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** With 33 different Tar Heels having missed at least one game due to injury or suspension, the freshman class that was expected to almost entirely red-shirt has been thrust into action in backup duty or on special teams as the number of available bodies has dwindled.
Davis highlighted the play of rookie defensive ends Kareem Martin and Tim Jackson and left tackle James Hurst, as well as 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker Darius Lipford.
"Lipford has played and has been a significant contributor on all four of the big special teams," Davis said.
While the damage to this season has already been done, the silver lining of so many young players seeing live snaps will pay dividends down the road. That process begins not long after North Carolina plays its bowl game next month.
"This spring is one that I'm really looking forward to, just from the standpoint that there's a lot of freshmen and a lot of red-shirt freshmen," Davis said. "There's a great opportunity to teach some of these guys that maybe didn't play very much this fall offensively and defensively and to see how much better of football players that they can be in '11."
Those members of the '09 and '10 recruiting classes will be joined by a handful of '11 recruits, such as highly-touted quarterbacks Everett Golson and Marquise Williams, who plan to enroll in January after graduating high school early.
"We're graduating 13 seniors and from those 13 seniors, we have 12 vacant spots that we can use to bring in kids at midterm," Davis said. "Will we be able to find 12 high school kids that are going to graduate [early]? That's highly unlikely, but we'd like to for sure bring in as many as five or six or maybe even seven guys at midterm."
Enrolling early has become a gradually building trend in college football, and North Carolina can showcase the talents of Hurst and tight end Zack Pianalto as players who have benefited from the extra seven months on campus before their first training camp.
"If you just look at the history of the guys that have done it in this program over the last couple of years, they've had great careers," Davis said. "…It's been highly productive for all of those kids."
** After throwing 14 interceptions in his first six games, Duke quarterback Sean Renfree has not thrown a pick in his last four starts. As a result, the Blue Devils are 2-2 during that stretch while scoring 31.3 points per game.
"It's been very impressive watching his development over the last four or five games," Davis said.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is in the midst of an enormous rebuilding project in Durham, but his offensive game plans have allowed the Blue Devils to be competitive more often than not over the past three seasons. The Blue Devils have eclipsed the 30-point mark 13 times during that stretch, while posting 40 points or more on six occasions.
"They're getting the ball out of the quarterback's hands, they're giving him options that there are chances to push the ball down the field at a variety of different levels," Davis said. "They'll throw it deep and they'll throw it intermediate, but either through pre-snap reads or because or protections and pressures, there's always some place to go with the football."
** North Carolina's schedule received its standard Thanksgiving mix-up this week as there is no class scheduled on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday due to the holiday.
"We'll practice on Thursday morning and then we'll give them the entire afternoon and that evening off," Davis said. "Especially for the kids that are within a pretty close proximity of campus, they'll get a chance to go home and spend time and they'll take friends home that are from out of state. So it's a good break for them."
The Tar Heels will return on Friday for their standard walkthrough before loading the buses and heading to the team hotel that evening.