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** North Carolina's spring event kicks off Saturday at 3pm with the Kenan Stadium gates opening at noon, but take notice that there's one integral word missing – "game." While last April's spring game was carried live by ESPN with nearly 30,000 Tar Heel fans in the stands, this year's showcase is designed to be a glorified competitive scrimmage.
"We've scripted some scenarios where we're going to interchange some guys on the depth chart just so you get some different matchups," Davis said. "So that's it not always the same guy going against the same guy that he's gone against for 14 previous spring practices."
While Greg Little stole the show last spring with five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown, don't expect that type of outburst from UNC's known quantities.
"You try to script to try to give guys opportunities," Davis said. "If it was a game situation and you were really trying to win, you may throw the ball 15 times to Dwight Jones. Well, if we come out of this scrimmage and Dwight Jones has got 12 catches, then we have no idea about Sean Tapley, T.J. Thorpe, Reggie Wilkins, Erik Highsmith…
"We may throw it to Dwight three or four times and some of those other kids may get six or seven chances because we need to find out the complimentary aspects of our offense."
The goal is simple – find players that can make plays.
Saturday will be a bare bones effort by the coaching staff, essentially lining the players up and seeing who capitalizes on the situation. Offensive coordinator John Shoop won't be installing any complex schemes or gimmick plays. He will just call generic run-of-the-mill football plays and let the cards fall as they may.
"Does a guy have the innate ability to make a play?" Davis said. "Can he break a tackle? Can he rush the passer? Can he knock a ball down or intercept a ball?"
** Fans in attendance on Saturday will be struck by the sheer presence of the Carolina Student-Athlete Center for Excellence, which includes the football-oriented Blue Zone, in the east end zone of Kenan Stadium. The original plan was for the facility to be operational for the 2011 season, and so far, so good.
Davis indicated that the expansion project is currently 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule.
"The [building] company has done extraordinarily well," Davis said. "They've already started to put the glass in and they're already starting to do drywall on the inside. The expected date of occupancy is Aug. 1."
** If you happen to be walking by Navy Fields during football practice one afternoon and hear a primal scream from over the fence, odds are that it came from Renner. Four-year starter T.J. Yates and his cool and composed demeanor are preparing for the NFL Draft at the end of the month, meaning the reins to the program are securely in the red-shirt sophomore's rabble-rousing hands.
"I have a lot of energy," Renner said. "I don't know where that came from, but that's just the way I was born. I have a lot of enthusiasm. I think my teammates like that… That's just how I play. I play the game at 110 percent and that's what I'm going to give them, so I think they like that."
Renner has spent the bulk of North Carolina's 12 spring practices improving his footwork and ironing out the intricate details in his play-calling responsibilities.
The West Springfield, Va. product shared his views on how his teammates are performing this spring with reporters shortly after lunch on Wednesday.
- On red-shirt freshman tailback Gio Bernard: "When you guys see that kid run, you will be amazed. He's one of the quickest runners I've ever seen, even at combines and everywhere I've been. Just the way he gets through the hole is something special."
- On senior wide receiver Dwight Jones: "I think last year was just a little sampling of what he can do. The athletic ability that kid has… He's got a 40-inch vertical jump and he's gotten a lot stronger. Coach Mylo (S&C coach Tom Myslinski) has helped him out a lot with his strength just in this short spring time. He's taken his game to a whole other level."
- On UNC's linebackers and secondary: "They are so fast moving laterally. You've got Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick and then Darius Lipford and Curtis Campbell that can all run sub-4.5 40s. There are just amazing athletes over there. And then Tre Boston at safety is getting a lot better and at the corners, you've got Charles Brown and Jabari [Price], so just every day throwing on those guys makes my job tough."
- On UNC defensive ends Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss: "Those two guys will probably lead the ACC in sacks. I'd probably put money on either one of them. Comparing them to Rob [Quinn] and then Da'Quan Bowers that came out, they're neck-and-neck. I can see that coming."