UNC Football vs. Miami

The 8-1 UNC football team will take on Miami in an ACC battle on Saturday, November 14th.  The game kicks off at 3:30 in Kenan Stadium.

You can listen to UNC Football vs. Miami on 97.9 FM and 1360 AM WCHL.

WCHL will broadcast Countdown to Kickoff with Ron Stutts from 12:30 until 2:30 from Hickory Tavern.  The UNC pregame show starts at 2:30 from Kenan Stadium.

The Tar Heels are sitting atop the ACC Coastal division after defeating the Duke Blue Devils 66-31 last Saturday.  Senior quarterback Marquise Williams completed 23-of-35 passes for 494 yards–a new school record–and accounted for five touchdowns in all. He also rushed for 30 yards, to finish with 524 total yards by himself–the first Tar Heel to ever break the 500 yard mark–in what was arguably the best performance ever by a UNC football player.

The performance launched the UNC football team from Number 21 to Number 17 in the AP Poll.  After being unlisted in the College Football Playoff rankings, Carolina is now Number 23.

The Miami Hurricanes will come into Chapel Hill with a 6-3 record.  The team is 2-0 since the firing of head coach Al Golden.  In the ACC Coastal division, Miami is tied for third place with Pittsburgh.


UNC-Duke Football Pregame at Hickory Tavern

UNC-Duke football.  Tobacco Road football that matters in November.

Join WCHL at Hickory Tavern in Carrboro for your Tar Heel Football pregame festivities.

WCHL will be broadcasting “Countdown to Kickoff with Ron Stutts” from 9:00 until 11:00 AM on Saturday, November 7 on 97.9 FM, 1360 AM and online at Chapelboro.com.

The Tar Heels take on the Duke Blue Devils in Kenan Stadium at noon.  Carolina is 7-1 on the season and is looking to go 5-0 in the ACC after last week’s win over Pitt.  Despite Duke’s last-second loss against Miami, this game decides who will be in the driver’s seat in the ACC Coastal Division.

Hickory Tavern is located on 310-110 East Main Street in Carrboro.

While you are visiting Hickory Tavern, be sure to sign up for our Carolina Basketball Holiday Hoops in Brooklyn Giveaway.




UNC Football Hiring Tim Beckman as Volunteer Assistant Creates Controversy

In the opening weeks of last season, the UNC football team defeated Illinois by a landslide—just days after the Illini fired head coach Tim Beckman due to player mistreatment.

It was announced Wednesday that Beckman has now found a new home in Chapel Hill, working as a volunteer assistant under head coach Larry Fedora.

An outside law firm which investigated Beckman’s situation at Illinois found that the coach made efforts to discourage injury reporting–and forced injured players to play before they were physically ready.

Another issue that was raised in the investigation centered on seniors having their scholarships revoked for their final spring semester–once they were done playing for the team.

Still though, the 51-year-old is back in coaching thanks to his relationship with Fedora. Beckman was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2007 while Fedora directed the offense.

“I’ve known Tim for a long time,” Fedora said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s a good football coach.

Beckman (left) met Fedora when he was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2007. (Photo via Matt Strasen/ The Oklahoman)

Beckman (left) met Fedora when he was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2007. (Photo via Matt Strasen/ The Oklahoman)

“But let me make something clear, so everybody understands,” he continued. “I’m the one that sets the expectations on our culture—and how our student-athletes are treated. I’m at the top, and I set it for everybody.

“Tim’s here doing what the NCAA allows him to do as a volunteer assistant.”

As one of three volunteer assistants, Beckman’s duties are limited to scouting and evaluating film. Under NCAA rules he will not be allowed to provide hands-on coaching to any of the Tar Heel players.

The plan is for him to spend the entire season at UNC working with Fedora as he tries to eventually get back on his feet within the coaching world—regardless of the outside opinions that decision brings along with it.

“I don’t believe everything I read,” Fedora told reporters. “I know Tim. I know his side of the story also—so I was comfortable [with the hire].

