By 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 teamâ€™s eagerness and attitude have pleased him the most.
â€œTheyâ€™re hungry,â€ Fedora said. â€œThey have been hungry for someone to care about them. Theyâ€™re hungry for something positive to happen in their lives. Theyâ€™ve been eager to please.
â€œThey want to do things the way we ask them to do them.â€
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.
â€œWe made a lot of mistakes [in the mock game],â€ Fedora said. â€œIâ€™m glad we werenâ€™t playing this past Saturday. But that is why we do it.
â€œWe do everything, as far as how you get out of bed in the morning. When you come down to the meeting, what youâ€™re going to look like. Youâ€™re not going to look like you just got out of bed. Youâ€™re going to look alert and be ready to go.
â€œEvery single detail was covered in that day,â€ Fedora said. â€œWe did it all. Everything had to be done. Traditionally when you do something like that, the focus isnâ€™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.â€
The breakdowns provide ammunition for the coaches to show why they went through such an elaborate rehearsal.
â€œWe were able to come back in and say, â€˜That is why we were doing this,â€™â€ Fedora said. â€œThe mistakes we made, we cannot allow this Saturday [in the first game]. It was a great experience for everybody involved.â€
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.
â€œI love it,â€ Bernard said. â€œI wouldnâ€™t do something I donâ€™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 Iâ€™m doing, and I love it.
â€œI played baseball in high school, so tracking something down in the air for a while is something Iâ€™m used to. Being a football player, you have to be able to do that, add to your game in different ways.
â€œItâ€™s new for me,â€ Bernard said. â€œAnd I think Iâ€™m doing a pretty good job. There are little things I need to work on, but that will come with experience.â€
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.
â€œWe just need to play at a high-intensity level,â€ Reddick said. â€œThat is our main thing. Go out there and play with high intensity, have fun and it will come natural to you. We donâ€™t need to go out there and play uptight.â€