January 4, 2014
CHAPEL HILL (AP) — North Carolina coach Larry Fedora saw his Tar Heels dig out from a 1-5 start to win a bowl game and secure a winning season.
He heads into the offseason hoping to maintain momentum as he hires two new assistant coaches — including a coordinator to run his fast-tempo spread attack.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday afternoon, Fedora said he doesn’t have a timeline for replacing offensive coordinator Blake Anderson and tight ends coach Walt Bell. Anderson left to become head coach at Arkansas State, with Bell becoming his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Fedora said he won’t rush a hire, especially with UNC’s recruiting class largely complete ahead of next month’s national signing day. He hasn’t conducted any interviews yet.
“Being the right person, having the right fit on the staff, the right chemistry, that’s very, very important to me,” Fedora said. “So I don’t feel like I’m stressed for time to have to just go make a decision and hire somebody. I’m going to hire the right person.”
UNC has run a no-huddle offense since Fedora arrived from Southern Mississippi, setting numerous school records in his first year and averaging 40.6 points — including a school-record 80 against Old Dominion — in the final seven games of Year 2.
Fedora said recruits have inquired about what Anderson’s departure will mean for the offense.
“It’s not like we’re going to hire somebody and turn around and change our entire system,” Fedora said. “That’s not going to happen. We’re going to run the system that I brought to North Carolina … so they don’t have to worry about that part of it.”
The Tar Heels (7-6) completed their strong finish with last weekend’s lopsided win against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, with the maturation of their underclassmen helping reverse the 1-5 start.
Forty-six of North Carolina’s last 55 touchdowns this season were scored by freshmen and sophomores, including a run of 28 straight before junior Jack Tabb’s TD catch in the 39-17 bowl win against the Bearcats.
Among that group: freshman Ryan Switzer tied an NCAA single-season record with five punt returns for touchdowns to go with his three receiving scores.
“It’s funny because I told them when we were 1-5 we’re going to be remembered by what happens in the second half of the season,” Fedora said. “Fortunately they found ways to make it happen and did what it took to win.”
The Tar Heels will lose star tight end Eric Ebron to the NFL draft along with quarterback Bryn Renner, defensive tackle Kareem Martin and offensive lineman James Hurst. Marquise Williams, who took over at quarterback after Renner’s season-ending shoulder injury in November, will compete with redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky for the starting job during spring drills.
The Tar Heels are also putting together a recruiting class ranked among the top 20 nationally by some outlets, including a commitment from running back Elijah Hood — who was named the AP prep football player of the year in the state earlier this week — out of Charlotte.
It will also mark the third and final class hit with a five-scholarship reduction due to NCAA sanctions for violations dating back to 2008.
“Yes, I am excited about the future,” Fedora said. “I don’t know if we’ll be there yet next year but I can tell you we’re making a lot of progress. We’re moving in the right direction. We have really good young players and we’ve got a great recruiting class put together, so the future is very, very bright.”