“If I wouldn’t have been [comfortable], honestly I wouldn’t have brought him–and I wouldn’t have allowed him to be in our program,” he continued. “But I don’t have any issues with it at all.”

Fedora admitted he wouldn’t have made the hire without personally knowing Beckman, but made sure to reinforce that similar issues–those surrounding injuries–will not pop up at UNC.

He credits the skill of head athletic trainer Kenny Boyd and his staff for being able to keep coaches from having influence over who does and doesn’t play.

“It’s separate here,” Fedora said, when talking about how injuries are handled at the school. “[Team doctors] are the ones that make the decisions on our guys—whenever they’re hurt, injured or whatever they are—they’re the ones that make the decision on when these guys step out on the field.

“It’s easy for me because Kenny just tells me when they can go.”

At the end of the day, Beckman’s hire represents a way for UNC to receive high-level coaching input as the Tar Heels look to build off last year’s incredible campaign.

Fedora took similar heat when he hired Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator one year ago, but 11 wins did plenty to cool down that chatter.

Beckman’s past is far from perfect, but ultimately he’s earned a second chance. It’s what he does with that chance which will provide the ultimate judgment on Fedora’s decision.

“I promise you,” Fedora said. “I didn’t see anywhere where the NCAA said he should be banished from the game of football.”


UNC No. 22 in Preseason AP Top 25

After spending much of the 2015 season waiting to crack the top 25 football rankings, the UNC Tar Heels have no such wait this year.

The preseason Associated Press top 25 poll was released Sunday, and UNC checked in at No. 22.

Clemson is the top-ranked Atlantic Coast Conference team at second overall, following the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. Following Clemson, Oklahoma is ranked third, Florida State fourth and LSU rounds out the top five.

Louisville (19) and UNC (22) are the other ACC representatives in the top 25.

UNC will open its season on Saturday, September 3, when the Tar Heels will take on No. 18 Georgia in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in the Georgia Dome.


Elijah Hood: The Most Interesting Man in Chapel Hill

For thousands of years scientists have held that each day consists of 24 hours. This discovery has gone unchallenged for much of human history.

That is, until UNC’s star tailback Elijah Hood made it his life mission to stretch the limits of time.

For most mere mortals, the grind of a high-level Division I football schedule brings with it an overwhelming workload.

That’s not even including all the schoolwork and extracurricular activities that come with it.

But for Hood–a former Eagle Scout who maintains a GPA above 3.8—comparisons to mortals don’t really do him justice.

He consistently seeks out new and exciting off-the-field opportunities in an effort to expand his worldview—a trait head coach Larry Fedora says sets him apart

Carolina Football- Larry Fedora

Hood’s contributions both on and off the field have endeared him to head coach Larry Fedora. (Smith Cameron Photography)

“He really wanted an internship this summer and he turned one down up in Washington [D.C.] because he didn’t want to leave his teammates,” Fedora explained to reporters after Thursday’s practice.

“He ended up taking one over here in Raleigh. Every day he would work out, then put on a tie and go to work,” the coach continued. “He’s just a special guy.”

The job Hood took this past summer was with the North Carolina General Assembly.

There, the man who tallied the second-highest single-season rushing total in UNC history was tasked with duties much different than running over defenses.

Working under a legislative services officer, Hood helped senators and house representatives with fiscal analysis and research as they worked to make decisions for the state.

And while he was definitely interested in what he was doing, don’t pencil him in for a career in politics just yet.

“I don’t know about Senator Elijah Hood,” the running back said, with a laugh.

“But understanding some things about law, fiscal analysis and things like that—looking at the way they do budgeting,” he continued. “It’s really opened my eyes to how complex things get when you talk about running a state.”

Hood (second from right) was one of nearly 100 Tar Heel athletes who helped out Orange County's Habitat for Humanity in July. (Photo via Turner Walston/ UNC Athletics)

Hood (second from right) was one of nearly 100 Tar Heel athletes who helped out Orange County’s Habitat for Humanity in July. (Photo via Turner Walston/ UNC Athletics)

What makes Hood’s journey into the legislature the most impressive is that it really was something he did out of his own natural interest.

