Tar Heels Poised For Border Battle

CHAPEL HILL — Less than one week remains before one of the most anticipated college football openers in Tar Heel recent memory. Head Coach Fedora met with the media on Friday to discuss the state of his team as they get set for their match-up at South Carolina.

Coach Fedora says he believes one of the keys to the game will be his defense’s ability to stop the big, explosive plays. And he says he’s seen a marked improvement in that category in the preseason practices.

“I have seen improvement, and we have worked extensively on tackling in the open field. […] If you don’t make that tackle, it becomes a big play,” Fedora says.

On the offensive side of the ball, Coach Fedora says freshman Ryan Switzer’s versatility opens up the playbook.

“Ryan is unique because he’s played in the backfield, and now he’s learned the slot. He’s a guy you can do multiple things with. He can actually run the ball from the backfield or he can be out at a receiver spot running routes,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora identified South Carolina’s Heisman hopeful Jadeveon Clowney as the best defensive player he has ever had to game plan against. And that’s high marks coming from him, as Coach Fedora says he has faced the legendary NFL star Brian Urlacher.

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier has a couple dual threat quarterbacks at his disposal, and Coach Fedora says that makes the Gamecocks offense tricky.

“I don’t think they’re afraid to play either one of them. Both of them can throw the football, and both of them can run. […] That’s always a concern,” Fedora says.

Tar Heel defensive end Kareem Martin was on hand Friday as well, and he says the greater comfort level with the defensive schemes will lead to improvement from last season.

“This year, we’ve had a whole offseason with the playbook. We’ve had a lot of extra film sessions. There is a lot more confidence going around of what to do,” Martin says.

Martin says he is fired up about the upcoming battle of the Carolinas and says his team is ready to shine and show the nation what North Carolina is made of.

“Being able to start on such a big stage is always great. It gets to show the nation what UNC football is all about. We’ve been working really hard knowing we’re going to be on this big stage. We’re going there not to disappoint,” Martin says.


Moore Stepping Into Barth-less Landscape

CHAPEL HILL – You know times have changed in Chapel Hill when a player not named Barth will be kicking field goals for the Tar Heels out on the football field. It fact, it will be the first time since 2004 that Carolina will be starting a place kicker not from the Barth family.

Junior Thomas Moore will no doubt have big shoes to fill this season, but he says preseason training has been going along well.

“They’re going pretty well so far. I’ve hit about 80 percent or so of the field goals in preseason. That went well, so getting ready for the season start,” Moore said.

Moore (an East Chapel Hill High alum) says Connor and Casey Barth are not replaceable, but he says he thinks they taught him some valuable lessons that will aid him in the kicking department.

“Obviously, you can’t replace a Casey or Connor Barth. Those guys are just great guys. You learn from those guys. I’d say a lot of things you learn from Casey is like poise, how to handle the moment, things like that. He was really able to leave his touch on me when he was injured, and I was playing,” Moore said.

Fans all know that many ball games come down to the foot of the kicker. Moore says he understands this reality and says he is up to the challenge, ready for those pressure-cooker moments. He says all the repetitions in practice will lead to him being ready to go when the time comes in the game.

And how does Moore feel about the opener against South Carolina? Well, he says he’s pretty pumped up about the trip down to Columbia and is ready for the crazy atmosphere that awaits him.

“It’s a great opportunity to go in front of the national crowd with millions of people watching. It will be a great environment especially with their fans I know they’re going to be excited to get the game on,” Moore said.


Boston Breeding Confidence in Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL– The Tar Heels were forced to take cover in the Eddie Smith Field House for part of Wednesday’s football practice due to storms in the area, but the session ended outdoors and the weather didn’t dampen senior safety Tre Boston’s spirits. He was oozing with excitement.

Boston says he’s happy his defense is being underrated. He says he relishes being under the radar and remains confident in his teammates’ abilities to get pressure and cause some problems for opposing offenses. And it won’t all be about Kareem Martin.

