Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Interview with UNC's John Shoop (Part 1)

CHAPEL HILL — A day after North Carolina lost quarterback T.J. Yates for at least six weeks because of a fractured ankle, offensive coordinator John Shoop answered questions from three news organizations about losing the starting quarterback, the competition between the back-ups Mike Paulus and Cameron Sexton, and whether the offense might change against Miami.

Q: What have the last two days been like for you?

A: Well, the thing about football seasons is they keep going, right? I’m really excited about the opportunity that Cam and Mike have in front of them. They had a lot of great work this past spring, they had a lot of great work through training camp and we’re expecting them to do really well. We’re not slowing anything down; those guys are keeping up with it, and have kept up with it. And I think getting a good week of practice under their belsts is really going to help them, as well.

Q: Can you assess the strengths of both?

A: Cam has really worked hard on the mental aspect of the game, and I think he’s becoming a pretty cerebral guy. He also runs pretty fast; that’s something to remember – he can get outside the pocket and make some plays with his feet. Mike has a big arm, has probably the most velocity of any of the quarterbacks on our team. He can really fit the ball in some windows that the other guys can’t. Like all of us, your greatest strength can be your greatest weakness as well – figuring out when to, and not do, do that. And that’s really what he’s been working hard on, is trying to assess the risks vs. the rewards, and make those decisions instantaneously.

Q: Is this an all-out competition this week, or have you guys made up your minds about who will start at this point?

A: Coach Davis is the one to talk to, really, about the quarterback competition. I think we have an idea of how it will go, but those are best questions for him, I think.

Q: What’s your assessment of Mike in Saturday’s game?

A: We need to have better production from a lot of spots. I felt great about the offense going in. I’m really proud of those guys. We built up a 17-3 lead on the champions of our division, but it’s really disappointing when you have two fumbles like that that lead directly to scores and an interception when you’re inside the 20-yard line like that. That’s not winning football, and it’s not just the quarterback spot. All the good things you do are erased when you turn the ball over. Great running backs don’t fumble it, and great quarterbacks don’t throw interceptions. We can talk all we want about things that T.J. has done or hasn’t done, but the best thing T.J. was doing was he wasn’t turning the ball over. That’s the best thing. I don’t care about big plays, yards; our goal is to kick the ball to end every drive, and we didn’t meet that goal this week.

-- Robbi Pickeral