Fourth and Long

Published 4:05 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I had decided after last week’s column to avoid the drama surrounding the UNC football program.

Despite the big news regarding said drama coming out of Chapel Hill this past week, I stand firm in my decision not to regurgitate all the negativity and instead start talking about the players and coaches that will impact game days.

I should start with the new head coach.

While the players and coaches certainly seem to have a tremendous amount of respect for Butch Davis, I for one am confident that Everett Withers was the right choice to replace him as head coach.

I am a big fan of offensive line coach Sam Pittman, however, given the need for a quick and seamless transition I think there was no better choice than Withers.

Both are respected by the players and staff, well spoken and excellent recruiters, however, the seamlessness factor comes into play when comparing the staff changes necessary between promoting a defensive coordinator to head coach as opposed to promoting an offensive line coach to the same position.

Pittman had just been named associate head coach and soon deserves an opportunity for further advancement. His class and honesty has been evident in his confession that he was disappointed in not being chosen to take over the program, but stands firm in his commitment to Coach Withers, the program and players.

The title is an interim one, but I hope that Withers is given a fair and honest opportunity to earn the job with his work this year. I can honestly say that so far I am very impressed.

When the news broke that Davis was out at Carolina many recruits did exactly what you would expect them to do and backed off of their commitment or interest in to the Tar Heel program. Withers and his staff (that includes recruiting guru and Hertford County native Brian Overton) have done a tremendous job of calming fears and retaining most of their targets.

Retaining commitments is difficult, however, the hard part is convincing high school players that haven’t already visited or fallen in love with Chapel Hill, UNC or the football program to even consider and visit a campus, school or team that can offer them no assurances as to who their head coach will be once they get there. It seems an almost impossible job.

If there is a silver lining in this huge cloud it might just be a team more united than ever.

In what appeared to be an “us against the world” mentality last season UNC fielded a young and inexperienced team and emerged with a record as good as any in recent history and the first bowl win since 2001.

This season’s squad appears to have taken the same attitude going into the season, however, they have a lot more experience to go along with that fiery determination.  A younger coach players can relate to mixed with talent mixed with attitude should make for a fun team to coach.

Lucky for us, I expect it will be a fun team to watch as well. Check back here next week as I go into more detail regarding returning and new players as we countdown the days to the kickoff of college football. Yay!!!!

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publishing. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at