Butch Davis Q&A (w/audio)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- North Carolina coach Butch Davis spoke to reporters for the first and only time this week prior to this weekend's evaluation period. Read & listen to what he had to say following practice on Thursday...


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On protecting the ball -

If there is a negative, that's one of the things we've got to improve upon this practice is taking care of the football. We're making four or five good plays, then we're having a mental breakdown or a misread in coverage. When you look at all of the guys we have at running back – they're all so young with zero game experience. Playing at the full speed level, whether it's Richie Rich, Anthony Parker-Boyd or Johnny White; all of those guy show flashes, but they're turning the ball over at one time or another during the course of practice. A little of that is due to the fact they haven't had many opportunities. I think they will get better at taking care of and protecting the football.

On special teams -

Connor Barth has done several full speed live field goals and extra points. He is kicking the ball magnificently. He is just pounding the ball. He hit a 52-yarder full speed with as much pressure as we could significantly put on him, and he's hitting the ball very, very well.

We've spent a lot of time on special teams trying to get all the phases, and we're about halfway through. We've covered kickoff cover, the punts; and we've still got the other two major phases in kickoff return and punt pressure still left to do in the next couple of weeks.

On the team's attitude -

It's been a good thing. The attitude is outstanding. The guys are practicing hard. It's physical work. We've had two full speed live tackling drills, and I think they've handled that real well.

On learning what there is to work with -

We still don't know, but that's the beauty of the thing – things start to reveal themselves. Sometimes guys in shorts look really good and they're very athletic. But when the pads come on you find out about football players.

One of the things I like is the toughness of our offensive line. We're going to be able to have some offensive linemen that really value and cherish the opportunity to line up and really pound the football. I think obviously, if you can win the line of scrimmage and run the football, then you have a chance to win some games.

On Ryan Taylor's progress -

First of all, he is a very tough individual. He's physically tough and aggressive, and he gives phenomenal effort. The thing we're trying to teach him is to channel all of that toughness and aggressiveness into a little bit of poise where he can relax a little bit. We feel confident he's going to catch the football instead of attacking the football. He made one of the best catches the other day in practice – in traffic. He literally got sandwiched in between and blown up by two people and still held onto the ball for a 23-yard gain. It was a nice play.

What is your version of the H-back?

It's kind of a hybrid. It's a little bit along the lines of the way we used Kellen Winslow Jr., and initially, Jeremy Shockey. It's a guy who can move around a little bit in the slot, plays the backside tight end, and theoretically, at times, can play the fullback position, but not so much maybe as in previous years.

On the team psyche coming off a 3-9 season -

It's very hungry, if you had to use one word to describe it. Clearly, they are disappointed with the record from last year. They're working so hard to try an atone for that, because they cannot believe they were a 3-9 football team.

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