Larry Fedora went to his closet Monday morning to dress for his trip to Cary and the 14th annual Triangle Pigskin Classic. He trimmed what has evolved over the last couple of months into a salt-and-pepper beard and found a dress shirt and sport coat in his closet.
“It occurred to me that was the first time I’d put on pants and real shoes in about a month,” Fedora said of the June-July window of doing only football camps and vacation on the Florida coast.
“As for the beard,” he mused, “after 28 years of marriage, I figured my wife needed to see a different face every morning.”
Fedora, his staff and coaches are on the brink of full-go for the 2016 football season. Vacation is over and this week the coaches will be in Greensboro for the annual high school coaches convention, then Fedora goes to Charlotte for the ACC media kick-off and then to Bristol, Conn., next Monday for the annual ESPN “Car Wash” treadmill of TV, radio and digital media interviews.
Then the talk turns to action the first week in August when the defending ACC Coastal Division champions convene for training camp.
Fedora recognizes his team is loaded on offense and is continuing to build on defense in the second year of coordinator Gene Chizik’s tenure. Unfortunately the offense received a jolt last week when fifth-year lineman John Ferranto, slotted to start at right guard, suffered a season-ending pectoral injury during a weight-lifting session.
“I hate to lose John,” Fedora said. “I hate it for him, I hate it for our team. He’s a versatile player, he could play four positions. He’s an intelligent guy. But someone will step up. We’ll be ready to go in 46 days.”
Fedora and the coaches from Duke, N.C. State, East Carolina and N.C. Central were asked during the luncheon’s program by host Mark Armstrong what key elements a championship program needs to have. Fedora answered with a strong locker room and great quarterback.
The Tar Heels, scheduled to open their season Sept. 3 vs. Georgia in Atlanta, have both in junior Mitch Trubisky and a roster with 41 lettermen returning.
“We brought Mitch along slowly and he’s responded in every situation,” Fedora said. “He’s separated himself from everyone else. He’s taken this team on his back.”
The Tar Heels have had a productive off-season of Blue Dawn, spring practice, summer conditioning and the Summer Team Challenge that pits eight teams against each other in everything from volleyball to a softball home run derby to paint ball.
“I love our team chemistry,” Fedora said. “We have a strong bond on this team. Our guys love each other. They’re playing for something greater than themselves—they’re playing for each other. That was a key part of our success last year and I think it will be again this year.”