Larry Fedora uses “positive reinforcement” to correct penalties

UNC's Fedora on the necessity of positive leadership

University of North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora talks about the necessity of positive leadership from players on the field.
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University of North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora talks about the necessity of positive leadership from players on the field.

As penalty for penalties there are no extra team-wide conditioning drills, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said on Monday, but there is what he described as “positive reinforcement.”

He said it with a touch of dry humor, answering a question about how he addressed the Tar Heels' penalty problems with his players. After UNC's 56-28 victory against James Madison on Saturday, Fedora sounded exasperated by his team's inability to avoid penalties.

The Tar Heels committed 10 of them for 110 yards. Some of them, Fedora could live with.

But not the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. UNC committed five of those, all of them costing the Tar Heels 15 yards apiece. All five of those of penalties came after plays had ended.

Three of UNC’s five unsportsmanlike conduct penalties came after touchdowns and two of those penalties came after James Madison’s first two touchdowns. Jalen Dalton, the sophomore defensive tackle, accounted for both of those penalties. In the second quarter, Austin Proehl, the junior receiver, received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a UNC touchdown.

Then there were two other unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, both of them with the Tar Heels on defense: The one that Des Lawrence committed during the Dukes' second drive, and another that Tyler Powell, a junior defensive lineman, committed in the third quarter. Fedora attributed the rash of unsportsmanlike conduct to “frustration and selfishness.”

“That's what I attribute it to,” he said.

Dalton committed two of them amid identical circumstances – both after James Madison touchdowns. Fedora, though, said he didn't single Dalton out. There were three other unsportsmanlike penalties, after all, and Fedora was none too pleased with any of them.

“I didn’t talk with him in particular,” he said of Dalton. “I talked to all of them. I talked to the entire team. It’s unacceptable and we’re going to deal with it and hopefully our guys will play smarter.”

How exactly the Tar Heels dealt with those problems wasn't exactly clear on Monday. The team, as a whole, didn't face extra discipline and outside of the “positive reinforcement” that Fedora vaguely described he didn't specify how the guilty were held accountable.

Mitch Trubisky, the junior quarterback, speculated that the three players who committed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Saturday were made to do “extra running or something.” Trubisky, though, said he didn't get to see it, given he wasn't among the offenders.

Three games into a young season, penalties have been a problem for UNC, which is averaging 85.7 penalty yards per game. That ranks 115th nationally, and second-to-last in the ACC, only ahead of Florida State.

“As leaders of the team we’re definitely focused on that,” Trubisky said of UNC's proclivity for penalties. “That we can’t have that because it’s going to cost our team down the road. That’s just not who we want to be.”