Here was an exchange on Monday between a reporter and North Carolina coach Larry Fedora about Dajaun Drennon, the Tar Heels’ starting defensive end who is not listed on the depth chart while recovers from an injury.
Reporter: What’s Drennon’s status?
Fedora: What is he? [Turns toward Kevin Best, the sports information director.] A junior?
[small chuckles abound]
Reporter: He’s not on the depth chart.
Fedora: You know I don’t talk about injuries.
Reporter: I didn’t say he was injured …
Fedora: That’s what I said, he’s a junior. He’s a great kid. Got dreadlocks. My daughters tell me he’s got a great Instagram account.
[small chuckles abound]
If it’s a Monday, and if Larry Fedora is giving reporter-folk the run around on an injured player, then you know it’s football season. And so it is.
Some quick hitters from press conference:
▪ In Drennon’s absence Tyler Powell is listed as the starter at defensive end opposite Mikey Bart. Drennon, by the way, hasn’t been officially ruled out. But it sure seems like he won’t be available on Saturday. Tomon Fox, a promising incoming freshman defensive end, is listed at third on the depth chart behind Powell. Fox is 235 pounds and Malik Carney, the other backup there, is 230. So UNC gets light in a hurry behind Powell (275 pounds).
▪ No real clarity at right guard or punter, the two positions that have been most up for grabs throughout the preseason. At right guard, it’ll be either Tommy Hatton or R.J. Prince – “and they both may play,” Fedora said. At punter the word “or” is written between three names: Joey Mangili, Tom Sheldon (the 27-year-old freshman from Australia) and Hunter Lent.
▪ All that “or” on the depth chart at punter led to another amusing moment when Fedora was asked what was going on at that position.
“It’s ‘or,’ ” he said.
▪ Another question has been how UNC handles the absence of Mack Hollins, the senior receiver, during the first half against Georgia. He’s sitting out the first half because of a suspension for targeting in the bowl game last December. I’ll be writing more about this later in the week but Fedora says Hollins’ absence hurts the most on special teams. He plays on all four of them.
▪ Five true freshmen are on the depth chart in the secondary. Fedora anticipates all will play on Saturday. He said more than half of the incoming class might play against Georgia. “It could be up to 13,” Fedora said.
▪ The game on Saturday is another one on a big stage, sort of similar – though bigger in scale – to UNC’s recent season-openers against South Carolina. There was the one last year in Charlotte. And the one in 2013 in Columbia, S.C., where it was so hot my notebook smoldered into a pile of ash during the walk to the stadium. At least it felt that way.
UNC lost both of those, though, and so the question is what Fedora learned from those experiences. Fedora said he’d learned a lot. “I mean, bookoo lessons,” he said. “If that’s a word. I mean, there’s a bunch of lessons to be learned in every one of those situations. And hopefully we’ve learned from them and gotten a little bit better, and is it going to be enough – we’re going to find out Saturday night?”
▪ And yes, that is a word. Fedora was actually speaking French, buku being an alternate of beaucoup. (Thanks to the people on Twitter who informed me of this.)
▪ Asked Fedora about how confident he is that Nick Chubb, the Georgia running back, would play on Saturday. Fedora took it as a cue to gush about the Bulldogs’ talent.
“Since I’ve been here, I don’t think there’s been a year that Georgia hasn’t been in the top 10 in the recruiting rankings, right? They’ve got players. Yeah, there’s going to be a tailback back there that can go. There’s going to be an offensive line that can go. There’s going to be a quarterback, whoever it is, he can go. Same thing on defense. They’ve got players. So it really doesn’t matter.”
There you have it: the dodging of an injury question, a lack of clarity on the depth chart, a little bit of French … it must be football season again.