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 East Carolina Pirates on Saturday night in Greenville, N.C.

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Butch Davis Wednesday Post-Practice:

* Saturday's game at East Carolina begins an intense stretch of the 2007 schedule for the Tar Heels, and the concentration required in game preparation is constant and demanding. Davis indicated that the first half of practice on Wednesday was not up to par with what the coaching staff wanted, and that he stressed to his squad that they could ill-afford to go through the motions on 25 percent of the practice snaps.

"I thought we started off a little sluggish, and we can't waste opportunities in practice to get better," Davis said. "And I thought they responded – the second half of practice was very spirited, very crisp. I thought that the intensity and focus picked up. And sometimes I think that's part of the growing experience with a young football team – is learning to be focused all of the time. It's hard. It's a difficult thing to do."

The responsibility to prevent those concerns also falls on the leaders of this young team. The fact that 51 of North Carolina's 84 scholarship players had not taken a snap in a collegiate game was pounded into everyone's brain leading up to the season-opener against James Madison, and Davis pointed out that even though 27 of those 51 saw live action on Saturday, they had still only played in one game.

"It's difficult because they've not gone through the rigors of preparation," Davis said. "There are so many things that this football team has yet to experience and yet to learn… It is a challenge. Usually a lot of times in most programs, you're only dealing with your incoming freshmen – that they're the ones that have yet to play much and they still haven't figured out it's not high school. Here it's different, because there are so many of them."

* Strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors returns to his old stomping ground for only the second time as a Tar Heel this weekend, but Davis said he has not seen any added emotion from the seventh-year UNC training guru.

Connors made his presence felt around the North Carolina program during the offseason, at least to his new boss.

"I think he's got a great knowledge base," Davis said. "One of things when I interviewed him the very first time at the University of Miami – I was impressed by his intensity and how knowledgeable he was about training athletes and his ability to train athletes differently… he's got an excellent background in speed development, he's got some track background – which I really respect – but I'm impressed with the way that he deals with our athletes."

* Update on junior linebacker Chase Rice's ankle surgery:

"The feedback that I got was that it went very well," Davis said.

* With Rice done for the season, true freshman linebacker Bruce Carter will move into his role in Chuck Pagano's defense. Davis said the Havelock, N.C. native has handled the adjustment well.

"Anytime you go from being a back-up to a starter, a lot of times people panic and go ‘Oh gosh,'..." Davis said. "But people have to remember that now he has the opportunity to practice with the first team and get all of the first-team reps. His hardest assignment was probably last week, where you get second-team work and maybe getting only 30 percent of the practice reps."

* While Carter made a splash on special teams with a blocked punt against James Madison, his move to the starter spot at strongside linebacker does not mean he's clear of any punt or kickoff duties. He will play on at least one or two special teams units against East Carolina, down from the three or four ST responsibilities that he had last Saturday.

"We don't have enough players on the team that we can afford to just grandfather out certain guys," Davis said.

* East Carolina red-shirt freshman quarterback Rob Kass missed the season opener at Virginia Tech due to a team policy violation, allowing junior Patrick Pinkney and sophomore Brett Clay to see action against the Hokies. Pinkney was effective running the ball against the vaunted VT defense, earning him the starting nod for their home opener against the Tar Heels.

Even with numerous options at quarterback for the Pirates, Davis does not expect that ECU's offensive game plan will vary much at all.

"They've got an offensive philosophy that I think that at least three of the four [quarterbacks] could run anything that they're trying to run," Davis said. "Regardless of which one's in the ball game, you feel like there are certain elements of that offense that are going to show up."

* On red-shirt freshman defensive end Darrius Massenburg, who recorded four tackles, one tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a quarterback hit against James Madison.

"We have high expectations that he's really going to be a fine football player," Davis said. "Like everybody else, he's got a long way to go, but he works very hard, he's a good athlete, he's physical [and] he's got really good strength that's going to make him a good powerful point of attack player, as well as a good pass rusher."

* On true freshman nickel back Charles Brown, who lead the team with nine tackles (tied with senior linebacker Durell Mapp), 0.5 tackle for loss and a quarterback hit against James Madison:

"Some kids just have stick-and-ball sense," Davis said. "He was an excellent athlete in several sports in high school, and we were really pleased with his poise... Sometimes if you rush some freshmen to absorb the entire total package, sometimes the wheels are spinning so much that their God-given athletic ability doesn't show up.

"I think what we did with Marvin [Austin] and what we did with Charlie and what we did with some of the other freshmen – what we were trying to do with Bruce [Carter] – is give them certain elements of the game plan, and then let them grow into the rest of it."

* On if senior center Scott Lenahan practiced with the team today:

"He did some stuff today, and we were really encouraged," Davis said.

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