Practice Reports: Day 1

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina began its 2003 training camp Wednesday with the emphasis on improvement from a 3-9 season. Head coach John Bunting was fired up after the team's first practice exclaiming, "I love football. I love football."

The brightest spots are indeed on offense, with a deeper unit that averaged 369.1 yards last season.

"I like the way our quarterback threw today and our receivers were catching the ball quite well," Bunting said. "I'm really hoping that our offensive line can come through for us this year."

UNC assistant coach Gunter Brewer is licking his chops with the newfound depth at the wide receiver position. He had this to say about his troops after one day of practice:

"We started out today with six-deep on each side," Brewer said. "We've got the freshmen running pretty high up in the depth chart. We're treating this like a pro camp. We feel like they're our three draft choices, and since they didn't have a chance in spring to see what they can do. Camp is their spring. If they can't do it fine. We've got some other kids too. But we're going to give them the opportunity to play.

"We're going to give them chances, and they bounced around and caught the ball well," he said. "They were all here this summer, so they've been around our kids and they've been around our offense a little.

"Adarius is a huge kid that can run. We've got Mike Mason, who is quick, moves around well and has a great attitude; and Holley is so athletic. He is so flexible and brings a whole lot to the table.

"If they're not on pace to learn as we want the ACC champions to learn on, then that's OK too."

Senior cornerback Michael Waddell was extremely impressed.

"First impressions, as an upperclassman, we're always going to look down on them," Waddell said. "But to be honest, a couple of these freshmen are going to contribute to our football team. In particular, Mason is quick, and the other two guys have the size that is going to help them out."

The two freshman quarterbacks looked very smooth. Nick Canglosi and Roger Heinz were sharp along with junior Darian Durant. Cangelosi's passes were crisp, and Heinz showed no ill-effects from off-season shoulder surgery. None of the quarterbacks threw very deep however.

With all the talk at tight end centering around senior Bobby Blizzard, walk-on John Dunn saw the most balls come his way. And he delivered on each one.

Freshman tight end John Hamlett was also impressive at the position.

But the No. 1 competition is at running back. Jacque Lewis, Willie Parker, Chad Scott and Ronnie McGill all saw action.

"We have four very fine players competing back there and it's exciting to watch," Bunting said.

McGill, the bruising true freshman, explained why Bunting seems to always see a smile on his face.

"I'm very happy here," McGill said. "I stepped in and I got a chance to start. I'm around a great group of guys, so I have nothing to frown about. We have high expectations this year. All the upperclassmen are high spirited and everybody is just looking forward to the season."

At the linebacker position, Melik Brown was in with the first line defense, along with Clay Roberson and Doug Justice. But freshmen Larry Edwards and Joe Kedra appeared physically available and looked good in their first practice.

"In order for us to give the linebackers a chance, we have to give them reps," Bunting said.

When Kedra has his helmet off, he has the scariest facial expression. He appears as if he can't wait to tear someone's head off.

Initally, the most impressive thing about freshman defensive tackle Isaiah "Puff" Thomas is the size of his arms – stovepipes dangling from his shoulder sockets -- as big as any on the team. The size of Donnell Livingston and Shelton Bynum also stood out among the linemen newcomers.

There were positives abound. Yet Bunting tempered his excitement, as he expressed with these comments:

"On a scale from one-to-10, I would say about a seven," Bunting said overall describing his impressions of the first practice of the year. "We had conditioning test with our varsity at first, and they excelled. We're really impressed with them. This is the five-day acclimation period that the NCAA requires. It's a very slow period.

"I have my expectations, but we have a long, long way to go. As you can see we had some talented freshmen come in, and we have some talented seniors.

"I expect that we are going to have all of our offense and all of our defense installed by the end of this week. Then we can go back and fine tune it throughout the remainder of training camp.

"We have to grow. We have to grow a lot to be competitive in this fine conference. Last year we competed at times, but this year we have to be more consistent."

Inside Carolina Top Stories