CHAPEL HILL — Spring football?
It felt more like a late-October evening Tuesday when North Carolina’s Tar Heels finished up a spring football practice at Kenan Stadium. It was cool and it was rainy, but for UNC coach Larry Fedora it was time to work and improve, pushing 2017 behind them and looking to 2018.
Last season’s 3-9 record and losses in seven of eight ACC games didn’t set well with anyone in the program. After the season-ending 33-21 loss at N.C. State, Fedora said he planned a full reevaluation, and that has been done, he said.
“We made some changes and some tweaks in some different areas,” Fedora said. “That’s not something we don’t do every single year. At the end of every season, when we get through with recruiting we break every single thing down throughout the entire program, from how we run fall camp to how we put our pads in our lockers to the way we start a meeting. Everything. And then we make adjustments in all things we think can make our football team be better.”
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Losing seasons can be a reality check for coaches, for their players. It makes them appreciate winning even more, and the coaches hope, makes the players want to work that much harder to see that they do win.
“It makes you a better coach, it makes you a better player, makes you a better man, to overcome something like that and bounce back from it and continue to get better,” he said.
Quarterback Nathan Elliott gave the Tar Heels’ offense a boost late in the 2017 season and goes into spring ball competing with Chazz Surratt to be the starter heading into fall camp.
“The first snap somebody’s got to go out there and Nathan Eliott goes out there,” Fedora said of starting spring work. “And then him and Chazz are rolling and are competing and the two freshmen are competing. So everybody is competing for a job right now.”
Asked about the priorities for the spring, Fedora said, “The biggest thing is to build depth. We’ve got to build depth and we’ve got to be able to count on 2s and 3s that we know will wind up playing for us at some time during the season.”
That is, the second- and third-teamers. The Tar Heels had so many injuries last season that adequate depth was a lingering issue.
Despite the rain — UNC is in the process of building an indoor football facility — Fedora seemed pleased with the pace of Tuesday’s workout, which was held with some loud, lively music.
“That wasn’t my playlist,” Fedora said, smiling. “But if the guys like it, that’s what it’s about. It’s about creating some energy for them and getting them to focus, and they have fun with it.”
UNC’s spring game is scheduled April 14 at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels open the 2018 season Sept. 1 at California, then go to East Carolina the next week before playing their home opener Sept. 15 against Central Florida.