A perfect world might see Hood– playing for his hometown Carolina Panthers–knock someone’s teeth out on Sunday, before fixing their computer on Monday. After all, the information science major has gone on the record before saying his dream job is to be an IT security analyst.

However, his busy schedule requires him to put in an extreme level of commitment toward different goals. But it’s something his teammates—like quarterback Mitch Trubisky—have certainly taken notice of.

“Elijah’s just an all-around great person,” Trubisky said. “I mean, that’s what [we all] want to be.

“It’s not just on the football field,” he continued. “It’s off the field, how you carry yourself in the community and especially in the classroom.

“He’s a top-notch guy, and it really shows with his work ethic and how he carries himself all the time

Even when you do talk to him about football and his role for this upcoming season, Hood likes to focus on the mental aspect.

His ability to read defenses and find open running or receiving lanes has been Hood's number one focus--at least when it comes to football--this offseason. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

His ability to read defenses and find open running or receiving lanes has been Hood’s number one focus–at least when it comes to football–this offseason. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

As someone who’s visibly confident in his running ability, he said his biggest focus this offseason has been on studying the playbook the same way a quarterback would—learning each person’s role on every play.

“The way I read defenses is quicker now—way faster,” Hood said. “That’s helped slow the game down.

“It’s kind of weird sometimes,” he added. “The way I feel I can predict blitzes that are coming just by looking at safety rotations and the fronts—whether it’s three down linemen or four down linemen.”

It goes without saying that a bright future awaits Hood, no matter what he chooses to do.

Before turning 21 years old, he’s already turned himself into quite possibly the most interesting man in Chapel Hill.

How has he done it, though?

Well, when asked Thursday how he stays motivated, he simply shrugged and said: “It’s not work if you’re having fun, right?”


The “Rude Boyz” Lead a Much-Improved UNC Defense Into 2016

The NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos—two of the last three Super Bowl Champions—won titles largely because of their fearsome pass defenses, known as the Legion of Boom and the No Fly Zone.

Meanwhile in Chapel Hill, UNC hopes its talented secondary—the “Rude Boyz”—can help elevate the Tar Heels to the top of the ACC in 2016.

In the first year under coordinator Gene Chizik, UNC’s defense rose from the ashes to become the most improved unit in the country. That was largely made possible because the Tar Heels allowed more points than all but eight of the 128 Division I schools in 2014—leaving plenty of room for improvement.

The secondary played a large role in the collapse, as they were continually beat for big plays downfield. Fast forward a year, and all of a sudden that same group lead the ACC in interceptions and passes defended–while finishing among the top 10 nationally in those categories.

Physicality is a trait UNC's defensive backs work on regularly during practice. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

Physicality is a trait UNC’s defensive backs work on regularly during practice. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

Senior cornerback Des Lawrence said after Monday’s practice that 2015 was just the beginning of a Rude Boy resurgence.

“It started way back before Dre Bly and them [in the mid-1990’s],” Lawrence said of the ‘Rude Boyz’ nickname. “It’s just something that’s been trickled down.

“I think we had a drop-off [for a little while],” he continued. “Not that we didn’t have the mentality, we just didn’t have the play. Last year it really showed and resonated with us–and we were able to come out on the field and just be relentless.”

Lawrence will lead a veteran group into 2016 that also returns junior MJ Stewart—a shutdown corner in his own right—and senior Donnie Miles, who led the team in tackles last season as a safety.

Each of these players has meshed perfectly with the message of physicality that Chizik began implementing from the first day he arrived on campus. And as they’ve grown into their roles as elder statesmen on the team, the Rude Boy mentality continues being passed down to the younger members of the unit.

“You can’t only be aggressive in coverage and then let ‘em run the ball on the sideline,” Lawrence said. “That’s one of the things I was telling some of the young guys [in practice]—you have to refuse to be blocked. Because you have to–at some point—set the edge for our defense and come up to make a play.

