ACC: John Shoop QA
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here's the second half of my interview with UNC offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach John Shoop:
What's the main focus for summer camp going to be for you guys?
|Sean Meyers/Icon SMI|
|John Shoop knows going from eight wins to 10 is no small task.|
JS: The first dozen to 15 practices will be a lot like our spring was. We're going to keep trying to get better at football. It's about us. We're focusing on our offense. Then we're going to start the second half of summer camp looking at our schedule. We spend periods on different teams that appear on our schedule, and we'll start working on Citadel as well.
Things that are really important to our offense are to keep getting great at all the fundamentals and be a physical, physical, running football team. Our defense, it's going to war every single day against those guys. I think we've gotten really good at conflict of assignment, and play-action pass. Guys want to keep sharpening that image. They like the image of 'Hey if you're stopping the run, we've got a tool to use. You stop this, we'll do that.' I think our guys are starting to take pride in knowing what the companion plays are. We want to keep doing that and talking situation football.
How much better do you think the running game could be? It wasn't bad last year, but it seems like it could be better still.
JS: It can be a lot better. Two of the guys we're excited about are our guards. Jonathan Cooper and Alan Pelc can be really strong. We ask our guards to do a lot. They're pulling, doing about every block imaginable. We think these are two guys that can really help. Our tailbacks all know, ball protection, ball security is the most important thing. Our tailbacks can have all the talent in the world, but we have worked and drilled and more than any team I've been a part of, talked about ball security. If we could hang onto the ball, that could be another five or six carries a game. I think our guys have and are going to continue to take a great deal of pride in that. Somebody is going to have to beat us. There's not going to be any charity. That's the attitude we're taking.
I think I'm underestimating you guys. I think you're going to be better. I feel like I'm not giving you guys enough credit because I don't know about the receivers ...
JS: No, no, let's under-promise and over-deliver.
I feel like this is the harder step. Not to take anything away from doubling the amount of wins from four to eight -- that was a huge accomplishment last year. But it seems like it's even harder to go from eight to 10 wins.
JS: Well, there's no doubt that that slope gets a lot steeper, a lot steeper, but we've got a competitive bunch of guys, we really do. We've got some talented guys, but man, we've got some competitive guys I believe will play with some grit. Hopefully that will serve us well.
Endurance goes a lot of different ways. Endurance can be on a play, finishing a play, finishing a game, but endurance is also finishing a season. We need to fight through that last third of the season. We've got to have great endurance in this season, which maybe showed up a little bit last year. That comes from depth and a lot of things, but we've got some guys with some grit and endurance who will fight every game. That's for sure.
You guys are in a tough division, too. Everyone is getting better.
JS: Yeah, what, did we have 10 teams go to a bowl game last year? People were talking about the ACC -- 10 teams went to a bowl game! It was like the NFL. You could win every week, you could lose every week.
Yeah, I think I told you when I was down there this spring, you guys played the most exciting bowl game. It would have been better if you would have won, obviously, but it was a hell of a game.
JS: It was. Butch [Davis] has said it: We're not sitting here saying everything happens for a reason, but you can't grow unless you hit some hard times. There's some substance to the way coach Davis is building this program, and some substance to some of the things we're growing through. I think our guys learned from that game, that's for sure.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
I think I might be underestimating North Carolina. Butch Davis has a good football team that's hungry to win, and it learned from last year's mistakes and realized a good season could have been a great season. Here's the thing, though: Everyone else in the Coastal Division is getting better, too, and it's a tough step to go from eight wins to 10. Davis has a methodical approach to what he's doing, though, and the staff and players have bought into it. Offensive coordinator John Shoop was nice enough to give me some time on Tuesday and go over the Tar Heels' offense a bit. Shoop, also the quarterbacks coach, is a good guy and a smart coach who can get pretty animated at practices. It was a pretty long interview, so I'll post it in two parts.
Where did you think the offense made the most progress this spring?
John Shoop: I think that we continued to get better at situation football. From the first to the second year we really made an emphasis on getting better at third downs. We went from one of the worst in the country to in the top third. We tried to really get better at red zone football. The one situation we didn't get as good as we needed to was the two-minute, so we worked really hard on the two-minute offense this spring as well. With T.J.'s [T.J. Yates] experience, we're continuing to get better at situation football.
Those aren't the only situations -- second-and-long, cutting it in half, playing from the middle of the field, playing from the fringe, playing backed up. The analogy I make is it's like a golf course: There are guys who can hit the ball well, but then they go out and shoot a 90. Part of it deals with scoring. The guys in our offense, with more maturity we understand what it takes to score well. We were second in the ACC in scoring last year, but I think we can even be better. These guys feel like they left a lot out there, and we don't want to waste those opportunities.
