team would have folded, but not Fedora’s.
Coach Fedora doesn’t come from Championship lore, but the guy is a winner and the perfect match for the rag tag boys that make up North Carolina football. His personality is the type that draws in everyone he meets. I remember when he was first introduced to the Tar Heel faithful, he left us with this quote from General George S Patton: “Instead of waiting to see what might develop, attack constantly, vigorously and viciously. Never let up, never stop, always attack.” That is music to my ears.
If this season is only a preview of what is to come here in Chapel Hill, I am beyond excited to see what the future has in store.