The Daily Grind
Carolina took the day off of football practice for the first day of classes on Tuesday. With the start of classes comes the end of training camp, and the beginning of the student-athlete grind that will take the Tar Heels through November. It's no longer all-football, all the time, it's balancing academic courses with football practice; textbook study with film study.
Wednesday afternoon, the Tar Heels hit the field for the first time since classes began, and their head coach was not pleased with the results. "It wasn't very good. It wasn't good enough, I can tell you that," Larry Fedora said. The pace of practice and energy exuded by the players was not what was expected. "It was like a whole different situation out here."
Many players said that they noticed during practice that things were not going as planned. "That was definitely not the tempo and the execution that was needed for us to be great," tight end Jack Tabb said.
"As a player, you know when you had a good practice or a bad practice," said quarterback Bryn Renner."We were lethargic. We really didn't fly around, and that's not what it's going to take to win. We need to pick it back up for next time."
Fedora pledged to get it corrected, but that can't just come from the head coach. It was heartening to hear that the players make that same commitment. "We have to pick up the tempo," Renner said. "We have to be the ones setting the tempo. The coaches don't need to be yelling at us. We're too old for that. That's high school stuff. If someone's got to motivate you to come out here and practice, then you shouldn't be a college player."
A.J. Blue said that he expects today's practice to be the polar opposite of Wednesday's. "I don't think there's been a day, since this coaching staff has been here, that we have gone two days in a row on a bad note. Tomorrow definitely will be a lot faster, the tempo definitely will be a lot more energetic, and I think the guys are going to really move around. We know as a team that we can't go out there and play like that next Saturday."
After two weeks of hotel living, the players said they had been looking forward to the campus routine. "It was nice, because we got to see some other humans on our campus," Tabb said. But the student-athlete life requires self-discipline. "It's a lot more time management," he said. "Not everything is regimented for you. It was good. I liked getting back to class."
Day off, new routine, balancing classes and practice. The Tar Heels could make all kinds of excuses for a less-than-impressive performance on Wednesday. But Fedora would have none of it, and he too expects a change moving forward. "It doesn't matter what it is. You've got to come out here and you've got to approach the field every day, the same way, and you've got to get better," he said. "You're either going to get better, or you're going to get worse. You're never going to stay the same."