Listen to Audio (8:03)
** As UNC's special teams units warmed up before the flex period at Thursday's practice, there was one glaring absence within the kicking ranks – senior Casey Barth. The Wilmington, N.C. native is dealing with soreness in his thigh in what Withers described as an "ongoing" issue.
"We're going to do some things with Casey Barth – he's going to play, but we're going to try to do some other things in the kicking game maybe to give him a little rest, kick some other guys," Withers said in addressing his kicker's status for Saturday.
Red-shirt freshman walk-on Thomas Moore will fill in at placekicker, if needed.
** Former UNC head coach Butch Davis often highlighted the New York Giants' ability to get pressure on New England's Tom Brady with just their front four in winning Super Bowl XLII during the 2007 season and that philosophy has been evident on the field over the past four years.
However, Withers made it clear on Thursday that North Carolina's defensive philosophy and play calling has been his work since arriving in Chapel Hill prior to the '08 season.
"Well, I called the defenses the last three years, so that was my philosophy," Withers said. "I guess the biggest thing is that we want to be able to put more pressure on the quarterback, especially when you're playing a team you don't know a whole lot and you feel like your front four can get pressure. But if we can add in and get the ball out of the quarterback's hands quicker and if we can eat up the run gaps by adding a guy, then we'll do that also."
Withers referenced the increased number of blitzes that UNC sent after Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray in the Music City Bowl last December.
"Hopefully we'll continue to increase [the blitzes]," Withers said. "That's kind of been our philosophy each year – we've probably added a few more blitzes."
Withers also shed some light on Davis's CEO-style approach in overseeing his staff.
"I don't think Butch ever stepped in a defensive room other than to watch inside run," Withers said. "That was kind of his thing – he wanted to watch inside run and then he'd go over with the offense. So I called the defenses, the defensive staff put the game plan together and that's what we did."
When asked if he would follow a similar path in allowing his coordinators to orchestrate their sides of the ball, Withers replied, "Well, I plan on being that way."
** In a surprising move, sophomore defensive end Kareem Martin is preparing to start in his second-straight season opener on Saturday.
"Right now, yes," Withers said in responding to a question about Martin starting. "We've got ‘Or' on there, but he's probably going to get the first snap."
Martin's start slides junior defensive end Donte Paige-Moss to a backup role after entering training camp with All-ACC expectations.
"Donte has had some nicks this camp and Kareem has played well," Withers said. "So it's two-fold, I guess. But Kareem has done a really good job, so I think he deserves to be the guy."
** Withers will be back on the sideline against James Madison for the first time since serving as Minnesota's defensive coordinator in '07. He moved to the press box at Davis's urging when he took the UNC defensive coordinator job in '08.
"I like being down there with the guys," Withers said. "I like being down there with them so if I need to touch base with one of them, I can. I like being down there next to the players."
Don't expect Withers to impersonate Steve Spurrier on the sidelines. His plan is to manage the game, stay out of the way and make sure the appropriate decisions are made on penalties and in situational football.
** Here's an oddity about the coaching profession – Withers will be able to watch the entire game on Saturday for the first time since arriving in Chapel Hill. He related the game experience as a coordinator to being in a cocoon.
"I would look at the play on the field briefly before I put my head down and got back into what I was going to call next and down and distance," Withers said. "So it'll be interesting to hear the play call, watch what happens and then get ready for the next situation."
** Reserve cornerback Terry Shankle is just 10 months removed from ACL surgery, but he's progressing well in his recovery.
"He's been going full speed the entire time," Withers said. "It's just been a matter of trying to ease him back into some things. But I think he's ready to help us, whether it's special teams or in his backup role at corner. We feel like he's right on track."
** Fifth-year senior safety Matt Merletti was named a game captain against James Madison prior to the start of practice.