“I think this is one of our best defensive lines I’ve seen in a long time. You’ll know the names come August 29th. These guys are going to start and these guys are going to cause havoc for us in the back end,” Boston said.

Boston says he appreciated being named preseason all-ACC and being named to various award watch lists, but he says at the end of the day, his focus remains with the team and achieving success with his teammates by playing his absolute best.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to come out here and play my best. That’s preseason. I want to come out here and play my game every game and show my boys that this is my last season and I’m going to go out with a bang,” Boston said.

Being a senior, Boston says his leadership role has expanded in this offseason. He says there is a trio of defenders in himself, Kareem Martin and Tim Jackson who have stepped up to lead the Tar Heels to bigger and better things this season.

Boston says all the hard work put in has been breeding more and more internal confidence in the team. And he says he thinks it will translate into success on game days this season.

“We don’t work hard for no reason. I feel that we will outwork anybody that we play. We have confidence and we know that we can play with the best of them,” Boston said.

At the end of the day, Boston says he knows his team must stay focused and fight for a full four quarters in order to secure victories. He says Coach Fedora has emphasized consistency and learning from past mistakes going into the 2013 season.



Three Tar Heels Vying for Top Soccer Honor

KANSAS CITY, KS – Three Tar Heels are up for the title of best college soccer player in the 2013 season.

The No. 1 Carolina women’s team was afforded a pair of senior representatives as Kealia Ohai and Crystal Dunn were named candidates for the prestigious Hermann Trophy by the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC).

Dunn will be looking to grab the honor for the second year in a row, having received the award at the close of the Tar Heels’ national championship season.

As for the men, junior Boyd Okwuonu has been tabbed as the one to watch this 2013 campaign. Last year, Okwuonu was a standout defender for a Carolina unit that surrendered a mere seven goals all season.

The MAC Hermann Trophy is the highest individual award in college soccer presented annually to one male and one female athlete. The winners will be announced in January at the trophy presentation banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis.

2013 Men’s MAC Hermann Watch List

Andre Blake Jr. K Connecticut May Pen, Jamaica
John McCarthy Sr. K La Salle Cinnaminson, N.J.
Tyler Miller Jr. K Northwestern Woodbury, N.J.
Spencer Richey Sr. K Washington Seattle
Nick Hagglund Sr. D Xavier Cincinnati
Sebastien Ibeagha Jr. D Duke Missouri City, Texas
Anthony Manning Jr. D Saint Louis Mesquite, Texas
Boyd Okwuonu Jr. D North Carolina Edmond, Okla.
Tim Parker Jr. D St. John’s Hicksville, N.Y.
Matt Polster Jr. D SIUE Las Vegas
Patrick Slogic Sr. D Cornell Colorado Springs, Colo.
Cristobal Soto Sr. D American Santiago, Chile
Nicholas Walker Sr. D Fairleigh Dickinson Port of Spain, Trinidad
Kyle Venter Sr. D New Mexico Aurora, Colo.
Romena Bowie Sr. M Virginia Commonwealth St. Mary’s, Jamaica
Omar Mata Sr. M Tulsa Tulsa, Okla.
Pedro Ribeiro Sr. M Coastal Carolina Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Joseph Schmid Sr. M Monmouth Kingston, Pa.
Jared Watts Sr. M Wake Forest Statesville, N.C.
Liam Collins Sr. M Memphis Skibbereen, Ireland
Tyler Gibson Sr. M Charlotte Knoxville, Tenn.
Gideon Asante Sr. F Old Dominion Sunyani, Ghana
Reinaldo Brenes Sr. F Akron Ciudad Colon, Puerto Rico
Mamadou Diouf* Sr. F Connecticut Dakar, Senegal
David Geno Sr. F East Tennessee State Kingsport, Tenn.
Giuseppe Gentile Jr. F Charlotte Charlotte, N.C.
Robbie Kristo* Jr. F Saint Louis St. Louis
Cristian Mata So. F Tulsa Tulsa, Okla.
Patrick Mullins# Sr. F Maryland New Orleans
Steve Neumann* Sr. F Georgetown New Hope, Pa.
Makenzie Pridham Sr. F Cal Poly Toronto
Mark Sherrod Jr. F Memphis Knoxville, Tenn.
Christian Volesky Jr. F SIUE Las Vegas
Reed Williams Sr. F UCLA Newport Beach, Calif.

