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Game day has finally arrived

By Eddy Landreth
Staff Writer

Eddy Landreth

The time is here for the debut of the Larry Fedora era in Carolina football.

The first-year coach will lead his team in the season-opener on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against Elon.

When Fedora looks at all that has occurred since he was announced as coach late last fall, he said the team’s eagerness and attitude have pleased him the most.

“They’re hungry,” Fedora said. “They have been hungry for someone to care about them. They’re hungry for something positive to happen in their lives. They’ve been eager to please.

“They want to do things the way we ask them to do them.”

In order to prepare for this first game, the Tar Heels had scrimmages the past three Saturdays, including a mock game this past week. Fedora said when he says mock game, he means from the time the players wake up to meetings to the pre-game meal and so on, right down to executing on offense, defense and special teams.

“We made a lot of mistakes [in the mock game],” Fedora said. “I’m glad we weren’t playing this past Saturday. But that is why we do it.

“We do everything, as far as how you get out of bed in the morning. When you come down to the meeting, what you’re going to look like. You’re not going to look like you just got out of bed. You’re going to look alert and be ready to go.

“Every single detail was covered in that day,” Fedora said. “We did it all. Everything had to be done. Traditionally when you do something like that, the focus isn’t where we would want it to be as a coaching staff. Therefore, you see the mistakes that are made throughout the day and on the field.”

The breakdowns provide ammunition for the coaches to show why they went through such an elaborate rehearsal.
“We were able to come back in and say, ‘That is why we were doing this,’” Fedora said. “The mistakes we made, we cannot allow this Saturday [in the first game]. It was a great experience for everybody involved.”

Fedora said that star running back Giovani Bernard will add punt returns to his duties this season. Bernard is an excellent runner when he can get into the open field and force tacklers to go one-on-one with him.

“I love it,” Bernard said. “I wouldn’t do something I don’t love, and I think that is the mentality you have to go into it. You have to love what you do. Returning punts is what I’m doing, and I love it.

“I played baseball in high school, so tracking something down in the air for a while is something I’m used to. Being a football player, you have to be able to do that, add to your game in different ways.

“It’s new for me,” Bernard said. “And I think I’m doing a pretty good job. There are little things I need to work on, but that will come with experience.”

On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Kevin Reddick said the important factor is to play hard and to do so without fear.

“We just need to play at a high-intensity level,” Reddick said. “That is our main thing. Go out there and play with high intensity, have fun and it will come natural to you. We don’t need to go out there and play uptight.”

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