Thursday Practice Report

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina football practice continued Thursday evening in a closed session. <I>Inside Carolina</I> was on hand for head coach John Bunting's post-practice comments. The running back situation is foremost on the mind of the Tar Heels' third-year skipper.

Bunting has been impressed with the four competitors, especially senior Willie Parker, and last year's leading rusher, junior Jacque Lewis.

"I'm pleasantly surprised the way the running backs have come back to compete; Jacque, Willie, Chad and Ronnie," Bunting said. "It's great competition and I am really impressed the way Jacque and Willie have gotten ready for this summer camp."

Bunting continued with his list of pleasant surprises…

"I'm extremely pleased with Jacques Dumas and the condition he is in…Tommy Davis and those guys have spent some time in the weight room," he said. "Thus far, I'm pleased with Jonas Seawright and Rabbit Waddell."

The running game is clearly what it is all about this year, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

"Stop the run and run the ball," Bunting said. "It's very, very simple. In order to be good at it, you have to rep it, and you have to be physical. This year, we can become more physical and scrimmage more. Last year, we hardly scrimmaged at all. We couldn't, because we couldn't afford to get anybody hurt. Now we have more depth.

"We have more players to play inside on defense, more players at offensive line; which is where all of the ‘clanging' goes on. We have an opportunity this year to do more scrimmaging and more hot-tempo-type drills. It started in the spring, and it's carried over into the summer, because we've been able to get some really talented walk-on players – some really talented kids to come in and play offensive and defensive line for us."

  • Bunting on punting "[John Lafferty] has looked good, and of course, our other punter has looked good also. We knew coming into last year that David Woolridge had a good leg. He is now starting to connect. He may have the stronger leg of the two. John, on the other hand, has kicked well. He's had very good operation time and he's consistent. What he's doing now, though, is being consistently longer; and we need that. We have to have to have a better punt team this year, and that starts with the punter. We will swap those guys practice to practice. One will go with the first team and one will go with the second. Then, in the next practice, we'll swap it around."

  • Making special teams special "It starts with the snapper, the kicker, the holder," Bunting said. "But there are nine or ten other guys that participate as well. They are the cover guys and the protection guys. When we played Florida State last year, it just showed where we are by comparison. They just ran by our front line guys. We couldn't block anybody. But you know what? Nobody else did either. Nobody in the conference ever blocked these guys. They are very talented. We've got more talent like that now, so we can cover kicks and punts better. That needs to be coached, repped and drilled. We will get into that more when we put the pads on."

  • Junior center Jason Brown said that in order to get the Tar Heels' running game back up to par, everyone will have to come together, know their assignments and become one cohesive group.

    "It only takes one man to not know his assignments and bring everything downhill for the offense," Brown said. "It's just fine tuning. We had all of those components just last year. We had all the talent; it was just the fine-tuning. That's what we're trying to do right now; make it a well-oiled machine. That is what camp is for.

    "We have a lot of depth," he said. "We have more guys snapping the ball at center. We have a lot of very talented offensive linemen coming in as freshmen. We just have depth all around and we're improving in every aspect.

    "All of our starters have had experience starting in games. We've competed against the best. We know what is out there and we know what to expect. All we have to do now is prepare ourselves mentally and make sure we have our game down pat."

  • Junior tailback Jacque Lewis, last year's team leader rushing the ball, has put on over 20 pounds of muscle during the off-season. He said he's much more durable now and he has not lost a step. In fact, he's quicker.

    "I've put on 21 pounds," Lewis said. ""We've worked hard in the off season to get our strength and our weight up and become more physical and take more pounding. We've got to hit the holes harder and make better reads out there on the field. I'm not saying it's all our faults, but it's a lot on us. If we make better reads, then our running game will become better.

    "I've actually gotten quicker. The weight really didn't affect my slashing."

    Lewis said the four-way challenge for this year's starting tailback position has only made him want to be that much better.

    "It's very exciting for me," Lewis said. "I think it is going to put more pressure on me and the other guys to work harder in practice. The four running backs are only going to make our running game better. If one goes down, then somebody else will be able to step in without missing a beat.

  • Inside Carolina Top Stories