2013 Women’s MAC Hermann Watch List




Kelsey Wys



Florida State Coral Springs, Fla.
Aubrey Bledsoe



Wake Forest Cincinnati
Elizabeth Hoerner



Navy Lititz, Pa.
Whitney Church



Penn State Ashburn, Va.
Abigail Dahlkemper



UCLA Menlo Park, Calif.
Marissa Diggs



UCF Rowlett, Texas
Arin Gilliland



Kentucky Lexington, Ky.
Emily Menges



Georgetown Garden City, N.Y.
Jade Seabrook



Navy St. Paris, Ohio
Natasha Anasi*



Duke Arlington, Texas
Jessie Ayers



Colorado College Seattle
Dagny Brynjarsdottir



Florida State Hella, Iceland
Daphne Corboz*



Georgetown Greenbrook, N.J.
Vanessa DiBernardo



Illinois Naperville, Ill.
Crystal Dunn#



North Carolina Rockville Centre, N.Y.
Julie Johnston*



Santa Clara Mesa, Ariz.
Cari Roccaro



Notre Dame East Islip, N.Y.
Meghan Streight



Texas A&M McKinney, Texas
Janine Beckie



Texas Tech Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Jonelle Filigno



Rutgers Mississauga, Ontario
Amanda Frisbie



Portland McKinney, Texas
Kristen Hamilton



Denver Littleton, Colo.
Maya Hayes*



Penn State West Orange, N.J.
Morgan Marlborough



Santa Clara Lee’s Summit, Mo.
Tesa McKibben



Saint Francis (Pa.) Cogan Station, Pa.
Kealia Ohai*



North Carolina Draper, Utah
Ifeoma Onumonu



California Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Katie Stengel



Wake Forest Melbourne, Fla.
Taylor Uhl



Stanford Eden Prairie, Minn.
Hannah Wilkinson



Tennessee Whangarei, New Zealand
Lynn Williams



Pepperdine Fresno, Calif.

Gio Shining In NFL Pre-Debut

Photo courtesy of Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI – Tar Heel fans already knew about the magic of running back Giovani Bernard. But now, the rest of the nation is quickly beginning to discover his talents on the football field.

Now a Cincinnati Bengals running back, Bernard is already turning heads in his rookie NFL preseason. The 5-foot, 10-inch, 205 pounder has punched in two scores for touchdowns already in the first couple games for his new team.

In his latest performance, Bernard ran for more than five yards per carry. That is quite an impressive feat for someone who is supposed to just be getting his feet wet at the next level.

But Bernard says he’s not satisfied. He told reporters that he is a perfectionist and wants to always continue to improve his play.

One thing is for sure; Bengals fans and Tar Heel fans alike will be thrilled with the initial success of the spark plug runner who currently sits behind number-one running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.


Fedora Fine-Tuning Underway

CHAPEL HILL – The clock is ticking on Carolina’s preseason football preparations; the season is right around the corner and Head Coach Larry Fedora is busy rallying his troops for their battle with South Carolina on August 29.

And how is the energy level of the team? Coach Fedora says he’s impressed.

“Great energy level today. Kids came out here with the right attitude. We had two practices yesterday and we challenged them with a  short turn-around. Let’s come out and get better as a football team and we did,” Fedora said.

The preseason presents a true test for the Tar Heel players as Coach Fedora says a lot more is thrown at them in August than on normal game weeks during the regular season.

“When you put a game plan together it’s very specific on these are the things that are going to be run in this game, and that’s all you work on during the week. It’s much easier for the guys during a game week to prepare. Right now, they are preparing for everything so it takes a lot more concentration on their part,” Fedora said.