“Coach Chizik always talks about us as DB’s being linebackers as hitters,” he added.

So far during training camp, the coaching staff has singled out veteran safety Dominique Green and a pair of freshmen cornerbacks—Patrice René and K.J. Sails—as looking very impressive early on.

Head coach Larry Fedora has noticed in those players a direct reflection of the influence that Lawrence, Stewart and Miles bring to the table.

“They’re trying to leave a legacy with those [young] guys, so they want to make sure they teach them the culture that’s been created.” Fedora said of his veteran trio. “They’re doing a great job of that. I would say their confidence in being able to lead has been the biggest change for them.”

Gene Chizik has completely revamped the culture around the Tar Heel defense in just one full season. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

Gene Chizik has completely revamped the culture around the Tar Heel defense in just one full season. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

As much as Chizik stresses physicality to his defense from the top down, he also has another key focal point for his secondary.

Go after the ball.

He said Monday he doesn’t want his guys to be like robots locked in on people all the time. That certainly got across in 2015, as the Tar Heels caused all kinds of havoc for opposing quarterbacks.

This season, though, it appears Lawrence has taken those words to a whole new level—as he’s learned that you can’t be a robot when it comes to leadership either.

“They’re looking to me,” Lawrence said of his young teammates. “Even when I don’t think they are, they still are. And I have to still be able to give them some juice.

“Even when I’m not feeling it—there’s days I come out here and I don’t have all the juice—I gotta get them going because if I do something wrong, then they’re gonna feel like it’s OK for them to do something [wrong].”

The extra effort they’ve put in when fans aren’t watching, and TV cameras are nowhere to be found, is what truly has the “Rude Boyz” ready to make their biggest splash this season.

Listening to Chizik—the former school teacher—explain it, success isn’t accidental at all when it comes to these guys.

“They all the love the game, and they all really want to be good,” Chizik said of his secondary. “The guys that make plays on game day are the same ones who make them in practice—and it’s important to them to make [plays] in practice.”


UNC Football Hosts Chapel Hill Police for the Day

Practicing inside Kenan Stadium on Monday for the first time during this year’s training camp, the UNC football team welcomed a group of close to 70 Chapel Hill police officers and their families to watch the proceedings.

Afterwards, the team sat down with their guests for lunch in the Blue Zone–in an effort to create discussion around one of today’s most pressing social issues.

Although there were a small handful of Tar Heels who ran into minor legal issues last fall—and many other falls before that—this gathering was centered on the much more serious issues that have plagued the entire country over the past couple years.

The rise of the “Black Lives Matter” movement–and the increase in the amount of videos showing officers shooting and killing unarmed citizens–has nearly driven the tension between civilians and police to a breaking point.

Because of that, UNC head coach Larry Fedora wishes this wasn’t the first time he came up with the idea to help open a dialogue with his players.

“I really kicked myself in the butt for not being more proactive and doing something like this years ago,” Fedora said. “I mean, it just makes sense.”

When talking with his team about the issue, Fedora has mainly focused on the fact that police officers are human beings capable of making mistakes just like anyone else.

It’s a message that should especially resonate with these high-level athletes. After all, they often run into a similar issue where media and fans forget that they’re just regular people because of what their job is.

“I think it’s just something very, very small that we can do to build that relationship—and to continue to make sure our guys understand what they’re all about,” Fedora said. “And I want them to understand who we are.”

Senior cornerback Des Lawrence–a team leader who was once suspended for a game in 2014 for participating in a hazing incident–said he sees the opportunity to meet and speak with the officers as a chance to make sure both viewpoints can be heard.

“They get to show people that they’re not the bad guys,” Lawrence said. “Not all officers are bad. And that’s one thing I’ve understood.

“While there’s a crisis going on, you can’t blame every officer,” he continued. “Just like you can’t blame every person who doesn’t listen to the officer’s orders or who doesn’t want to because they feel wrongfully accused.

“So [this lunch] is a good medium where both sides can come together.”

Lawrence also spoke at length about how Fedora tells his team to treat police officers with respect should an incident occur off the field—whether something happens this year or 20 years down the road.

