CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Even though the relentless grind of training camp only began on Monday morning, UNC head coach Larry Fedora preached urgency in the brief window spanning Day 1 and the season opener against South Carolina on Sept. 3.
“We’re running out of time,” Fedora told reporters following practice at Navy Fields. “You can’t tell yourself that lie that you’ve got plenty of time because you don’t. We don’t have plenty of time. We’re running out of time, so there is a tremendous sense of urgency in what we have to get accomplished between now and then.”
While Fedora's comment was directed toward the installation of his defense, it applies to his program in general.
The monotony of training camp, both in hitting the same teammates and working through the same drills over and over again, tends to fatigue the players’ minds and bodies and thereby extend the month of August. In reality, UNC’s training camp includes just 20 practices and roughly 50 hours of on-field instruction.
Make that 19 practices and roughly 47 hours after Monday’s initial session.
Such a short window places an emphasis on consistency in maintaining a high energy level on a day-to-day basis.
“You want to see great effort and great attitudes, and we want to see that every day,” Fedora said. “That’s what I just talked to them about. I want to see this on practice No. 16. I want to see the exact same thing that I saw today. So if we can be consistent through camp, then we’ll be a much better football team.”
UNC’s 2014 season was, at best, consistently inconsistent. The offense showed up far more often than the defense, although there were times when the defense turned in the better showing and there were also times when neither were particularly effective.
“Our season was up and down last year,” quarterback Marquise Williams said. “Like Coach says, if we keep that straight line, we’ll be great. Today was a great practice, but when you’re tired and your body says, ‘No, I can’t do it,’ on Day 12 or Day 15, that’s when you’ve got to keep that mental [edge] over your body and keep going.”
Time carries greater importance for seniors like Williams and Landon Turner, who roomed together as freshmen. Williams shared a story of his first day on the practice field, his chin strap askew, trying to fit in with older players like Erik Highsmith and Dwight Jones while attempting to secure a foothold. That day was forever ago, but after Monday’s practice, Turner revealed that he’s down to 84 practices in his college career.
“For me, and for the older guys, we understand how fast it goes,” Turner said. “It’s really only a few short weeks until school starts and then we’ve got maybe a week-and-a-half or two weeks and then it’s game time and we’re rolling for the rest of the season.”
For Turner, the emphasis is not about time in general terms, but rather in pushing his teammates to practice at a high level for every drill in every practice period.
“Training camp is wall-to-wall ball,” Turner said. “It’s two weeks of straight football. We’re developing ourselves and just getting as prepared as we can be for South Carolina on Sept. 3. That’s what camp’s about, and being consistent the whole way through, so the first practice is the same as the eighth practice and the 16th practice and so on…
“We have to be consistent because we don’t have enough time to lollygag.”
Time's Running Short
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