Wide receiver play will be huge for Carolina this fall. But with all the high octane flash of the ‘Fedora Freak Show’ offense, the coach says there is more he wants out of his receivers, and it isn’t just hauling in passes. He wants them to block to get other people open when necessary. Unselfish play seems to be a focus here.

Freshman Ryan Switzer has caught Coach Fedora’s eye in 2013. He says the versatile back is equipped with all the intangibles you need to succeed at this level.

“He’s got that will. He’s got that thing you’re looking for inside his chest. He’s got that tremendous will to be successful,” Fedora said.

The ‘hot hand’ is often brought up in Coach Fedora’s comments, but he says his offensive philosophy is all about distribution and throwing the ball to the open guy.


Playing Both Ways

CHAPEL HILL – We know it’s big news when a coach even mentions the possibility of an athlete playing both ways on the football field.

And UNC Head coach Larry Fedora is not joking around. He says he has the utmost confidence in tight end turned linebacker Jack Tabb.

But what does Tabb himself think about the chance of playing both offense and defense on game days this season?

“It’s truly an honor because only a few players in college football have the ability to do that. They have faith in me. I am going to work as hard as I can to prove I can do what they want me to do,” Tabb said.

Tabb admits there is a learning curve to playing at his new post at the linebacker position. But he says he’s confident in his abilities to handle his role on the defense.

“It’s been a little bit difficult because I haven’t played defense since senior year in high school. […] I think I’m pretty comfortable at the linebacker position now to where I can at least get the base stuff down,” Tabb said.

With all his time spent trying to score the football on the offensive end, Tabb says it is a little strange now lining up against his teammates on offense this preseason.

“They always give me a hard time. I see them every day. It’s fun still. It’s still fun,” Tabb quipped.

Coach Fedora labels Tabb as one of the brightest players he has coached. But Tabb says he’s pumped up about some pretty fundamental things this fall in Chapel Hill: scoring touchdowns and big plays.


Martin’s Experience Crucial For Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL– Carolina defensive end Kareem Martin says he believes the pass rush for the defense is greatly improving this preseason.

In particular, he says junior Norkeithus Otis is causing some disruption for the quarterback and will likely be a big factor for the Tar Heels come game time.

“We’re getting a lot more pressure. We have a lot of guys stepping up in the pass rushing game. I worked a lot on my pass rush this spring and summer,” Martin said.

With only two weeks remaining before the first game, Martin says it is important for players to stay healthy while still pushing themselves day in and day out at practice.

“The main thing right now in camp is to take care of your body. That’s the biggest thing. You have to be healthy. You’re no good if you aren’t 100 percent going into the first game. Camp is a grind,” said Martin. “Time’s running out and before you know it, we’ll be playing South Carolina.”

And speaking of that Carolina to our South, yes, those Gamecocks will no doubt be motivated to send their Tar Heel rivals back home after a thumping loss in Columbia. But Martin says he thinks his team is up to the challenge.

“I think the belief is definitely there. […] We’re all mature, and I think most guys are ready for this stage,” Martin said.

On a personal level, Martin says he knew he would need to step up and assert more of a leadership role on the defense in his senior season. He has relished the role and says he understands his teammates listen to him when he speaks.

“I knew I had to step up and be that leader. A lot of guys on the team look up to me. My voice is being heard by them. I make sure that everything I do, I’m doing it the right way,” Martin said.

Along with teammate Tre Boston, Martin was placed on the preseason award watch list for the prestigious Bronko Nagurski Trophy that is awarded to the nation’s top defensive player.

Martin was recognized as second-team All-ACC in 2012, boasting 40 tackles, four sacks and eight quarterback hurries. He will be leading the Tar Heel defense in 2013 as the top returning player in both tackles for loss and sacks.

Day sixteen of training camp felt more like a fresh spring morning in Chapel Hill rather than a mid-August day usually composed of scorching temperatures and miserable humidity. Kickoff between North Carolina and South Carolina is two weeks away, August 29 in Columbia.


Fedora Worried About Heisman Hopeful Defender

CHAPEL HILL – UNC head football coach, Larry Fedora, says South Carolina’s Heisman hopeful Jadeveon Clowney is something to worry about as kickoff inches closer–now less than three weeks away.

