First-year North Carolina coach Larry Fedora had some unique recruiting obstacles to overcome in his first class, namely a shortened recruiting calendar because of his hiring date, and the uncertainty of the program's ongoing NCAA saga. UNC is still waiting to hear back from the NCAA to find out if it will face further sanctions, but Fedora managed to pull in a solid, 23-member class with four four-star recruits. I spoke with Fedora on Wednesday about his first recruiting class. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What was the biggest challenge for you in this first recruiting class?
Larry Fedora: I would say for us it was probably trying to dispel some of the myths that were being told to most of the kids about what was going to happen here at the University of North Carolina. That was one of the things we had to combat with each and every kid. It is what it is. You just do the best job you can, but the thing we did was be honest with the kids and once you come on campus, I think the university sells itself. That was the biggest struggle, though.
Did you think you would have more answers to give them by this point?
LF:I had no idea. I had no idea, didn’t know one way or the other. I don’t know what the timeline is, I just know eventually there will be something said and we’ll deal with it.
Where do you feel like you guys filled the biggest needs?
LF:We only had two quarterbacks on scholarship here, so that was something that was a tremendous need. You’ve got to have a quarterback. We did that. Because of the style of offense that we’re bringing in here, we have a shortage of wide receivers. We were able to bring more in and Quinshad Davis, the one today, was a huge one for us. The Gatorade Player of the Year out of the state of South Carolina. And then on defense, we signed three guys who are going to play in the secondary for us, and because we’re going to a 4-2-5, we needed secondary guys. I really think we did a nice job in the secondary, even though we need more, I still think we did a nice job in that short period of time.
The timeline of what you had to recruit, was it enough to get done what you wanted to get done?
LF: It’s never enough time. There’s not enough time in a day, there’s not enough time in a week. When we got in here on the second day of January, you’re in a dead period. And then you’re out for four days, and then you’re back into a dead period during the national convention. We were only able to see these kids three times face to face. That makes it tough when you’re trying to build a relationship with a kid you don’t know and you’re trying to convince a kid you can be trusted.
Overall were you pleased with the way this class shaped up?
LF: I’m extremely pleased. I really am. We’ve got 23 kids who are new Tar Heels, and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what the rankings are, I haven’t seen any of that and don’t really care. It’s going to be about two years down the road that we’re going to figure out if these kids can play or not.
How many did you have to retain?
LF: I think there were 14 kids committed when we came in, give or take. They were a priority for us. We went after them as if, well, they didn’t know us. So in our eyes, they weren’t committed. They already had a love for the university. We had to sell them over as a staff.
As a coach coming in, how difficult is that, not to be able to handpick all of your guys?
LF: Well, it is what it is, Heather. With the time constraint like that, unless you had been in that area recruiting all of those kids, you’re not going to know them. So when we first get in, we just throw on the film like crazy and start evaluating and evaluating them, figuring out who can help us win. Once we determined that, we just went after them.
Do you think that you guys have enough in place to be a contender for the Coastal Division in 2012?
LF: I would love to say yes, but I don’t know. I really have no idea because I haven’t even worked with the kids we have on campus right now. That’s just too hard for me to answer.
Fair enough. What was the biggest surprise today for you?
LF: It would have to be Quinshad Davis. He was the kid out of South Carolina. We really had no idea one way or the other, and he didn’t do that until around noon today, so we were obviously sitting around on pins and needles. We tried to talk the kid into, ‘Hey, sign the papers at 7, send them in, and then you can do your signing at noon at the school.’ He said, ‘Well, if I did that my mom would have to know.’ He didn’t even want his mom to know. I said, ‘Well, blindfold your mom and have her sign it and send it.’ He wouldn’t do that (Fedora laughed). He didn’t want anyone in his family to know.”
How much are you really changing there? You’re talking about 4-2-5, and the offensive philosophy, just how much of an overhaul are you undertaking there?
LF: We’re going to change everything, basically. We’re going to change the culture. We’re going to change philosophies on offense, defense and special teams. We’re going to change everything and everything that’s been done. We’re going to do it our way, and it’s going to be the North Carolina way.
How many of these recruiting classes will it take before you have the program where you want it to be?
LF: That's a great question because for me right now, there's so much unknown. I can't even walk into a team meeting and tell you every person's name, much less tell you what kind of player they are. I haven't been on the field with them. That is so hard for me to say. I wish I could tell you one recruiting class, because that's my expectation. Let's win, and let's win yesterday -- not a year from now, not two years from now, not three years from now. I want to win now. That's the kind of effort and kind of work ethic I'm going to put into it.