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July 22, 2010DURHAM--- North Carolina head coach Butch Davis spoke in front of approximately 400 individuals, including a large media contingent, at Thursday's Triangle Pigskin Preview.
With the NCAA inquiry into certain members of UNC's football team still ongoing, Davis wasn't willing to publicly discuss much regarding the situation, but he did provide some insight and even a couple of jokes during his time in front of the lunch crowd of supporters who made their way to the Washington Duke Inn.
Upon being introduced for his first comments, Davis made light of new East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill's comment of the 'whirlwind' it's been since taking the Pirates job earlier this year.
Davis casually commented, 'Think Ruffin would like to change whirlwinds?' which drew heavy laughter from the spectators on hand.
The fourth-year UNC coach then went into his full discussion.
"I know that there's a lot of people today that would love to have a lot of answers. As we go through this review, there's things obviously that the NCAA has asked us not to talk about."
"One thing that I can tell you and share with you is that the University of North Carolina, we're doing absolutely everything from a cooperating standpoint. The NCAA has ensured us that they will make this as quick and as soon as possible. They will expedite it."
"One of the things obviously that you can see is that there's a lot of other institutions that are going through this currently, and there's probably going to be some more in the very near future."
"It's a lot easier to talk about the season, and that's kind of why everybody is here today is to find out about each of the five schools and their teams, and it's a lot easier for me to talk about our football team."
"At the conclusion of the 2009 season, our coaching staff and our team sat down and kind of talked about the things that we felt like were going to be critically important for our football team. The first and foremost was that we needed to get our football team well."
"We had 13 players last year that had surgery of some form or fashion, and forced them to miss any number of the entire season, half the season, or four or five games. That's a critical part of the success of all football teams and programs."
"The other part is we really felt like it was an important spring practice for us to try to grow and develop some depth."
"The reduction of scholarships over the last 10-12 years has put a real premium on all college football programs to be able to have enough quality players to be able to play against really challenging schedules. And so that was one of our main objectives during the springtime was to be able to do that."
"It's something that a lot of times fans, alumni, and football enthusiasts don't really realize how critically important August is. August is phenomenally important for each of the coaches here and our program as well."
"You get 29 practice opportunities prior to the start of the very first football game, and when that first game of the season is over with, you're only going to get either 33 or 35 more practices before the season is over."
"So basically half the opportunities for your football team to improve, to get better, to gain some experience and to build some depth, it's certainly going to take part during the month of August."
"We're excited about our kids. We're very much looking forward to this football season. We just broke summer school a couple of days ago and the kids have gotten a chance to go home for about 10 days before they come back."
"I think they're anxious for August 6 to get here and when we start practice. It's a challenging schedule for us. I think it's the most challenging schedule we've had since I've been the coach at Carolina, but I think our football team is eagerly looking forward to it."
Do you think the 2010 North Carolina defense can be even better than the Top 5 nationally-ranked UNC defense of last season?
"Well, I don't know if we'll be better. We'd love to be just as good as we were last year. One of the things about our defense from last year, we enjoyed the luxury of a group of kids---nine of those starters that were on that football team---took their lumps in 2007 when they all started as freshmen and redshirt freshmen."
"It's an extraordinarily difficult challenge for young kids, for freshmen and kids with very little or limited amount of experience to come in and play major college football at the highest level. They found out what they don't know. Each game and each season provides them an opportunity to get better and grow and mature, and we were fortunate."
"One of the things that will give you a little bit of insight and one of the reasons that defense was able to play as well as it did is that every single starter played every single game, as opposed to the offensive side where we had 28 different kids that started on offense over the course of the season."
"It's one of the reasons that we struggled somewhat offensively last year---new, young kids that were going through what our defense had gone through in 2007. So I think they're getting better, and I expect them to get better."
What is your greatest accomplishment outside of coaching?
"I've been married this spring for 25 years and I would like to be married for 26 (laughter from audience)."
"Like everybody involved here, we've all got kids. I've been blessed, and clearly outside of coaching there's no greater part of my life than my son and my wife."
"All the things you go through, it's very important to have family and relationships, and I love both of them and I'm very proud of them."
How does opening the season with the likes of LSU, Georgia Tech, and Rutgers set the tone for the upcoming season?
"It's already set the tone. I think that any time you open the season against somebody that has got a reputation like LSU, it certainly gets the attention of your entire football program. They're a very, very finely-coached football team with terrific athletes."
"In the ACC, we've all talked about as we're growing this conference and as the coaches in this conference are building their programs, one of the things is that you need to measure yourself. You need to find out where you're going and where your football program actually is, and certainly accepting the challenge against LSU, I think it's certainly done some help for us."
"It gives us an opportunity to play somebody that has had tremendous success the last decade. They've won two National Championships in the last 10 years. I think it has been a very positive impact on our football program."
What is your greatest talent away from the football field?
"The only musical instrument that I can actually play is the radio. I think my wife, if you ask her, she'd probably say the best thing I do is I enjoy cooking. When we do get opportunities at the house to stay home as a family, I like to be the chef and play around in the kitchen."
How much of a benefit was it to have 30,000 fans and a nationally-televised audience on ESPN watching your Spring Game this year?
"The 30,000 was a direct result of Rick Steinbacher, our director of sports marketing. He does a phenomenal job for our entire athletic program. He went out and really campaigned to try to get a lot of people to come to the game."
"The actual game itself was in part certainly due to the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta against LSU. It was a way for ESPN to not only promote that particular game, but it gave us an opportunity and we were very fortunate just to be a part of it."
Is T.J. Yates, the incumbent starter at quarterback, 'the man' heading into the 2010 season?
"I'll say the same thing that Tom (O' Brien) did---I think that for the first time since I've been the coach at Carolina, it's a good thing to have two guys that the team has confidence in that can win."
"Freshman Bryn Renner last fall redshirted, and went into spring practice and pushed T.J. He pushes him every day. It makes him (Yates) better and it makes Bryn better. I think it's a real healthy situation. They're good friends."
"They realize that their performance and their preparation is in direct relation to the kind of success that we're going to have offensively. If we're going to be a good offensive football team, that position has got to play smart. It's got to play efficient. It's got to be productive."
"As I've said repeatedly, the best player---it doesn't matter what position that it is---the best player has got to play. Whatever kid gives us the best chance to win games, that's got to be the guy."
What is the greatest 'free lesson' you've gotten in life?
"I would say there's probably nothing free in life---I think a lot of people agree with that."
"Probably the most important 'value' thing is the experiences---things that you've gone through, the trials and tribulations."
"A lot of times people want to associate you with the success of teams that you've coached, but I think one of the most important and critical things that had a dramatic impact on me is going 1-15 with the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. All those lessons, I promise you were free."
"That dramatically impacted not only my coaching career but my philosophy of the way you look at things. I think it's been extraordinarily instrumental."