Coming off one of the most frustrating seasons of his coaching career, Larry Fedora has now had some time to gain some perspective on North Carolina's injury-riddled 3-9 campaign, a season that included only one ACC win – at Pittsburgh on a Thursday night – that was thrown out of joint by Mitch Trubisky's unexpected early departure to the NFL and never really got on track.
Before leaving the ACC's spring meetings this week, Fedora sat in a rocking chair and answered seven questions about the aftermath of last season and his thoughts on the upcoming one.
1. What did you learn from last season, when you look back at it?
“You go through something like that, you learn a lot about yourself as a person, as a coach. You learn a lot about your staff. You learn about your players. You learn about your fans. You learn probably just as much from something like that as anything.
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“I would tell you I learned our team has a lot of grit. They battled in every single game all the way to the end and there was never any – nothing divisive about the team. They were in it together. They understood what was going on and what they needed to do and we'll be a better team because of it.”
2. How do you feel about the quarterback position now as opposed to going into the spring or the end of last year?
“The two guys who played last year (Chazz Surratt and Nathan Elliott) were better going into spring ball than they were at the end of the season. I was pleased with their development in the winter conditioning phase. Then they both picked it up in spring and did a nice job in spring. I think both of them are much more comfortable in the offense and leading the team than they were last year.”
3. What did you learn about yourself from last season?
“That was probably the toughest thing that I've ever experienced as a football coach in my 30 years. I leaned on my faith quite a bit. I learned that working longer doesn't help in those situations.”
4. Roy Williams has talked about how getting out from under the NCAA investigation has been a weight off his shoulders. You've had to deal with it twice now at North Carolina in different ways. Have you had a similar set of emotions?
“No doubt about it. It's like there's a cloud that's lifted. You can see the sunshine. Instead of having to defend yourself all the time, you can actually sell what the University of North Carolina has to offer. I don't know that recruiting is easier. You just don't have to deal with it.”
5. What's your biggest concern heading into August?
“I think just making sure we have a plan to stay healthy as much as possible. I'm always concerned with the chemistry of our football team and you don't know where that's going to be until you get through camp. I'm not worried how this team will approach adversity. Because of what they went through last year. I think they'll be stronger because of it. I'm always concerned with our depth and the youth that we have but I'm also excited about what we have coming.”
6. In retrospect, were you ever able to determine if the field situation – practicing in Kenan Stadium while UNC's new indoor facility is under construction – had any impact on the injury situation?
“Believe me, we studied every element of everything, from the shoes we were wearing to the surface. We had injuries on a grass field, we had injuries on FieldTurf fields. We were never able to find any sort of correlation.”
7. What are you most looking forward to this fall?
“Getting back out there. Just getting that taste out of your mouth.”