Finding A Comfort Zone

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Butch Davis' first training camp at North Carolina will draw to a close on Saturday evening, when the Tar Heels hold their final scrimmage before game week begins on Monday. Davis spoke to the media following Friday evening's practice about what the staff hopes to accomplish with the dry run under the lights at Kenan Stadium.

"We're going to try to simulate our version of a preseason game," Davis said. "We're going to go through a pregame routine, as if it was the actual game – kickoff, all of the pregame activities, [and] the drills that we would go through at the exact same time that we would do a week from tomorrow.

"And then basically, we're going to go out and have a significant 90-play mock scrimmage, as if it was an actual game situation. We're trying to cover as many of the unusual situations that can conceivably come up, if not certainly in the first ball game, they might conceivably come up in the first couple of weeks… So that the players have had at least one dry run through the entire scenario as if it was next Saturday."

The coaching staff will take their normal game day positions, with several on the sidelines and others in the press box. An emphasis will be placed on sideline substitution patterns, in-game adjustments and basic game organization in the same time frame that an actual game will occur.

Davis also wants to work on the squad's pregame routine, to help the players find a comfort zone in their preparation.

"Part of that is what the players expect us to do for them," Davis said. "Going through tests [and] going through tip sheets in the locker room -- kind of quiet preparation. Every team has to develop a personality of how they get ready emotionally for a ball game. And one of the things that I'll talk to the team about tomorrow is respect for your fellow teammates.

"That your own personal routine of how you get ready could be totally a disruption to the other 50-60 players in the locker room. That you have to be respectful of them, whether it's listening to music on your iPod, whether it's quietly sitting there and maybe reading the Bible or looking over your notes, [or] talking to a teammates about assignments. We're going to go through all those kinds of things, because every kid is different."

Davis has his own game day plan mapped out, something that his years of experience has helped to perfect.

"My pregame routine probably hasn't changed much in the last 30 years," Davis said. "I love just intermingling with the guys, quietly walking through the locker room, talking to the players, spending some time with the quarterbacks, trying to identify and see if there's anybody that looks like they're maybe too hyped, to maybe try to talk them into getting into a comfortable place.

"You love for a football team to find that zone, where they're kind of not having to think about assignments, they're playing with confidence, playing with poise [and] they know their assignments. It all boils down to effort and attitude – it's going out and [executing]."

This coaching staff is still learning about their players, as they didn't recruit most of these athletes and are unsure how they are going to react once the lights come on and 60,000 fans fill Kenan Stadium. That's where the 10 seniors on this young and inexperienced roster will be expected to play an important role this fall.

"We're planning on those guys for a significant amount of leadership," Davis said. "There's not very many seniors, but the ones that we have on this football team – they're in roles of significant contribution… The success that this team has, a great deal of it is going to rely on them."

The Tar Heels will continue preparation for the James Madison Dukes on Monday afternoon, following Davis' first weekly press conference that morning.

Notes from Davis' post-practice interview:

  • On the announcement that offensive linemen Wyatt Hicks and Ben Lemming are taking medical hardships: "It's always sad for me, because I have a great deal of empathy with players that do get injured, whether it's career-ending injuries or not, because I went through similar situations during my playing career at the University of Arkansas, and I know how frustrating it is and I know how disappointing it is for both Wyatt and for Ben.

    "Ultimately, the most important reason that they chose to come to North Carolina was to get an education, and they're both within striking distance. I think they're right at about 30 hours or less [remaining], so they're both on track to graduate this spring, and I think that's a great testament to them and it's one of the most important reasons that we want them to succeed here."

  • On Vince Jacobs: "He's working to try to find his role on this football team. He's a kid that possesses some athletic ability, he's got some speed, he's got good hands. Learning to play tight end is a tough position, because it requires kind of somewhat of a big red "S" on your chest – that you not only have to be an excellent route runner, you also have to be a significant blocker.

    "You've got to be able to block defensive ends, you've got to be able to block stand-up linebackers, big defensive tackles down inside and that's one of the areas that I know all of our tight ends are having to work on. Vince is a guy that's got significant potential to be a player here – he's just working to find a role on this team right now."

  • On taking the kickoff or deferring to the second half with the new rule change: "A lot of that depends on the conditions of the day. If it's windy [or] rainy – there will be a lot of factors that go into it. Match-ups, I think, play a huge role in your decision of what you do. How you feel about your offense and defense, and certainly the sun – if it was an afternoon kickoff and you thought you could put the other team in the fourth quarter, all the receivers and all the returners looking into [the sun]. There's like 25 different reasons why you would make those decisions."

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