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Jay Bateman Discusses Defensive Effort, Slowing the Panthers and Secondary Chemistry

Bateman didn't like some of the things he saw vs. Virginia.

North Carolina's coaches met with reporters on Monday for the first time since the Tar Heels' loss to Virginia on Nov. 2.

After an open week, the Tar Heel return to action on Thursday night at Pittsburgh. Here's what defensive coordinator Jay Bateman had to say about Carolina's progress over its week off and looking ahead.

What does Pitt do well? 

I think they're pretty talented at the skill positions. The receivers are really good. Both tailbacks are really good. The quarterback, you know, I didn't realize this until a couple days ago, but he was recruited really hard here. You see why. I told Coach Brown he's got a little bit of gunslinger in him and he makes things happen. I told some of the guys, Central Florida, he killed him scrambling, just keeping plays alive, making plays with his feet. So I think they do a good job.

And then I think Coach Whipple’s a really, really good football coach and schematically they present a lot of problems to you. Coach Narduzzi I've known for a long time. I have a lot of respect for him. And you see, I think, a defensive-minded coach’s influence on their offense. I think they're going to bring an extra O-lineman. They're going try to run power. They're going to try to be physical and run the football and then they're also going to schematically in the pass game create a lot of conflict for you with motions and shifts and proximity alignments, so you've got to handle all that. I think that they do a good job.

What were one or two of the biggest things you wanted to work on during the open date? 

Virginia was the first time all season I felt like that we didn't stick to kind of what we talk about, what we believe in. I didn't think our energy was great at times. I didn’t think our effort was great at times. I think those are non-negotiables. I'll tell you that I've been on that tangent a little bit. And then I think we've got to do a better job covering people and we need to just line up and play our coverages better and have the ability to be a little bit more multiple in coverage than we have been because myself and the rest of the coaches feeling confident we can go out and do it. So we spent a lot of time on that primarily.

Was the coverage problem tied to the effort problem?

No, no, I think it was fundamentals and playing a technique exactly the way you're asked to play it consistently.

Is there some similarity in how chemistry is key for both the offensive line and the secondary? 

You know, I think the secondary and the O-line are, are very, very different as far as the skill set needed to play them, but very, very similar as far as, if you're not very good on the O-line and you're not very good in the secondary, it gets exposed very quickly. And I agree with you, I think chemistry is a huge deal. And we have not had that for whatever reason the last few weeks. And so we've got to demand that of our guys. I'm more confident after the bye week and more confident after having another week to work with them that we’ll be better on Thursday night.

How much does being mean healthier factor in now?

It certainly helps.

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How much do you expect to use Myles Wolfolk and Trey Morrison? 

I would say probably about like we played them against UVA, you know, in spurts.

Is that because they’re not fully healthy?

Getting back into the flow of things, who's playing better… You know, it's hard to miss a month of football and come right back in and jump in and play at the level these kids are asked to play. And what happens is, hey, you miss time, there's another kid out there who's just as talented, who's all of a sudden he's playing better and we have more confidence in. So part of it is who played better when they were in there and part of it is trying to maintain some sense of consistency back there a little bit, too. 

I think that long Perkins run was about as animated as we've seen you on the sideline. What did you see on that play that got you, other than the fact that they scored? 

Yeah, so every once in a while they're going to have a good play and we're going to have a bad play. That's part of the deal, right? I didn't think our effort on that play was what… We talk about every play independent of the one before and the one coming after.

We talk about controlling what we can control. We talk about our energy and we talk about our effort. And on that play, I didn't think… we had allowed what had happened in the first half. We gave up that long drive before half. I didn't think our energy was great after that and I didn't think our effort was great on that play. And so the one thing that's going to get me fired up is effort and I think our older kids knew it.

So I think we played better after that. But, you know, if you don't give up that long run, probably win the football game. 

We haven't seen as much production out of Tomon Fox in terms of stats. What do you see on tape from him? 

I think people are blocking him a lot more. I’ve got to do a better job of getting him in position to make plays. There's zero percent less effort, less activity, less performance about Tomon. I think people are doing a good job of keeping him and Jason [Strowbridge] away from the quarterback… Virginia chipped him almost every play that was a drop back. So part of it is with Dominique Ross on the other side, we’re presenting a little bit more problems there for pass rush and people are having to make some decisions and I think you've seen Dominique's stats spike a little bit because I think people are starting to say, ‘You know, we're not going to let No. 12 beat us.’ I’ve got to do a better job of getting him in position to affect the game more and not get doubled, not get chipped.

What's different than you expected about this team? 

I think the thing that stands out to me is we have really, really good kids. And I was a little bit nervous about that coming in here. You take a program that hadn't had as much success. They show up. They weren't to go to work every day. We've got some really good older leaders. So I think that's been a positive experience for me. I think the thing that if I could go back and change would be… We've had so many injuries in secondary that I think the consistency piece is a part of it, but I would've thought at this point we would have more consistency back there and be able to be a little more multiple than we are right now. And I think that's got to improve going forward. 

Does that mean cross training more in the preseason? 

I think maybe having the ability to handle an injury or two better than we did.