Mid-Week Notebook

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Head coach Butch Davis spoke to reporters following Wednesday's practice, as the Tar Heels prepare for a 6 p.m. showdown against the James Madison Dukes on Saturday night.

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Butch Davis Wednesday Post-Practice:

  • With the season opener quickly approaching, the North Carolina coaching staff is still in the learning process, trying to decide how much information is too much to place on this young Tar Heel team.

    "One of the obvious acid tests that coaches look at every single day in practice is the number of mental mistakes," Davis said. "That's usually a pretty good indicator of one of two things: they've either grasped really well what you're trying to put into the game plan and what you're expectations are, or you've got too much in the game plan and potentially there are some things that you need to eliminate before Saturday."

  • Davis was pleased with Wednesday's practice, but indicated that Thursday is the ever important script day, designed to focus on the nuances of the game that can and will determine the result on the football field.

    "It's all the special categories day, where we hit red zone, short-yardage, goal line… and then certainly special teams-wise, it's a big day for us," Davis said. "There's still a lot of work to get done before Saturday, but I think that they're working hard and we're moving in the right direction."

  • Davis said that junior safety Cooter Arnold's indefinite suspension was in the best interest of the team and players.

    "I spoke to Cooter and told him that he had some things that he needed to get accomplished and get done, and that we would revisit it sometime in the near future, and give him an opportunity to demonstrate his willingness and his desire to get back on the team," Davis said.

  • With training camp coming to a close last Saturday evening, the squad's primary focus has become James Madison, but the coaching staff is making sure the players maintain a level of physicality heading into the season.

    Each practice consists of one or two drills designed to teach toughness, execution and quality. On Wednesday, that session was an ‘inside run' drill, pitting the first-team offense versus the first-team defense.

    "There are things that you want to get accomplished and you certainly don't want to take your foot off the pedal before the end of the week," Davis said. "You want to continue to push and challenge kids to continue to improve and get better. Players play their absolute very best on Saturdays when they are confident they know what to do."

  • An efficient running game serves two purposes – to open up the offense, and to control the game clock. With a young and inexperienced offensive backfield in red-shirt freshman QB T.J. Yates and sophomore RB Richie Rich, Davis said a balanced attack will be essential to keeping the complex Dukes' offense off the field this weekend.

    "The style and scheme of the offense – you don't want to give them too many possessions and you don't want them on the field for a long period of time because they are going to wear you down," Davis said. "It's going to put a real premium on us to be able to play more than 11 guys defensively. We're going to have to have some significant contributions, maybe as many as 20 kids playing defensively throughout the course of the game."

  • Speaking of Yates and Rich starting in the backfield, Davis expanded on their abilities earlier this week.

    On Yates: "The one thing you have to love about T.J. ... he has embraced that idea of 'I've got to work hard and I've got to make sure I know exactly what I'm supposed to and if I do then the other 10 guys in the huddle are going to trust me and have faith that I can make the plays to have a chance to win.' We've got some good young quarterbacks and these guys are growing, but T.J.'s done a nice job."

    On Rich: "Johnny White and Richie were there for all the blitz drills and all the scrimmage situations and we felt like at this particular time, Richie separated himself slightly. But I don't want to fall into playing a running back by possessions.... we need him to get into the flow of the game."

  • Special teams are critical in every single game on the schedule, but most coaches are unwilling to practice full speed special teams in training camp due to the fear of injury. That makes the first couple of games intensely significant in that regard, as the ST units will be seeing their first live action.

    "You hope that the reps – you hope that they understand [the] read and returns, the mechanics and the techniques and hopefully you don't give up any big plays," Davis said.

  • The highly-touted 2007 recruiting class made some noise in training camp, leading Davis to suggest that CB Charles Brown, LB Bruce Carter, LB Quan Sturdivant, HB Zach Pianalto and DT Marvin Austin will most likely see playing time on Saturday.

    "There's probably as many as seven to 12 that are preparing to have an opportunity to contribute and play either special teams or in a backup roles or something for this weekend," Davis said. "... I'm pleased with our freshman class."

  • Davis has talked for nine months about building the North Carolina program to a prominent level, but now that game week is here, the focus moves to the 2007 campaign.

    "This is about this season," Davis said. "This is about playing these games… Right now, it has almost nothing to do with 2008. This is 2007 – this is one game at a time, 12 straight weeks."

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