Surviving the Heat

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The Tar Heels took the practice field in full pads for the first time Tuesday afternoon, with the heat index soaring into triple digits. Head coach Butch Davis met with the media following practice, and spoke about dealing with the heat and how the first five days of training camp have transpired.

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Butch Davis Tuesday Post-Practice:
Part I: (6:10)
Part II: (6:59)

"We're taking good breaks," Davis said. "We're really pushing the idea of hydration with the players. We had watermelon after practice yesterday. We've got hydration tubs with ice water scattered throughout the locker room to try to control their body temperature, so I think we're doing a great job."

Davis has spent a bulk of his coaching career amidst the high temperatures of Texas and Florida, and that experience has taught him to know what symptoms to look for when his players are practicing in 100-degree conditions.

The staff built in two eight-minute breaks throughout Tuesday's two-and-a-half hour practice, with the players drinking water during drills when not taking their personal repetitions.

"You just have to make sure you stay hydrated," senior center Scott Lenahan said. "Coach Davis gives us breaks and gets us under the tent. Some of the guys like to get out early so that we can make our way over [to Navy Field], so he makes sure we get some time in the shade. He does a good job with helping us acclimate to the heat."

But even with this being the first day in full pads, Davis does not plan to use much contact during this training camp.

"We only had one full speed live contact period today and that only lasted 15 plays," Davis said. "All the rest of it was a team tempo where there was no tackling. It was full speed, fly-to-the-ball, wrap-up the ball carrier and then let the ball carrier go ahead and progress down the field.

"We'll probably never have, unless we're actually legitimately scrimmaging, we'll never have a significant amount of contact in any particular practice."

Davis told reporters at the UNC Media Day last Friday that he hoped to have a starting quarterback named by Aug. 11. With only five practice sessions remaining before Saturday, Davis and his staff are still learning about redshirt freshman T.J. Yates, sophomore Cam Sexton and true freshman Mike Paulus.

"Every day is revealing, every drill – today we had our first two-minute drill," Davis said. "We've had blitz drills every day. How a quarterback performs under pressure is a huge part of the decision-making process. Do they make good decisions with the football? Sometimes the best decision they could make is to throw the ball away and let us punt, and have another set of downs."

And while the running back situation has yet to sort itself out, Davis said the competition is paying dividends.

"To be honest with you, I was very pleased with our running backs," Davis said. "I made mention last night at the team meeting how well I thought our running backs were doing -- how physical that they're running with the ball.

"They're making plays. Johnny White, Anthony Elzy, [and] Richie Rich have all done some really good things, so I don't think that anybody is really trying to relinquish the opportunity to maybe become the guy."

The linebacker corps took a hit with Larry Edwards exhausting his eligibility last fall, but several new players have stepped up and some old faces have emerged from the shadows.

"They're playing pretty good," Davis said. "I'll tell you some guys that are doing some really good stuff – Bruce Carter is playing well, Quan Sturdivant's doing a good job, Durell Mapp has just had an outstanding camp. I mean he is relentless running to the football, making plays.

"I like some of the things that Mark Paschal is doing. Mark's done a really good job – I think that he's had one of the better offseasons of some of the guys on the football team. I think he realized he needed to drop some weight, get faster, get quicker, and I think that that adjustment has certainly helped his play-making ability."

The Tar Heels face their first two-a-day on Wednesday, with temperatures forecasted in the triple-digits – again.

Notes from Davis' post-practice interview:

  • On what has stood out so far in training camp: "I think that they are committed passionately to winning football games. They're practicing, they're encouraging each other every day, they're learning more about how to become winners. I challenged them the other day – I said ‘I don't know how hard you can go, if you can only go 25 plays full out, 100 percent, lay it on the line. And then the next day try to go 26.'"

  • On the freshman class: "Probably the best statement about the rookie class is that they all look like they're going to be really good significant contributors during their career. Their football intelligence has been very impressive…We're trying to find roles for each one of those guys – whether it's on nickel, whether it's on special teams, you know, we'll try to find a way for those guys to help us."

  • On running backs coach Ken Browning: "He's very detailed. I think he takes a great deal of pride in making sure that his players are prepared…I think a good football coach is a good football coach. If you said ‘Kenny, we need you to go coach (whatever the position is)', I think he'd do a good job. "

  • On his positive coaching style: "I just don't think that you negatively berate players. I'm not one of those guys that screams and rants and raves and yells about little bitty things."

  • On playing starters on special teams: "We're going to play the best guys regardless. You can't load up your special teams with all your starters and play them on every single unit, but every single starter we've got somehow, some way will contribute on at least one special teams."

  • The defensive staff is awarding a yellow jersey to one player each day, for their effort and intensity on the previous day of practice. Davis said the jersey is a takeoff of Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner.

    "It's kind of like ‘You have to match my passion, match my effort, my intensity and I'm the leader,'" Davis said. "And you're trying to hang on to that lead."

    Trimane Goddard, Aleric Mullins, Kentwan Balmer and Hilee Taylor have all worn the jersey through five days of camp.

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