Withers: ‘Right on Schedule'

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Everett Withers spoke with reporters following the close of training camp on Monday afternoon and discussed new scholarships, the running back position and Todd Harrelson's progress at cornerback, among other things.

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** Despite the chaos that ensued in the 10 days leading up to training camp, UNC's coaching staff has calmed the waters and has the football team primed to take the field in just 12 days against James Madison in the season opener.

"I think we're right on schedule," Withers said. "We'll start game preparation here shortly. We've done a little bit so far, but we'll start the majority of it in the latter part of the week. But I think we're right on schedule. I think we're where we need to be right now, getting ready for the first ball game."

** Spend much time watching the offensive line work in practice and it quickly becomes obvious that the teaching between the players is almost as much as between player and coach. The veterans dotting the starting lineup have taken it upon themselves to help out their fellow linemen in nailing down their responsibilities.

"I think it all starts with Cam Holland at center," Withers said. "Cam's just that quiet leader. You can always see Cam back there trying to teach some of those young guys how to play this game at this level. Jonathan Cooper is one of those really solid guys that does a good job of teaching and we're excited about Jon. Travis Bond has really grown up and he takes on that role also.

"I think it's really infectious in that group, especially in those guys that have played a lot of snaps, to help those young guys because I think they know they have a chance to be good and the only way they can be good is if they've got good backups that can help them."

** Another practice, another day of starting tailback Ryan Houston and his backup, Gio Bernard, wearing the bright orange no-contact jerseys. One silver lining is that Withers, offensive coordinator John Shoop and running backs coach Ken Browning have had an opportunity to give red-shirt sophomore A.J. Blue and true freshmen Romar Morris and Travis Riley more snaps than they would normally receive.

Blue appears to be the frontrunner for the starting position against James Madison if Houston and Bernard are not ready in time for the opener.

"We would have never known had we not given him the snaps that he's gotten," Withers said of Blue. "His progress has been really good."

Houston's progress has been slower than expected. The coaching staff initially thought he would be cleared for full contact by Aug. 15.

"We'll evaluate him daily," Withers said. "Our sports medicine staff will let us know when its time for him to get out of it. We won't do it before then. As soon as they say he can get in that booth at the Kentucky Derby and let him go, we'll let him go."

** Movement in the secondary was the primary talking point when the media last met with Withers on Thursday as UNC had just announced starting cornerback Jabari Price's hand injury and pending surgery. Red-shirt junior wide receiver Todd Harrelson – a former all-state cornerback – moved to corner in an attempt to add experience to a young position group.

So far, so good.

"I think Todd has made a smooth transition," Withers said. "Obviously, we just keep working him and keep getting him better with the fundamentals and the technique, but he's got some natural ability that has enabled him to go out there and play and not really miss a beat. Other than just knowing the calls and the communication, he basically has lined up and played like he's been out there for a long time."

** Withers provided an incredibly brief summation of Saturday's scrimmage, highlighting quarterback Bryn Renner's 12-for-15 effort while saying that the sophomore signal caller "did a nice job throwing the football and making completions."

Withers also complimented the performances of wide receiver Dwight Jones, linebacker Kevin Reddick, safety-turned-cornerback Tre Boston and Cooper.

** Withers announced that running back Matt Kolojejchick, wide receiver Mark McNeill, offensive lineman Peyton Jenest, defensive end Adam Curry and defensive back Pete Mangum have all been awarded scholarships for the 2011 season.

"We just felt like those guys deserved a scholarship so we felt good, the team felt good about those guys getting and we're ready to move forward," Withers said.

Those five Tar Heels join linebacker Tommy Heffernan, fullback Curtis Byrd, deep snapper Mark House and holder Trase Jones as other walk-ons have earned scholarships since the end of spring practice.

** Chapel Hill was busy over the weekend as students returned to campus in preparation for the start of class on Tuesday. Withers and approximately 10 Tar Heels took to South Campus to greet the students and their families with Gatorade and water.

"You get away from this building and you get on campus and you meet some of the new students on campus – I tell you what, it was great the support that we got out there giving out Gatorade and water from the people that really support this ball team," Withers said. "I thought it was a great chance to meet and mingle with the students on campus."


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