Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Offensive coordinator John Shoop has no quit in him. We spoke on Thursday and he didn’t sound like a coach who has been taking heat from Carolina fans since a home loss to lowly Virginia. Instead, he sounded ready to get back to work. UNC’s offense has to improve if it’s going to turn its season around. Here’s what Shoop had to say about the offense:
One of the things I’m not sure people understand is just how banged up you guys are. Looking at the injuries, can you help explain to fans just how much of an impact that has had on the offensive numbers right now?
John Shoop: We’ve been banged up a little bit, there’s no doubt about that. But we’ve got some quality guys and some quality players playing for us. We’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep working. I think guys like Greg Elleby, Cam Holland and Mike Ingersoll, they’re getting better every week. The season’s not done yet. We’re going to keep fighting. We’re working our tails off as a staff and working our tails off as a team. We’re going to come out and fight every single week. I love the fight in our players and our staff. We’ll be ready to go.
Where does the most improvement need to come from? What’s the focus going to be over these next two Saturdays with the bye week coming up?
JS: Well, the focus right now is on this Saturday. There is no other focus. What we’re trying to do this Saturday is protect our quarterback and create a crease in the running game. That’s our focus. We’re trying to stay out on the field and put some points up. I think we’ve had a great week of practice. It’s been an intense week of practice so far. Like I said, our guys have some fight in them.
Have you ever seen, though, so many injuries at so many key positions, going back to the offseason, the unexpected departures on the offensive line. Is this one of the most difficult situations you’ve had to work with?
JS: Here’s the deal. I get it. I’ve been through an awful lot and coach [Butch] Davis has been through an awful lot as well, and everybody understands – we’re a mature group of guys. But here’s the deal -- we’ve got to find a way to win games. It may not be sexy. It may not be what people want to see, but we’re going to try to find ways to win games. We can win this week with the plan we’re putting together and these guys who are going to play for us and fight for us -- we can win. Nobody wants to hear about all the injuries, they just want to see you win. And we’re trying to win.
JS: Well, I think Braden is doing a great job. He’s getting some work in practice. He’s 6-foot-6, a real cerebral guy. Really just has great instincts at the quarterback spot. And Bryn Renner is also getting an awful lot of reps in practice. They both prepare like they could go in at a moment’s notice. We want to keep it like that. We’re excited about both of those guys.
Have you been getting what you need out of T.J.?
JS: Let me say this, and I want this to be clear: T.J. Yates is a good quarterback. He’s a good quarterback, and he’s a tough son of a gun. He’s been working his tail off to do all the little things that help. In our two-deep at wideout, there are a handful of true freshmen, they’re starting as well. He does a great job helping those guys, pushing those guys every single step of the way. He’s been working his tail off with the offensive line, has become a vocal leader. At times this year, he’s played the best football I’ve ever seen him play. At times this year he’s tried to do a little bit too much. But that’s a competitive son of a gun, now. He comes out to play every week. He’s going to sit in that pocket and work to keep his eyes downfield. We’ll go to bat with T.J. any day of the week. I’m proud of the way he prepares for the game. He’s got to have more production, but we’ve got to have more production. You can’t just pinpoint it on one guy.
Part II coming up ...