Onward & Upward

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Team morale has taken a quantum leap forward following North Carolina's high-profile regime change and its initial recruiting haul that turned heads across the country. Under a gorgeous Carolina Blue sky on Monday and with unseasonably warm temperatures on Wednesday, the Tar Heels are working through their paces with a renewed spirit.

"There's a lot of energy and excitement," linebacker Mark Paschal said. "I can tell the group as a whole enjoyed it. It's been very competitive – that's one thing that sticks out in my mind."

Butch Davis runs a fast-paced practice. The tempo of the workouts, coupled with the players in possession of a positive outlook, has enabled the UNC coaches to cover a great deal of material already.

"We want a fast pace – we want to get a ball snapped about every 40 seconds," Davis said. "They're very cognizant of the things we're asking them to do, and that's encouraging. When you're efficient with every opportunity that you have, it gives you a chance to do more in practice."

When the team arrived at the Navy Practice Fields on Wednesday, there was some early trepidation regarding the recent announcement that Davis has begun receiving chemotherapy treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

But moments after practice began, Davis put the players' minds at ease, stressing that his condition would not deter the goal of returning the Carolina football program to respectability and beyond.

"He told us the truth about the situation, and I believe him," defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer said. "He's a very sincere guy. He was very impressive today, and it pays tremendous dividends for the team."

After practice, Davis politely refused to comment furthermore about his condition despite several attempts to get him to provide more details. He instead reiterated that the emphasis throughout his ordeal will not sway from the team's activities.

Davis said he's having fun with his rebuilding project and added that he's laughed more over the last few months than in the past six years.

"I think we have great chemistry," Davis said.

The reputation of success Davis and his assistants brought with them to Chapel Hill have the Tar Heels believing in what the new regime is promising – that they have now begun the process of playing winning football.

"Everybody is in a high-tempo mode, there's a lot of emotion and everyone is really excited to get the season underway," defensive back Trimane Goddard said. "It makes you feel a whole lot more comfortable looking at their past records in college and in the pros. They can adjust to a lot of different things."

"Whenever you have a new beginning, it's always tough on everybody," Paschal added. "But everybody is really excited about getting going. I think we came out today really fired up. Once you have everybody believing that we can go out and win games, you then get the snowball effect of everybody starting to buy in. And I think we're starting to see that."


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