Thursday Notebook

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina head coach Everett Withers spoke to reporters prior to Thursday's practice, touching on Jabari Price's return, his defensive line's approach against Georgia Tech's offense and his scout team offense's performance this week.

EVERETT WITHERS
Listen to Audio (4:44)

** Withers sparked some interest in Price's return from hand surgery during his radio show on Wednesday night, alluding to the fact that the sophomore cornerback could be back a game earlier than expected against Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Price had surgery on Aug. 19 after injuring a tendon in his left hand in practice.

The UNC head coach, however, offered little intel to reporters on Thursday.

"We'll probably know a little bit more after practice on what we want to do with Jabari, but he has been working this week," Withers said, adding that Price is fine physically outside of his hand protection.

When asked if there was a possibility if Price could play against Georgia Tech, Withers responded, "We'll know a little bit more at the end of practice."

** Withers did confirm that he will hold place kicker Casey Barth out of action this weekend.

** North Carolina's 4-3 defensive scheme relies on an attack approach from its front four, designed to immediately and constantly put pressure on the opposing offensive line. That emphasis will be scaled back against the Yellow Jackets as lateral movement is possibly more important than penetration.

Withers brushed off any assumed complexity in the change in protocol.

"I don't think it's difficult," Withers said. "We've had a lot of practice over the last three years in preparing for this type of offense. We practice it in spring, we work on it during training camp, so our guys are a lot more ahead of the game at this point in time than we have been in years past. [Defensive line coach Joe] Robinson has done a great job of helping them with the technique of playing this type of offense, so we hope to have some success with it."

** As quarterback Bryn Renner prepares for the first road start of his career, the coaching staff has made sure that the red-shirt sophomore signal caller has suffered through the dreaded "crowd noise" during practice this week.

On Thursday, a combination of alternative rock and heavy metal blared across South Campus as Renner and his offense stepped to the line of scrimmage and called plays against the scout team defense.

Withers indicated the team's goal was to silence the crowd on Saturday. Regardless, he hopes the only difference that his roster notices at Bobby Dodd Stadium is that they are "not going to run through the smoke," referencing the smoke-heavy entrance at Kenan Stadium.

** Withers called on his scout team offense to deliver good looks on Monday, and through the first two days of practice, that group has risen to the occasion.

"I think we've had the best looking scout team offense since I've been here," Withers said. "I think we've gotten a lot of work done. To me, that's the key – getting a lot of work done on actual plays. And I think we've gotten that this week."

Backup quarterback Marquise Williams and reserve cornerback Sam Smiley – a former high school quarterback – have played the role of Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington.

** When you start talking about an offense that churns out 427.7 rushing yards per game, it's only natural to focus on the front seven that is tasked with stopping that onslaught.

But North Carolina's secondary will also play a significant role in slowing down the Yellow Jackets' ground game.

"We've also got some responsibility in the run this week," senior cornerback Charles Brown said. "They like to run the fake dive, and sometimes when they don't run the dive, they run a lot of option pitch. Depending on what the formation is, we definitely have some run fits that we have to set the edge for and take the pitch man, so it's really going to take all 11 on the field to stop the run, not just the front seven."

UNC's defensive backs also have to be wary of Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington's big-play potential in the passing game. The red-shirt junior leads the ACC in passing efficiency (334.3) and has completed 17 of his 28 passes for 637 yards and seven touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets have connected on four pass plays of 70-plus yards this season, which is more than any other conference has produced.

"It's going to be hard because they try to trick you a little bit – run, run, run and then finally throw a deep pass," Brown said. "But just keep your eyes on your keys and we should be fine."

** Georgia Tech's cut-blocking scheme has drawn plenty of fire from opposing coaches over the years, most recently by Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer. Withers refused to enter the controversy during his ACC teleconference call on Wednesday, telling a reporter that the best prevention is to "play with your hands" and don't get cut.

On a cut block, an offensive player dives at the legs of the defender he's blocking. It's a legal but sometimes dangerous play that is often confused with a chop block, which is illegal and involves a low block from the side or the back on a defender who is already engaged with another offensive player.

Brown echoed his coach's comments on how to deal with the Yellow Jackets' cut blocks.

"You've got to stay low and be in a good football position," Brown said. "We have to make sure we're protecting our lower bodies with our hands because they like to cut at you. They like to go out and cut. That's their offense – not doing anything illegal – but that's just what they do. So we just have to make sure we stop them and make sure we're in a good football position where we can protect ourselves and not get hurt."


Inside Carolina Top Stories