That's gotta be a huge difference. I think I read where Butch said in the News & Observer that you can talk to them as much as you want, but until they get out there and learn it for themselves, it's a totally different ballgame.
JS: Right. Butch has always said we're drawing on experiences we've had together. Often times it seemed like the first two years it was like, 'When I was at Chicago, or, when I was at Carolina, this was what happened.' Now it's like, 'Hey do you remember that Maryland game? We've got to get that ball up-and-down when we're on the fringe.' That's really helped our guys to grow.
You mentioned T.J. How much of a concern is his durability?
JS: Endurance and durability, I tell our team all the time are the two most underrated qualities in a football player. You can't practice if you don't have endurance and durability, and you can't get better if you don't practice. T.J. is a tough son of a gun. He played the bulk of his freshman year, a bit of it with an injured shoulder and really stuck it out. Last year he broke his foot. You break your foot, you break your foot. The thing we love about T.J. is he came back from that and finished up strong in two games. Like all of us, you're greatest strength is your greatest weakness. When he injured his thumb, we were at a team function.
We had different stations where our team for summer conditioning had been broken up into different teams, and he was competing like heck. A piano player probably isn't going to go out and play volleyball or Frisbee golf worrying about his fingers. T.J., if you put him in a situation where you're keeping score, he's going to compete. I was there, coach Davis was there, it wasn't a situation where he was just out horsing around.
He's fine, he's throwing now, everything is great. People ask me about his durability, and I think every player has to have endurance and durability. It's an underrated quality. I talked to him about it a lot, but I also talk to our wideouts, our o-line, and our tailbacks. Is it a concern? Yeah, because it is for everybody.
Speaking of the wideouts, how long realistically do you think it's going to take before those guys aren't thinking as much as they're just playing?
JS: I hope not long. We're a concept driven team. Our formations may change, but our concepts are always the same. Dwight Jones, Joshua Adams, Todd Harrelson, Greg Little, Johnny White -- these guys understand the concepts. They can go out there on their own right now and practice the individual routes that make up the concept and they get it. I think really what they need to do is adjust, keep working with our quarterbacks.
The big part about playing wide receiver -- we'll get them running the right routes, that won't be the problem -- they need to develop a rapport with the guy throwing the ball. That's what Hakeem did so well, sometimes to a fault. Like I said, you're greatest strength is your greatest weakness. Well, Hakeem [Nicks] would get in the quarterback's ear -- 'I need the ball, I need the ball.' Well, you're covered and the other three guys are wide open. There's a fine line.
I think that these guys right now are all working their tails off to develop a rapport with the quarterbacks. That's more important to me, because you know, sometimes you have to throw to a guy and he's not really open. But you have to trust: Either he's going to come down with it, or the ball is going to be left on the ground. That's what Hakeem and Brandon [Tate] did for our quarterbacks, is, 'Don't worry, if I'm right with the guy, don't worry, I've got you.'
Jamal Womble looks like he's going to be a good third guy for you. Is he a player fans should keep an eye on? He's kind of a fireplug.
JS: I imagine that's a little bit what Natrone Means looked like in college. He's built low to the ground, and is a tough guy to tackle. The thing you always worry about that when guys are hard to tackle, is you worry about ball security. He's working his tail off on that. He takes a lot of hits because he doesn't go down so easy. If he can take care of the ball security and keep working his tail off this summer -- he could still shape his body a little bit. He knows that. Yeah, we're certainly encouraged by Jamal Womble. He's a tough guy to tackle.
Who are some other players who are newcomers Carolina fans might get to know a little better this fall?
JS: I think we had some good springs from some guys who may not show up in the box score. Mike Ingersoll at one of the tackle positions has really made some strides. He's up over 3.5 GPA-wise as well. You invest feelings in guys like that, who do everything right and work their tails off. He's a first-in, last-to-leave guy. He really sets a high standard for those guys. I think he's really going to compete for playing time at the tackle spot.
Another guy who is in the same category of you love him, you root for him, is Ed Barham at the tight end spot. All of our tight ends really were excited when they saw Rich [Quinn] go in the second round. That can serve as a real motivational tool. The way those guys practiced, and
Ed's got a chance to really help us. He may not always show up in the box score, but he's a strong blocker. He and Zack Pianalto are working their tails off to again develop a rapport with the quarterback. Those tight ends, they're not always wide open. You've just gotta stay between the defender and the ball.
Stay tuned for Part II.