North Carolina head coach Everett Withers spoke with reporters Wednesday in the Atlantic Coast Conference's weekly teleconference. UNC (4-1 overall, 1-1 ACC) steps outside the league for the final time this fall Saturday as they face off against Louisville in Kenan Stadium.
COACH WITHERS: After coming off the East Carolina game, we felt like it was a big win on the road, big in-state rivalry. The success of winning on the road and also being able to come in and correct on Sunday was big for us.
We know we have a really tough challenge this week with the team that's like a tiger in the corner. We expect a very emotional, fired-up Louisville team to come in here Saturday, and we've got to do a good job both offensively and defensively in the special teams because we know that we're going to get their best.
Q. I was wondering is defensive line the toughest place to recruit enough quality people for what you like to do? And how have you guys been so successful at doing that?
COACH WITHERS: Well, it is one of the toughest positions to recruit to. The tackles, trying to find guys big enough and strong enough inside that can also stop the run, but also can rush inside, that's always tough. The ends are a premium. When you try to find guys that can play run and rush the passer on the edge.
I think our success has been really -- the big deal has been we've been able to go out as a staff and scour the country, and scour the east coast region and identify guys early. It is a top priority for us every year in recruiting to find defensive linemen. So it's on our radar every day. We talk about it every day in our recruiting meetings. And it's something that's very important to us.
Q. Is there one defensive trait you look for in defensive linemen?
COACH WITHERS: You know you want height and you look for long arms. Sometimes it's hard to find those on the inside guys, but you like guys with toughness. Guys that have a tremendous work ethic, have a tremendous desire to get to the quarterback, they have to be physical kids. I think that's probably the biggest thing is guys that can learn and also be aggressive and physical.
Q. Kind of staying on the same theme with the defensive line, I was just wondering, what kind of creative ways have you seen teams try to block Quinton Coples at defensive end?
COACH WITHERS: Well, a lot of teams are either doubling with the tight end and the tackle to try to get on the edge. In pass protection, you're seeing a lot of slot protection his way. They've turned the center that way or bring them back that way to chip him.
He's getting a lot of that, which should open up some other one-on-one situations for the rest of the front. In the run game, I think we're seeing a lot of what we call wawa sets to him, so they can make sure he doesn't penetrate.
Quinton's done a great job of understanding that and doing his job we talk about the numbers sometimes don't show the whole story about how a guy plays, and he's played tremendous for us this year.
Q. On a different note, I was wondering, given the timing of the change and you becoming an interim coach, what's been the most critical element in how you've been able to keep everything together and have this team at 4-1 right now?
COACH WITHERS: I think the big issue is me being myself and the staff understanding me, and the players understanding me. I think it was a smooth transition in that way. I think these kids have been very comfortable around me.
They know what I expect. They know the accountability that I expect and the staff expects. That's been the biggest thing to emphasize, and it hadn't been something we had to really do a lot of. I think these kids understand that this staff is a good coaching staff, very fundamentally sound and coaching technique.
They understand what I believe in, playing good defense, running the football, taking opportunities when you have opportunities. To me, it was not that big or drastic change in that aspect. I think the biggest thing was those kids felt comfortable with me.
Q. I was wondering if you could tell me about getting Jabari Price back, and how that helps your secondary?
COACH WITHERS: Well, getting Jabari back obviously adds depth to your secondary, adds experience. Jabari played last year for us as a true freshman. Gives us an opportunity to do some things and be a little bit more package sound when you talk about playing nickel and some of the other packages that we use.
He's a guy that can come in and learn. It's not going to be an issue for him to play corner, and it helps us on special teams. So, yeah, it's a big factor to have Jabari back.
Q. How has he done so far?
COACH WITHERS: I think he's done well. We try not to throw him in and do a whole lot with him last week. But his role will increase this week both defensively and special teams. Hopefully, we can get him back to full go here pretty quick.
Q. What have you been most satisfied with about your offense so far this season?
COACH WITHERS: Well, I'm really satisfied with the way Bryn Renner's played. He's a young kid, and you see growth in him each week. I think just the overall offensive knowledge of what we want to try to do each week has been impressive to me.
And the playing each week going in, I think our kids understand it, they feel comfortable with it. And Bryn each week is getting more comfortable being the leader of our offense. I think that's been the most pleasing thing that I've seen so far.
Q. Looking at your depth chart, you have a lot of kids on that line from North Carolina. What is it about the state that produces so many quality defensive line kids?
COACH WITHERS: Well, I think in the state this is a state that doesn't play spring ball. So people take that sometimes as a negative. I think if you can find kids with height and long arms and size, they're playing those guys.
If you walk around some of these high schools, there are basketball players walking around at 6'4" and 6'5" that think they're point guards. They can't handle the ball, and they get frustrated. And they start playing football. The football coach has them out there, and they're raw.
I think in this state you have to be patient, because there are some of those guys out there, and you have to take a chance on them and say you're going to develop them. That's what we've done. We've taken some guys that are tall and long and got them here in our strength and conditioning program, and they've become good players for us in a year, two years, whatever. I think that's been the success we've had here.
Q. Can you talk a little about Sylvester Williams? And are you surprised how quickly he's come in and made an impact on the defensive line that basically brought all four starters back?
COACH WITHERS: No, I'm not really surprised. When we started the process of recruiting Sylvester, here's a young man that walked on in junior college he earned his way in and became a junior college All-American.
He has such great work ethic, he's a great kid. From the day he started here in the off season program through spring ball, you knew right then that you had something special. So it hadn't been a surprise that Sylvester has done so well.
He's built that way. He's built to give you everything he's got every day on campus. He's built that way to give you everything he's got on the field. He's been probably the guy in that room that's helped us the most because of his work ethic.