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 road trip to Tampa, Fla. to face the South Florida Bulls at noon on Saturday.

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Butch Davis Wednesday Post-Practice:
(8:19)

* Defensive end was a primary position of concern heading into the 2007 season for North Carolina, with limited experience and relatively few bodies at that spot. Through three games, things appear to be looking up on the edges of the defensive line.

Senior Hilee Taylor posted his first career three-sack game in the loss to Virginia last weekend, while sophomore E.J. Wilson and red-shirt freshman Darrius Massenburg have combined for 15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.

"Clearly Hilee has been the leader of that pack – 3.5 sacks – he's played really well," Davis said. "I think Darrius Massenburg, between he and E.J., both of those guys have done some solid stuff. They've been solid against the run on the outside edges.

"I think Darrius has been fighting a little bit of a bad ankle, it's starting to get a little bit better, just noticeably in practice he looks a little quicker, a little faster on the edges and stuff. Darrius Powell hasn't played all that much right now, but collectively as a group they're okay. Hilee is the ringleader of that bunch."

* While it would be easy for this young program to get frustrated following back-to-back narrow losses, Davis and his staff have managed to keep things in perspective with an emphasis on the minus-5 turnover margin as the primary factor in those defeats. He indicated that those statistics determine which teams are successful, whether it be at the high school or NFL levels.

"I think that they've got a good attitude," Davis said. "There's no real secrets. We talk about what's reality and the reality is that we're a young and inexperienced football team that has made some mistakes in the last two ball games that have hurt our opportunities to win."

* North Carolina makes it's second road trip of the season this weekend – this time into Davis' old stomping ground of Florida. But the former Miami head coach believes winning road games are another step that this program will have to make.

"Playing on the road in general is one of the things that good football teams have to learn to do, because eventually, if you're going to win and win big, half of your games are going to be on the road," Davis said. "You're going to have to play in some hostile environments every single week."

Davis also indicated that the media and fans tend to make a bigger deal about the opposing fan noise during road games than is necessary.

"A lot of times, people think that the crowd is the major distraction – the crowd is the crowd," Davis said. "It's the distraction of planes, family, relatives, people at the hotel – it's other things that teams have to learn that can be just as much of a distraction as the crowd can be on game day."

* Quarterback T.J. Yates and his Tar Heel air assault are averaging 303.3 yards per game (good for 19th nationally), but the stagnant ground game is managing only 79.7 ypg (104th nationally). Davis is hoping that opponents will begin to factor in his offense's success through the air, loosening up the holes at the line of scrimmage for the running backs, instead of electing to make North Carolina one dimensional every week and forcing Yates to win the game.

"You would think that the passing yardage, on the flip side of that, would actually help the running game, as people look at how they maybe want to try to defend us," Davis said. "… It could become a blessing. I'm glad that we're having the success that we are throwing the football."

* South Florida cornerback Mike Jenkins provided the Tar Heels with some bulletin board material on Wednesday morning, telling the Bradenton Herald "I'm not sure a lot of our guys are past the Auburn victory. I don't know if they think North Carolina will be a pushover. It's real hard not to look past North Carolina, but at the same time you got to stay focused, because, if not, you are going to get punched in the mouth."

Davis downplayed the opportunity to use those quotes as an added motivation for his ball club.

"I never really ever have gotten into that kind of stuff, unless somebody makes it personal," Davis said. "Like I said, part of the steps of growing up as a football team is that you worry more about yourself – your own personal performance, your own preparation, how you play. When the game's over with, can you look at yourself in mirror and say ‘You know, I did everything I could humanly possible to give us a chance to win' … and what the other team generally says doesn't really make much difference."

* Former head coach John Bunting was known to use road trips to expose his teams to different areas across the country, such as visiting the Louisville Slugger factory when the Heels faced Louisville in 2005 (a 69-14 defeat). Don't expect Davis to follow in predecessor's footsteps.

"We'll probably try to save all of that stuff for vacation," Davis said. "We look at the trip as truly a business trip."


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