While the coach is obviously doing a great deed by giving cops the recognition they deserve, it was yet another example of how he’s attempting to build constructive relationships with his players that last far beyond the time that they’re in college.

“We’re about building these young men into full-grown men so they can be successful in whatever they do in life—after football,” Fedora said. “It’s after football that I’m most concerned with.

“These guys that are playing for us in the NFL right now—all I’m worried about is what happens to them after football’s over with.”



Mitch Trubisky and Ryan Switzer: UNC Football’s Odd Couple

Just over a week into UNC football’s preseason training camp for 2016, new starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky and star wide receiver Ryan Switzer have been training hard to perfect their craft for the 2016 season.

The same applies off the field as well, however, as the longtime roommates have developed a relationship that extends far beyond football.

With Switzer coming from West Virginia and Trubisky hailing from Ohio, neither player had any North Carolina ties before committing to join UNC’s 2013 recruiting class.

They spent time together on visits to Penn State and West Virginia before Switzer ultimately chose to become a Tar Heel. Trubisky pledged his allegiance to head coach Larry Fedora soon after—which then earned him a call from his new buddy.

Mitch Trubisky has shown he's very talented on the football field. His biggest struggle comes at home, where he often finds that the trash "disappears" once every two days or so. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

Mitch Trubisky has shown he’s very talented on the football field. His biggest struggle comes at home, where he often finds that the trash “disappears” once every two days or so. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

The pair continued to grow closer, and have now lived together—along with tailback Khris Francis—for the last three seasons.

Despite how tight they are, though, Switzer acknowledges they deal with normal household issues just like anyone else.

“He’s gonna be the best man at my wedding,” Switzer said of Trubisky. “He’s meant a lot to me these past four years.

“Certainly, living with him has been an experience–he doesn’t like when I don’t do the dishes and I don’t like when he doesn’t take the trash out,” he continued, with a chuckle. “But it’s been fun though.”

Trubisky has received high praise since becoming the starter for his arm talent and ability to read and recognize different defenses. He also proved on multiple occasions last year that he can hit the deep route with ease when he notices single coverage downfield.

But as Switzer noted, if there’s one route Trubisky struggles with most, it’s the one from the trash can inside to the trash can outside—especially when he fails to read that the bag is completely covered.

Switzer's skills as a wide receiver have come a long way after he originally made his name as one of the nation's best punt returners during his freshman season. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Switzer’s skills as a wide receiver have come a long way after he originally made his name as one of the nation’s best punt returners during his freshman season. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

“I would say nobody in our house is good at taking the trash out,” a happily defiant Trubisky said when confronted about his friend’s remarks. “It seems like after two days it fills up. I don’t even know where we get all that stuff.

“Eventually someone will get sick of it and take it out,” he continued. “Sometimes it just disappears and I don’t know what happened to it–but it definitely is a problem.”

Asking Fedora about the similarities between two of his top offensive stars is a sure way to put a small grin on the grizzled coach’s face.

Sure, he doesn’t really care one way or the other about who cleans up around the house. But he does appreciate the irony of a friendship between a wide receiver who dances at practice and never shies from the spotlight and a quarterback who typically leads by example on the field.

“They’re two different people,” Fedora said after Friday’s practice. “They’re like—what was that old show?—the odd couple.

“That’s a perfect example of those two when they’re together. They’re the odd couple.”

The realities of life, however, have started to shift those roles ever so slightly.

Trubisky (right) has been working on all of the coaches' different schemes during training camp. With Switzer, though, he's been hearing for three years just to throw him the darn ball. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Trubisky (right) has been working on all of the coaches’ different schemes during training camp. With Switzer, though, he’s been hearing for three years just to throw him the darn ball. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Trubisky’s role as the head of the offense has required him to become more vocal in a way that’s more similar to how he is around his friends off the field. Switzer, meanwhile, got engaged this past offseason to UNC cheerleader Gabie Dinsbeer—which of course means less time to horse around with the guys.

