[The first 12 for 12 post was about the Fan Base]
[The second 12 for 12 post was about the Kenan Stadium]
In this next segment of “12 for 12”, a look at the dozen persons/things that I believe need to be at their best in order for the North Carolina football program to have a good year, regardless of the record, I am going to focus on the leader of the program… head coach Larry Fedora. The former University of Southern Mississippi head coach was brought to Chapel Hill to guide the team upwards in the ever changing/moving Atlantic Coast Conference, while steering the program away from the “dark clouds” it has been under for the past couple of years. So while coach Fedora might just have one title at UNC, head coach of the football team, he will be wearing many hats, at least for the time being. On a side note, maybe that is the reason why Larry Fedora drinks so much Red Bull.
“For the first time in my life, I know that we have exactly 12 games. That’s it,” Fedora said.
The 49 year old coach has come to Chapel Hill with new schemes on both side of the ball. He has brought them to the team during spring ball, is putting them into action with the arrival of the pre-season, which started today, and will be tweaking them over and over as the season progresses. With all of this, like it or not and not due to him, the team for as good as it will be is not going to the post season (ACC Championship or a Bowl Game) this year due to the NCAA sanctions. So, while some of the local newspapers still focus on the old news of the eligibility of this player and the transcripts of another, most of the college landscape will have its eyes on the first year coach and what he can do with a team that has talent but not much depth and can only motivate itself, since nothing is truly at stake for them.
“Today is the first day of a new era for UNC football, and it’s gonna be exciting,” Fedora said in December. “You better buckle your seat belts, and you better hold on, because it’s gonna be a wild ride.”
Having watched coach Fedora speak at the ACC Kickoff, which I posted about a while back, he seems a very dynamic person, ready to take on the challenge with the right attitude and the right spirit. Of course the naysayers and ABC’ers will say that all coaches are like that prior to the season beginning, especially as a first year man, but what happens once the team loses? To that I will point out this: Larry Fedora is not taking over a national championship team, not even an ACC Championship caliber squad or for that matter a team that won its own division. He is taking on the job of progressing a team that won several seasons in a row eight games. A squad that went to several bowl games, but was not successful in most. In other words, the bar has been set from the previous regime, coach Fedora needs to make sure it stays at that level for the 2012 season and then, moving forward, begins to enhance it.
If recruiting is a hint of things to come then the UNC fan base should be pretty happy as it seems that the first year head man is doing a great job bringing into Chapel Hill some of the best players from in state as well as going out and getting talented players outside of North Carolina. For the upcoming class the number of recruits is up to fifteen (eight from Carolina) and four of them being four star players. With a wide open offense like UNC is going to run you would have to believe that offensive players might just want to be part of such a scheme. There is no doubt in my mind that the “no backing down” mentality that the media speak of about coach Fedora is also coming out when he is seeking out new talent for the program.
In the end this is going to be one of those seasons where if you are a positive person it’s a win-win, with the new regime making its stamp on things and no matter what the record is, the reality is that team is learning a new system and the memories of the old guard fade farther and farther away. On the other hand, for those that see the glass half empty this is going to be a season that no matter the improvements or records the fact is that the team will not see a post season and that only means that the North Carolina football program is still in the downward spiral. I choose to be a realist and go with the “eye test” for 2012, judging all as it comes, from the notes about practices to the games, from how the players react on the field to how the coaches do off of it. And it will all be on the shoulders of the man leading the way, head coach Fedora, and that for me is good enough, as I like what he is doing with the team!