A former college football player who still loves the game. He brings the same attention to detail, student of the game approach to his writing that he brought to the field as an undersized scrappy safety for the UNC Tar Heels. In other words he practiced a lot of football and played very little. When evaluations came around toughness and knowledge of the game were high, tangible skills were not so much.
One of our goals here at College Football Zealots is to provide you with multiple perspectives on the game of college football. When we had the chance to interview Michael I jumped at it as I love getting the perspective of guys that have actually played the game at the college level. Michael is based in the south so we know he is well versed on the ACC and SEC. Here is a short glimpse into the mind of Michael Felder...
Tough question honestly and I think there are two answers. On a personal level the basketball and football teams exist without much friction and actually get along quite well. However, outside of the personal dealings there's always that contentious sentiment that exists. Whether it is a guy hearing rival fans bring up "you'll always be a basketball" or hearing the loudest applause at a bowl game being for Roy Williams on the jumbotron it is clear where football ranks to a lot of UNC fans.
There's not more pressure on players rather there's a sense of trust within the locker room. When things go great you get the pat on the backs but all the while knowing that any misstep could result in folks being more excited for an exhibition basketball game than for a regular season football game. The truth hurts and while there are negative comments made at times I will say that from talking to our current players the attitude is a bit different than when we were limping our way through the season during the years I played.
Having played for UNC I have to ask you about your predictions for the Tar Heels and for the ACC this year. Will UNC live up to the pre-season hype they are getting in some circles and who do you see meeting in the ACC Championship game?
I'm not fully locked into my predictions yet but I definitely see the Heels going at least 8-4 with a real shot at getting to that 10-2 range if the pieces fall into place. Pre-season hype is a fickle mistress as Ole Miss and Oklahoma State taught us just a season ago. This team is good enough to live up to the hype and unlike most folks on the periphery I am fully confident in both the wide receivers and offensive line and their ability to keep TJ upright.
Should we be lucky enough to make it through to the ACC Championship Game I think we'll be staring Boston College in the face. Not because BC is far and away better than FSU or Clemson but rather because we play Clemson and FSU during the season and for us to end up in Charlotte we'll have to likely win both.
Who are some of the more unheralded players on this years UNC team that we should keep an eye on?
Kevin Reddick is the first kid that comes to mind. Bruce Carter, Quan Sturdivant and Zach Brown are more physically gifted but Reddick is the best pure linebacker on the squad in terms of diagnosing plays and playing down hill.
Another name guy that I'm expecting big things from is Jonathan Cooper. Most folks won't notice his impact but the big guy is a monster on the offensive line and I think he deserves as much love for the progress he's made as any of the bigger names on defense or at the skill positions.
As a former defensive back, who are some of the guys currently playing in college that you feel best epitomize that position and that you enjoy watching play the game?
Last year was easy, Eric Berry was the quintessential safety in every sense of the word. This year you've got no one who has his top end talent but the class of safeties is so deep you can go any direction. Personally, to avoid the homer label I try not to talk too much Deunta Williams, although he is exceptional. I'll go with Mark Barron at Bama. He's a guy who is an absolute force in the run game and makes smart plays in the back end. He's as complete a safety as there is in the nation and he along with Deunta, DeAndre McDaniel of Clemson and Rahim Moore are all "pick your poison" when it comes to safeties.
On the flip-side who are some of the players catching the football that you might be a little nervous to face?
As for receivers the first name that pops into my mind is AJ Green. Green was the only true weapon for the Dawgs a season ago and he still put up over 808 yards. Julio Jones played with Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Michael Floyd had Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate as his helpers and Jon Baldwin was aided by Dion Lewis. Green was UGA and he still was the best player just about everytime he stepped on the field.
What games are you most looking forward to this year and why?
That's easy, UNC-LSU at the Georgia Dome is tops on my list. Seeing my boys square off against the Bayou Bengals is the type of shot in the arm our program needs to prove we belong on the stage.
Other games of note for me include Miami-Ohio State, Virginia Tech-Boise State, Florida-UGA and USC-Notre Dame. The ACC games are true markers for our conference and if the league is going to be a major player on the football landscape we need to pick up at least one of these spotlight contests. Florida-UGA is always fun for me and I think the Dawgs have a shot at breaking Meyers stranglehold. USC-Notre Dame both have two new, very different coaches and the first installment in this rivalry game could set the tone for the years to come.
Not including UNC, who is your "way too early" pick to take the National Championship this year?
My way too early pick to win the title is Nebraska. Their schedule is conducive with Texas at home, Texas A&M as the next toughest game before battling Texas or OU in the Big XII championship. Don't hold me to that as I've got predictions to be made on the site in two weeks, things might change.
Any teams flying under the radar that you think could make a run for the title?
As for under the radar teams I'm going to take the Miami Hurricanes. They have the talent to win the title but I'm not sure they've got the mentality or the testicular fortitude to gut out the tough win. For every Wake Forest '09 or Virginia '08 gritty win they've got UNC '08 and '09, Georgia Tech '08 and Clemson '09 type games on their resume. If they can put it together upstairs and get tough the Canes could be hoisting the crystal football.
We would like to thank Michael for spending some time with us and getting us more hyped up for the football season. Make sure you head on over to In The Bleachers and check out their writing and podcasts this college football season.