“Anytime you get a special someone of the opposite sex, you kind of tend to gravitate to them a little bit more than your boys,” Switzer said. “But I think I’ve handled the balance well between my fiancée and my friends. Mitch and them have been happy for me.”

What hasn’t changed is that Switzer still goes over his own personal gameplan with Trubisky and will continue to do so even as the Tar Heels’ schedule heats up this season.

It’s the same one they’ve been going over since arriving on campus together as wide-eyed freshmen—regardless of whether Trubisky has actually been on the field or not.

“He hasn’t even been on the field the past three years, but I’ve always been asking him for throws,” Switzer said. “So that was all leading up to this year.

“Mitch knows I’ll be open, and ultimately he’ll put the ball where it needs to be.”


WWE Signs Former UNC Football Player Brennan Williams

During his time as an offensive tackle at UNC under head coach Butch Davis, Brennan Williams was given the opportunity to lay the smackdown on a defender each time the ball was snapped.

His sheer size and dominance led to him being taken in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. However, a microfracture in his knee stripped Williams of his pro football career before he ever took a single snap–despite two years spent working on a comeback.

In search of another shot to continue laying the smackdown for a living, he turned to the world of professional wrestling in late 2015.

Williams was an honorable mention All-ACC selection in 2012, before being picked in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. (UNC Athletics)

Williams was an honorable mention All-ACC selection in 2012, before being picked in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. (UNC Athletics)

Last week, the 6-foot-7, 300-pounder, realized his new dream–when he was officially signed by Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

The WWE is known nationwide as the top organization in the industry.

He’ll be placed into the WWE Performance Center in Orlando as he starts his training. After some quality time honing his craft there, it’s likely Williams will begin making appearances on the company’s developmental television series “NXT.”

Although “NXT” is only available to subscribers of the WWE Network, reaching that level would still mark a quick rise up the ranks for someone whose career looked bleak after a devastating knee injury.

None of it would be possible, though, if he hadn’t returned to live in Houston in the fall of 2015–after being released from the practice squads of both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots.

While there, Williams eventually found himself under the guidance of WWE Hall of Famer–and six-time World Heavyweight Champion–Booker T.

Williams (left) saw his wrestling career take off once he began learning under Booker T (right) in Houston. (Photo via HoustonPress.com)

Williams (left) saw his wrestling career take off once he began learning under Booker T (right) in Houston. (Photo via HoustonPress.com)

This led the former Tar Heel to join Booker T’s Houston-based wrestling promotion called “Reality of Wrestling.”

Having built a strong social media presence thanks to his love of japanese anime and live-streaming video games, Williams used his personality to create his wrestling character “Marcellus Black.”

Black wrestles with his face painted to look like an anime character, and uses the nicknames “The Great Black Otaku” and “The Shogun of the R.O.W.”

He also became known for his charismatic finishing move, the “Nico Nico Knee.”

Now that he’s made it to the big leagues, though, fans should expect him to undergo a complete character renovation–complete with a name change–once he makes it onto television. That’s typically how WWE handles signing talent from the independent circuits, in order to promote the new characters as its own creations.

At UNC, Williams was named an honorable mention All-ACC performer in 2012. In addition to his size and football pedigree, he also holds a black belt in taekwondo.


UNC Agrees to Home-and-Home Football Series With UCF

It was announced Wednesday that UNC and the University of Central Florida (UCF) have come to an agreement on a home-and-home football series with the games scheduled for 2018 and 2020.

The teams have never previously met before in the sport.

Members of the American Athletic Conference since 2013, the Knights are coming off a winless season in 2015–one in which the team fired longtime head coach George O’Leary midway through the season.

However, the program will have two full seasons under new coach Scott Frost before it’s forced to take on the Tar Heels in Kenan Stadium on Sept. 15, 2018.

UNC, meanwhile, hopes its recent success turns into something that lasts much longer. Should that happen, the Tar Heels could be a legitimate powerhouse in the ACC when it faces the Knights in Orlando on Sept. 12, 2020.