Scrimmage 'Lively;' Taylor, Sexton Hurt - UPDATED

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina held a scrimmage Wednesday afternoon at Kenan Stadium in what will be the Tar Heels next to last practice before the <a href=http://northcarolina.scout.com/2/364822.html>Spring Game</a>.

Blue Team captains Tommy Richardson, Matt Baker and Chase Page, along with White Team captains Wallace Wright, Kyle Ralph and Doug Justice, have chosen their players. The rosters are now set, but will not be revealed until just before kickoff on Saturday, according to head coach John Bunting.

Actually about half of the time was spent practicing and the other half was a full contact scrimmage designed to give UNC coaches a "livelier" look than would be available on Saturday.

Due to injury problems, both those occurring prior to and during spring practice, don't expect to see as much in the way of defensive blitz packages, in-depth offensive variety and differing personnel groups. Instead, look for a format more dedicated to specific situational tactics such as 2nd and longs, 3rd and 1's, red zone and goal line.

"This is our last opportunity to really get at it," Bunting said. "We've done a whole bunch of drill work this spring, so I don't know how much special teams we'll work on, if any, on Saturday."

The plan is to play three 12-minute quarters with traditional clock stoppages, and then a running clock in the fourth quarter based on player availability.

To add to the Tar Heels' growing list of injury and disciplined-based personnel shortages this spring, Hilee Taylor suffered a sprained MCL; and Cameron Sexton hurt his ankle sliding into the Kenan Stadium hedges on a touchdown scoring run during Wednesday's scrimmage.

A UNC spokesperson later said that no surgery is expected to be necessary for Taylor at this point; and also confirmed Sexton broke his ankle and will be out three to four months.

Coincidentally, Taylor and Sexton were once teammates at Scotland County High School, a veritable feeder school to the Carolina football program.

"Just looking at it, I would believe right now Hilee is done [for the spring]," Bunting said. "So we're going to be looking at one-deep per team at a lot of positions, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines. How that goes, is how I'll plan [the Spring Game]."

Perhaps the biggest challenge in the rebuilding of the Carolina defense was at linebacker. Still etched in many fans' memories is the way Florida State revealed just how far the UNC linebacking corps had fallen in a 37-0 season-opening rout of the Tar Heels in 2003.

But added athleticism and depth has Bunting, the former NFL linebacker, breathing much easier than he has in several years.

"We're two-deep now at all of the positions; we may even have a third guy at one or two of the positions," Bunting said, specifically in reference to 6-3, 210-pound redshirt freshman Chase Rice.

"[Rice] has really competed. At times he has been competing as starter at ‘nickel.' He will make Tommy Richardson better. He has really been competitive."

Also look for a more focused Larry Edwards, who has shed the extra pounds that lost him favor with Bunting last year and has turned negatives to positives with an outstanding spring.

Overall, Bunting had this to say concerning what has been accomplished this spring: "I've been pleased with Matt Baker and I think Roger Heinz has made progress, too. We're still not as consistent at the position as I would like, but I'm still pleased.

"I'm pleased with the linebacker group. I'm pleased with the progress of a couple of the defensive linemen – Kentwan Balmer, in particular, and Hilee Taylor has played very well. In the secondary, I think Bryan Bethea has stepped up his game.

"Over on the offensive side, I think Barrington Edwards is going to be a big help and play a lot of football for us once he learns the offense. Rikki Cook has had a good spring for the most part and Wallace Wright continues to get better at wide receiver."

Also surprising has been the emergence of true freshman fullback Michael Briggs, a walk-on from Gastonia, who was probably better known as a baseball player in high school. Briggs, who moved into the second postion on the depth chart behind Cook in the wake of Madison Hedgecock's pending graduation, has missed the last three practices due to an injury, but Bunting said he's hopeful he can participate in the Spring Game.


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