“I’d be worried if it was our five offensive linemen going against just him,” Coach Fedora says. “You know, yeah, I’d be worried. He’s a great player. And we know that.”

However, Coach Fedora was quick to point out that the team has still yet to turn all of their attention to their nationally televised kickoff in Columbia.

But ultimately, he says one of the most intriguing head-to-head matchups in the upcoming season opener against the Gamecocks will be Tar Heel offensive lineman James Hurst against the leading defender, Clowney.

“I would imagine however many millions of people that are going to turn that TV on, it ought to be a pretty fun situation for them because 68 is a good player,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora says one of the primary focuses of preseason training camp is pushing players to their limits, to go further than they ever though was possible.

“When you’re pushing them higher and farther than they think they can go, they get frustrated, and you try to push them through that frustration and even farther,” Coach Fedora says. “Especially when they are frustrated – that is when you really want to push them.”

He says he demands a lot from his team, maintaining extremely high expectations for all his players, specifically talented Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.

“I still think we have a long way to go,” Coach Fedora says. “You know, he hasn’t arrived, that’s for sure. But he can make those plays for us.”

Progressing along in their preseason preparations, the Heels conducted their first full scrimmage last weekend. Coach Fedora says he thought many Tar Heels were “tight.” And he added that it is in those situations that the little mistakes “become glaring.”

Kickoff between North Carolina and South Carolina is August 29 in Columbia.


Fedora, Disch Instilling Urgency as Season Nears

CHAPEL HILL– “I’m always animated. I got problems.”

Those were Head coach Larry Fedora’s words following Wednesday’s preseason football practice.

Yes, Coach Fedora was pretty animated at the end of Carolina’s practice while emphasizing to his offensive players the importance of capitalizing on red zone scoring opportunities.

“I’m always animated. I got problems. I’m passionate about what we do. I want it to be perfect every time. This is just another learning experience, and I want us to learn from it,” Fedora said.

But while Fedora continues on his pursuit of perfection with the offense, it’s the other side of the football that will likely tell the story this season for the Tar Heels.

Indeed, Defensive coordinator Dan Disch says he understands all eyes will be on his defense as they try to apply more pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season.

“The key is can you generate [pressure] it with your front four. If we can do that, then you don’t have to manufacture it all the time. You got to be great on first down, get them in predictable situations, and then you can come after them a little bit,” Disch said.

Wednesday marked day eight of Carolina’s preseason training camp and Disch  says he recognized some fatigue in his players, but he said they must overcome and fight past it.

“There supposed to be tired now. One of the things you got to do is fight through that and learn to be mentally tough when things are difficult. So yeah, we got guys who are tired and fatigued, but they’re doing a really good job, their attitudes have been good, and they’re trying to work through it,” Disch said.

Star defensive end Kareem Martin is providing some solid senior leadership. Out on the field, Disch says Martin’s work ethic seems to rub off on many of his Tar Heel teammates.

“He is having a great camp. He has been more vocal and more importantly, he is out here working hard every day. […] You don’t need a leader when the AC is on indoors, but when you get out here you need guys to step up, and he is one of the guys that is doing that,” Disch said.

The camaraderie and energy exuded by the team was evident. There was an excitement surrounding the practice fields that seemed to transcend any lingering exhaustion from the players now in their second week of the preseason training grind.

Perhaps the Tar Heel football team gets their resolve from their fearless leader. Red Bull in hand, Fedora was pacing the grounds at a feverish pace, barking out orders and giving off an infectious, frenetic vibe rare for most folks at 10 in the morning.

But Fedora is relentless. That much is evident. And he says he wants to instill that sense of urgency in his team.

“There’s a sense of urgency. We’re running out of time. We’re running out of time. […] There’s got to be a sense of urgency in everything we do whether it be a meeting, a walk-through, a rep in practice, or whatever it is,” Fedora said.

Well, Coach. You are right – only 21 more days until that date with South Carolina down in Columbia.