Spring Game: Locker Room Report (w/audio)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- North Carolina players Hakeem Nicks, T.J. Yates, Richie Rich, Anthony Elzy, Hilee Taylor, Scott Lenahan addressed the media at the Kenan Football Center following the Spring Game on Saturday. Read and listen to what they had to say...

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Hakeem Nicks


(joined in progress)...we've just got to keep our heads straight and our focus going...make sure we have the right motive going throughout the season and throughout this whole spring. And I feel like we have a good coach, and we've really learned a lot this whole spring.

What has this spring been like for you, coming off the year you had last year?

It started off kind of slow, but the offense is different. It's a whole different offense, but once you get the plays down, you just go from there.

On his touchdown catch and Trimane Goddard's defense on the play -

I told him before the play, because he called the play out. He had seen me run the play. He said, 'Watch the slant. Watch the slant.' It was all just a joke. But I told him he was going to have to bring it harder than that. I'm not a little wide receiver.

On the offensive feel with the passing game -

I feel like once we keep practicing real hard, and going out there during the summer and practicing hard...we're going to come out and make a big impact and make a lot of big plays.

On T.J. Yates' play -

He's been looking real good throughout the whole spring. He opened a lot of eyes. I've told him when he makes a bad play, 'Don't get down on yourself; just bounce back to the next play. His confidence level is there. He just needs a little bit more consistency, but that takes a lot of plays. He didnt't take any snaps last year, so his play has stepped up a whole lot."

T.J. Yates


Do you feel like today you took a big step towards getting the starting position for next season?

Yeah...it helped a lot. But this is the first time I've been out in the field in front of the stands in a long time. It just felt good to get back into it and everything.

Did you know you would be the starting quarterback today?

Yeah. I had been running with the ones in practice for the past week, so I knew I was going to be running with the ones.

What do you think about when Mike Paulus gets here and into the mix?

It's good to have competition. The more good players you have on the team makes for better competition; and whoever the starter will be, he'll be a better player because of that.

Did you sit out a year in high school?

Yeah. I sat out my junior year to concentrate on basketball. I thought that was where my future was going to be. Then I came back my senior year to play football with my friends.

We're you the starting quarterback?

Yeah. I switched off time with another kid from my school.

Has this been an easy offense to grasp?

It's been pretty complicated, but Coach [John] Shoop makes is easy. All the film we watch...it makes it second nature really. It might sound complicated and seem tough in the film room, but the more we do it, the more it makes it more comfortable out there.

Richie Rich


On learning to protect the ball better this spring -

Oh yeah. That was real important, because you can't play if you turn the ball over, right? We hold the ball high and tight (demonstrating with a football in his hands, held firmly with his hand on one end of the ball and pressed into his armpit). If you hold it high and tight it will reduce the chance of fumbles.

On getting the start -

It was a surprise to me. I was thankful for it and everything. It was real fun being out there.

On getting an opportunity to play this year -

It feels really good. I think I have a real good opportunity of contributing this year.

Was there a time last year you questioned whether or not you would get this opportunity?

I always knew inside that I was going to get an opportunity. I just didn't know when it was going to come.

Anthony Elzy


So you're the banger?

Yeah (laughing). I've always been a physical player. I've always liked contact. I would like contact, because of my size I'm not really the juking type. Coach [Kenny] Browning knows we have a whole lot of backs out here, and he knows how to play us.

On getting reps this spring -

There were always doubts, but this was a true blessing. I can honestly say that I'm a blessed individual with all these opportunities. I will take full advantage of it and take it as far as I can.

On progress this spring -

We've made tremendous strides. Coach [Butch] Davis tells us we made tremendous strides every week. From Day One of spring practice, we were sloppy...he compiled a video from Day One until now. And we're forming up as a pretty solid team. It's going to be scary come fall. We'll have the whole summer to (improve), and I believe we're going to shock some teams.

Hilee Taylor


On Quan Sturdivant -

He's a natural linebacker. He has instincts. In years to come, he's going to be a great player. He's great now. He's been picking off plays, reading the screens well, reading the runs and the fits and all that. He and Bruce Carter...a young defensive line with Darius Powell and Darrius Massenburg, Greg Elleby -- all those guys... They have stepped up big time.

Scott Lenahan


What is T.J. Yates like in the huddle out there?

He's cool, calm and collected. I haven't seen him get really shook up at all. Granted it's a learning process and you're going to have mess-ups. But I haven't seen him get rattled at all. He's been doing a very good job of composing himself.

On blocking schemes this year -

Coach [Sam] Pittman has designed more angles to block, so it's not so much as a zone scheme as we used to have. It's much more of a pro look, where you have down blocks and pulling linemen. As a lineman, that' what you live for -- to be able to pull out and nail a cornerback and just flatten him, and spring a guy for a touchdown run.

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